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January 25, 2001 Top Arts and Science undergrads get research boost



From left are students Susan Searle and Carmen Puga-Peña with Arts and Science Fundraising Officer Lori Abramowitz.

From right are students Susan Searle and Carmen Puga-Peña with Arts and Science Fundraising Officer Lori Abramowitz.

Photo by Christian Fleury.

by Sigalit Hoffman

Hispanic women writers, mikvahs and pet therapy are among the projects that received Arts and Science Undergraduate Research Scholarships this past week, thanks to Annual Giving donations designated for the Faculty Development Fund.

Using money from this fundraising venture, the Faculty Development Fund Committee has begun the first program of its kind to encourage research at the undergraduate level.

The committee invited every student on the Dean’s List to submit a research proposal, complete with a budget, a potential supervisor, and a recommendation from their department chair. Of the 800 students eligible to apply for the scholarship, 24 will receive up to $250 to defray their costs.

“It’s something that undergraduate students don’t necessarily have the chance to do,” said Lori Abramowitz, Arts and Science Fundraising Officer.

Catherine Vallejo, chair of Classics, Modern Languages and Linguistics, believes that beyond the modest financial award, the project will prepare the winners for graduate school. “It will give them experience doing a research project, and the fact that it was recognized by the university, awarded and funded, it gives them a big boost.”

As a professor of Spanish literature, Vallejo is also the supervisor of Carmen Puga-Peña, a third-year Spanish major, who plans to study Hispanic women writers. Her project was inspired by a class, taught by Vallejo, called The Hispanic Essay.

Puga-Peña was enraged by the limitations placed on South American women writers, who were forbidden to write about contentious issues like politics or economics. “They weren’t allowed to talk about their opinions,” Puga-Peña said. Worse, “you still see it now.”

Through her project, Puga-Peña has two missions to accomplish. “I want to learn more about these women,” she said. “I want people to learn more about it too, and not to think that women didn’t write.” She also hopes to gain insight into her own Spanish and South-American heritage.

Susan Searle, scholarship winner and third-year Religion major, also hopes to use the project to learn about herself. She plans to create a photo essay of mikvahs, Jewish ritual bath-houses, around Montreal. She also plans to investigate how the architecture reflects the congregation with which it is affiliated.

A devout Anglican and a holistic practitioner, Searle hopes to gain “a deeper understanding of ritual based on such an ordinary thing as water.” Searle pointed out the religious significance of water in both Judaism and Christianity. “Throughout the Bible, both the Hebrew [or Old] and New Testament, they speak of living water.”

Martine Nagy, an Applied Human Sciences major, was pleasantly surprised to receive the scholarship. Nagy wants to use her funding to study the effectiveness of a pet therapy program in a Quebec city.

“It was nice to know that there are different kinds of [projects] that are accepted. Pet therapy is not necessarily something that is [commonly] used,” she said. She works in human resources at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, and hopes to initiate a pet therapy program for long-term care patients in her own hospital.

Although the Undergraduate Research Scholarships program is only in its first year, it has been hailed with much enthusiasm from the students. “It’s still a beginning,” acknowledged Puga-Peña. “It’s a good thing, what they did.”

The Faculty Development Fund Committee comprises Dean Martin Singer, Professors Lisa Ostiguy and Barbara Woodside, Laura Stanbra (Advancement/Alumni), Serge Bergeron (Arts and Science Budget Manager), Susan Raymer-Wygodny (alumni representative), Barbara Harris (Dean’s Office) and Abramowitz.




Arts and Science Undergraduate Research Scholarships

Melanie Anestis (Political Science)
Renée Bouchard (Classics/Modern Languages/Linguistics)
Raby Bouras (Psychology)
Emily W. Cummins (Religion)
Eric Ginestier (History)
Eric Stéphane Guerbilsky (Psychology)
Maya Haasz (Chemistry/Biochemistry)
Jean-Yves Hamel (Sociology/Anthropology)
Paul Horvath (Biology)
Zoe Caroline Krzakowski (English)
Shy-Joshua Kurtz (Religion)
Natalie Lachance (Classics/Modern Languages/Linguistics)
Rose Helen Matousek (Psychology)
Sarah Murphy (Sociology/Anthropology)
Martine Nagy (Applied Human Sciences)
Samantha Nayer (Psychology)
Nathalie Pellerin (Psychology)
Alexei Procyshyn (Philosophy)
Carmen Puga-Peña (Classics/Modern Languages/Linguistics)
Jasmine Sharma (Political Science)
Suzan Searle (Religion)
Anna Tamarkina (Exercise Science)
Marie Walsh (Applied Human Sciences)