Senior Capstones 2021

Below are student capstone titles and abstracts (or descriptions) from the class of 2021, organized by last name. The session number and room letter refer to the senior capstone presentations, which will take place on Friday, May 7th. All friends and familiy are welcome to join us! Please see this invitation and program for more details.

Alessandra Ahlmen

Session 1, Room B

“The World is Stopped, but We Keep Going”: Nurses’ Processes of Emotional Labor During the SARS-COVID19 Pandemic

Abstract: Nursing within a pandemic context has been seldom studied. Past studies have concluded that, in ordinary times, nursing requires a substantial amount of emotional labor. Using qualitative, semi-structured interviews of nurses working during the COVID pandemic, I conclude that the nurses perform a different version of emotional labor than what has been conceptualized in past literature. In this process of emotional labor, the suppression of feelings forms the main action that is taken to meet external expectations that include a healthcare worker’s duty to care. Further research should examine the duty to care in additional populations of healthcare workers including doctors and CNAs and analyze its role in those populations’ performance of emotional labor at work.    


Isabelle Aragon-Menzel

Session 3, Room B

Tiger Strong: Mental Health and Varsity Student-Athlete Experience at Colorado College 

Abstract: This study, conducted from December 2020 to February 2021 at Colorado College (CC), employs the use of two focus groups with current CC varsity student-athletes to explore their mental health experience during their time at college. This research brings to light the interplay of student-athletes and mental health with a gendered perspective, specifically focusing on the lived experience of athletes within a college setting. The focus groups allow for social support and shared experience among participants, and also provide a space for athletes to share their stories in a group setting. I argue that mental health not only lies within the relational for student-athletes but is also gendered in terms of different experiences. Female athletes’ mental health is highly affected by their interpersonal relationship with their coach, whereas male athletes’ mental health is protected by their positive, secure relationships with their peers/teammates. Despite these gender differences, both groups of athletes find it necessary to establish healthy boundaries within certain aspects of their lives in order to have positive mental health. The study concludes with implications of the findings for the CC Athletic Department and how it can better support the mental health needs of its student-athletes.  


Dara Bellinson

Session 2, Room B

Neighborhood Pride: The Effects of Housing, Crime, Policing, and Community Beauty

Abstract: Collective efficacy and social capital in low-income neighborhoods have been widely debated in the fields of sociology and psychology with scholars such as Wacquant arguing the presence of forces that lead to a lack of social capital and collective efficacy and Shaw and McKay who argue Black, low-income communities are lacking collective efficacy due to social disorganization. However, these perspectives have not adequately addressed how social capital does exist in Black, low-income communities. This study employs qualitative, community-based methodology to better understand the elements of Black, low-income neighborhoods that contribute to and inhibit the pride they have in their communities. I analyze ten in-depth interviews with residents from six neighborhoods in the inner-city of Detroit. Specifically, in my project, I will be looking at homeownership, crime and the neglect and physical deterioration of neighborhoods, policing, and community beautification in order reveal the previously misunderstood presence of social capital, collective efficacy and pride in Black, low-income Detroit neighborhoods. I argue that the barriers associated with home renting, crime and neglected structures, and policing stand in the way of pride. However, Detroit residents are individually and collectively committed to solving issues associated with these elements through initiatives such as community clean ups, gardening, and the introduction of Neighborhood Police Officers. In conclusion, by prioritizing the perspectives of Detroit residents to examine barriers to community pride, this project sheds new light on the rarely acknowledged existence of social capital and collective efficacy in Black, low-income neighborhoods.


Miriam Brown

Session 1, Room B

Experiences of Burnout Among Student-Journalists at a Private Liberal Arts College

Abstract: This paper investigates the phenomena of burnout among student-journalists at a small liberal arts college, using 16 structured interviews. Three student-journalists labeled themselves as burnt-out from journalism, and four others described symptoms that indicate they may be approaching burnout. This study found that the most burnt-out subjects were the most passionate in explaining how journalism can fulfill altruistic purposes. Building upon a body of research examining the effects of excessive or incoherent integration and regulation, this paper will argue that burnout occurs when the student-journalists’ altruism breaks down into anomie.


Genaveve Davis

Session 2, Room B

The Museum Is Mirror: An Exploration Of The Museums Of The Pikes Peak Region And Their Relationships With Community 

Through this project, I reiterate Logan and Molotch’s idea that if we view culture at the “motor for economic growth,” we must acknowledge that the economy revolves around the evolution, definition, and attributed symbols of space. Cultural institutions, such as museums, frequently grant meaning, purpose, and restrictions to space. Through this study, I explored the ways in which the museums of the Pikes Peak Region serve as reflections of the overarching values of Colorado Springs. I discovered that despite efforts to become more inclusive, accessible, diverse, and valuable to the community, there is a central disconnect between the museums in Colorado Springs and the people that live around them.


Andrew Eaton

Session 1, Room B

Synthesis of ‘The College Experience’: Zoom Learning, Burnout, and Mental Health 

Abstract: The pandemic of 2020, and subsequent move to online class, was an immense change. Removed from the university, students and professors attempted to adapt to the new circumstances. Friends commiserated over long zoom hours, teachers relayed frustration at our new circumstances; this wasn’t what we hoped it would be, and so students desperately grasped at forms of community. Somewhat a natural reaction when a pandemic shuts us inside, but these feelings, of burnout, isolation, and alienation, were not by any means new. This paper examines the disappointment students felt in online classes; where it came from, and how it can be helped. Using in-depth student interviews, this paper looks at the tension in the college experience and how it was laid bare by zoom class: the indignant outrage at not getting the product students paid for, but also as the desire for College to be something more—not just a product but a collaborative learning process.


Leonardo Hernandez-Flores

Session 1, Room A

Face Masks, Subculture, and Identity 

I sent out a survey on social media about face masks and identity. I got 57 responses in total — 36 female, 19 male and 2 other. With regard to race, 29 were White, 16 were Latinx, 4 were Asian, 5 were Black/African American, 2 were Native American and 1 was Bi-racial. I found that women had more to express about themselves and their friend group compared to men. People of Color also expressed themselves more through their masks than their White counterpart, and for People of Color the mask was able to distract from their racial identities and more towards their group affiliation identities. 


Minerva Ho

Session 1, Room B

Cultural Contributors to Stigma around Therapy and Discussing Mental Health Topics amongst Asian American College Students

Abstract: Many Asian Americans undergo mental health issues, despite mainstream America’s portrayal of them as a “successful minority” through the model minority myth. However, mental health service utilization for this demographic has historically been low, largely because of stigma amongst other reasons. Asian Americans have unique sociocultural backgrounds that inform their conceptualization and attitudes toward Western paradigms of therapy and other mental health topics. In a time of heightened anxiety from COVID-19, remote learning, and amplified anti-Asian discrimination, it is crucial to contextualize if and how Western therapy can be an appropriate form of treatment that serves Asian American college students. With a focus on the broadly cultural factors of acculturation status and Asian rooted worldviews, this study uses primary survey data to investigate potential predictors for Asian American identifying college students’ stigma against seeing a therapist. This study also has an interest in potential contributors to discomfort discussing mental health concerns and therapy with parent(s). Findings show that aspects of acculturation status and worldviews have suggestive effects on stigma around seeing a therapist and other mental health topics. Though Asian American college students today overall may be more receptive of therapy, Western therapists and mental health frameworks as a whole should take into consideration different acculturation statuses and adherences to Asian rooted worldviews in order to better support this population.


Margo Keevil

Session 2, Room B

Practice: Constructing Mutual Aid Societies as a Method of Protest and Survival

Abstract: In the summer of 2020, I organized a small mutual aid organization with a group of other 20-somethings in Madison, Wisconsin called Project ReCo. Project ReCo attempts to follow tenets of abolitionism as well as implementing reparative models of solidarity formation. We have attempted to adhere to core tenets of mutual aid practice, including political education, horizontal group formation, and indirect reciprocity. This paper will address the theoretical backing for construction of mutual aid societies, recount the history of Project ReCo, and engage with focus group data collected from several core members. Additionally, the paper will locate Project ReCo within common theories of mutual aid, providing explanation for past successes and failures, as well as possible roads forward.


Nik Lane

Session 3, Room B

Conditional Privilege: How Gender Non-Binary People Demonstrate That Privilege Is Fluid 

Abstract: The ways that gender privileges are experienced by individuals is widely debated in sociology. Previous scholarship about gender and privilege primarily construct gender as binary. This study seeks to advance conversations around how non-binary people navigate and experience gender privilege. Fourteen in-depth interviews with non-binary people provide insight into how gender privilege is experienced by people whose gender is not binary. Respondents reported that gender privilege is not static, nor exclusively determined by their assigned sex. Instead, gender privilege was dependent on the context of any given social interaction, the respondent’s presentation in that moment, and the perception and interpretation of these elements by others. Non-binary people’s insights about gender privilege’s fluidity add nuance and complexity to the way privilege is discussed in sociology and has the potential to expand current binary theories. 


Mālana Lopez

Session 1, Room A

Rethinking the Price of Paradise: A Cultural Analysis of Tourism Impact and Response in Kaua'i Residents

Abstract: Since the onset of jet plane travel in Hawai’i following statehood in 1959, Hawai’i has become increasingly dependent on tourism for the maintenance and survival of the economy and most of its industries. Now, at the culmination of tourism development, Hawai’i is facing the effects of globalization including over-tourism and crowding, cultural dissonance between Western and Native culture, and environmental degradation. This research focused on the critical perspectives of proponents of Native Hawaiian culture regarding the effects of tourism on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i. Informed by Dogan’s (1989) proposed adjustment strategies and Maoz’s (2009) theory of the mutual gaze, I examined the ways that respondents cope with and adjust to the effects of tourism and tourism dependence. With the historically unique travel restrictions employed in Kaua’i as a result of COVID-19, I was also able to compare respondents’ experiences of life with and without normal rates of tourism. I collected all data through semi-structured qualitative interviews, and ten Kaua’i residents who identified as proponents of the Hawaiian culture made up the respondent sample. While respondents reflected close similarities to Dogan’s adjustment strategies, outstanding cultural, environmental, and historical factors specific to Kaua’i played a role in the key differences between respondents’ actual reactions to tourism conditions and Dogan’s proposed strategies. Respondents provided a clear set of culturally appropriate and environmentally protective recommendations for future local and governmental change in tourism structures. These measures included implementing educational pre-travel classes for tourists, enforcing regulations and boundaries, increasing educational tourist activities that are culturally focused and locally managed, more representation of cultural proponents in powerful positions within tourism organizations, as well as a shift in marketing strategies that are more compatible with the goals and desires of the Native Hawaiian culture.



Cameron Mongoven

Session 2, Room A

Before it Happened: Mapping the Racial Disparities of Motor Vehicle Stops in Austin, Texas Prior to the Murder of Mike Ramos

Abstract: This thesis is the summation of a community-engaged research project in which I collaborated with Grassroots Leadership, a non-profit based in Austin, Texas, to create maps that document police interactions in motor vehicle stops. Grassroots Leadership wanted these maps to visualize the broad racial disparities in traffic stops and to present the findings to Austin’s Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce and City Council. Ultimately, this work will further contextualize the systemic damage and racism that Austin Police perpetuates in Austin’s Communities of Color in hopes of moving funding away from the department. I obtained data on 40,361 documented arrests and 206,434 documented warnings and field observations from the years 2016–2019 through a Freedom of Information Act request. Additionally, I obtained use of force records and isolated the 750 instances that stemmed from motor vehicle stops between 2017 and 2019. Using the coordinates from my datasets, I overlayed the police interactions on Austin’s demographic information from 2010 U.S. Census block group data. Austin is a starkly segregated city—largely divided by I-35. Warnings and field observations were the closest motor vehicle interaction where a racial group’s share was proportional to their make-up of Austin’s population— White individuals actually had a larger share of interactions.  However, we found disparities in over arrests, use of probable cause searches, findings of drugs, and use of force instances towards Black and Hispanic/Latino individuals in comparison with their share of the population. This suggests that Austin Police Officers have a large degree of subjectivity regarding on whom they enforce the law, ultimately creating major racial disparities in traffic stop interactions. These disparities create damaging notions of suspicion and criminality in Communities of Color, which can then lead to further instances of police violence.


Ellie Pfeiffer

Session 3, Room A

Conversations with Neighbors: How residents in the South Dallas neighborhood understand area change 

Abstract: This study seeks to understand how residents of the South Dallas neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, a rapidly developing area, frame the changes occurring in their community. Applying Erving Goffman’s (1974) “frame analysis,” I interviewed seven South Dallas residents to hear how they constructed the realities of a neighborhood “on the cusp of change.” Using qualitative analysis, I find that residents struggle with internal contradictions between what they value in the neighborhood and what they wish they saw. Although residents often frame their community in positive terms, they also demonstrate an awareness of the less desirable aspects and propose ways to improve them. By examining these tensions, this study contributes to existing literature on urban development and challenges the frequently over-simplified definition of gentrification. The study ultimately suggests that the conversations around urban development and gentrification are limited both in academic settings and popular cultural and argues that further in-depth, qualitative research is necessary to understand how residents create meaning amidst change.


Liam Reynolds

Session 3, Room A

When the Only Tool You Have is a Tax Cut...: the New Markets Tax Credit and the Relationship Between Community and Capital

Abstract: The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) awards investors credits against federal income taxes for investing in designated low-income communities. Proponents of the NMTC and other similarly designed programs argue that unleashing capital in these communities spurs growth and creates jobs, thereby alleviating local poverty. While the literature has established that the NMTC successfully generates investment, little study has investigated the effect that NMTC-subsidized investment has on the communities it enters. I begin with an overview of the neoliberal context from which the NMTC emerged and a discussion of gentrification. I then use data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund to examine how NMTC-subsidized investment affects six indicators of gentrification. The findings suggest that NMTC investment is associated with increases in five of the six gentrification indicators. To conclude, I argue that the NMTC cannot be justified as an anti-poverty program, and I present community land trusts (CLTs) as an alternative anti-poverty program structure.


Jackson Silverstein

Session 2, Room A

Black Lives Matter: An Assessment of Performative Activism on College Campuses

Abstract: The following is a study of knowledge and activism surrounding Black Lives Matter on a college campus in order to assess whether respondents were informed in their action or if it was simply performative. Respondents were given a separate knowledge and activism score to see if 4 different demographic factors had any correlation with the scores. The scores were based off of responses from an anonymous survey. Respondents were also asked questions regarding their opinions surrounding police reform in order to see if these were correlated with either score or demographic as well. The data shows that year in school had a large effect size on knowledge score while gender had a large effect size on Activism scores. Knowledge and Activism were not correlated to one another, but Activism was correlated with how likely respondents were to agree with “Defund the Police” This suggests that with more time in school respondents were more knowledgeable about Black Lives Matter. Colleges across the country might try to focus more on addressing topics in current events as well as motivating them to participate in protests or rallies.


Ema L. Smith

Session 2, Room A

Complicating Police Culture: Police Perspectives on Blue Lives Matter and the Thin Blue Line

Abstract: The characteristics of police culture have been primarily identified by scholars in monolithic and generalizable terms. The myopic lens through which this literature perceives police culture has not adequately allowed for unique officer cognitions and behaviors. My paper addresses this gap in police research by attending to the individual and contingent characteristics of discrete officers. A Bordieuan theory of capital will be employed as a framework in this paper for mapping how 12 police officers across the United States access their social and cultural capital as a resource for making sense of police work, Blue Lives Matter, and Thin Blue Line discourse. This paper argues that the process by which unique police officers either assimilate or reject the dominant occupational ethos is mediated by the positive cultural experiences and social networks they locate within their community. By closely examining police acculturation through a nuanced lens, the present research offers new prospects for police reform.


Laurel Sullivan

Session 2, Room B

Developing Resilience: A Needs Assessment of Youth in Colorado Springs 

Abstract: The following study is a needs assessment of youth in Colorado Springs to inform Colorado Springs Teen Court about gaps in support for the youth, ultimately using the data to inform how they can best support youth as they move to expand the organization. Four protective factors were identified to understand the needs of youth: resilience, positive social support, opportunities for positive social involvement, and clear expectations of behavior. This study uses four different scales to assess these factors: the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM-28) (Ungar and Liebenberg 2011), the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) (Zimet et al. 1988), and two scales developed by the researcher to measure opportunities for positive social involvement and clear expectations of behavior. The data can be interpreted in two ways: as four individual protective factors, or as interacting factors, with social support, opportunities for positive social involvement, and clear expectations of behavior acting as mediating variables for resilience. The first method of interpretation suggests that Teen Court programs should focus on increasing social support among youth, with attention to race and class. Using the second method of interpretation with the goal of building resilience, Teen Court might focus on increasing the clarity of behavioral expectations for youth.  


Kara Thomas

Session 3, Room A

The Potential Impact of Food Resources on Food Deserts: An In-Depth Tract Level Analysis in Chicago 

Abstract: This study examines the structural causes of food deserts in Chicago and aims to understand if food resources, such as produce carts, farmers markets, and community gardens, are having a mitigating effect on those food deserts. Using census tract data for the city of Chicago, I performed crosstabulations and t-tests to examine the factors associated with living in a food desert. I found that low-income individuals and individuals living below the poverty line were often found to be more likely to live in food deserts. Additionally, I found that farmers markets and community gardens do have a slight mitigating effect on food deserts; however, produce carts are seen to have no mitigating effect. I conclude by proposing further research to understand more in-depth the intricacies behind the determinants of food desert status and why food desert mitigating resources are located where they are. 


Kieran Woerner

Session 2, Room A

The Juror's Toolkit: A Qualitative Analysis of Jury Deliberation Interactions in Contributory Negligence Cases

Abstract: Besides those who have served on juries themselves, few know what goes on behind closed jury deliberation doors. The present study uncovers the social processes and interactions that take place in contributory negligence jury deliberations. Drawing data from three virtual mock deliberations, I find that in constructing meanings of case details and justice, jurors rely on four cultural resources (the law, personal experiences, morals, and each other), each of which, when employed, creates its own method of juror meaning-making. 


Sherry (Jinyue) Xu

“The Experiences that We All Shared”: Understanding the Menstrual Experience of Chinese Female College Students through Social Ties

Abstract: Recently, there was a debate of menstruation poverty and menstruation shame on Chinese social media, and the conventionally unspeakable topic “period” was brought to the table in Chinese society for the first time. To reveal the menstrual experience of Chinese young women, this study analyzed in-depth interviews with seven Chinese female college students. Social ties were employed as framework to understand their experience. The author found out that (1) strong ties with family established a keynote of menstruation shame for the young women; (2) social ties with female peers formed intimacy through shared experience and enabled exchange of private information; (3) a sense of connection with other Chinese female created imagined ties that helped them understand social issues such as menstruation poverty and also alleviate menstruation shame. Future research directions of going beyond revealing menstruation shame and exploring more coping strategies to challenge the shame hegemony were implied.


Lora Yip

Session 1, Room A

Hidden Curriculum: How Whiteness in American International Schools Effects Cultural Identity 

Abstract: My project addresses the issue of White Supremacy in international schools with special attention to the testimonies of students themselves, and the long-term effects of their schooling on their cultural identity. As the international schools sector rapidly expands scholars have argued that these institutions uphold and extend White Supremacy. However, previous literature studying the impact of international schools has lacked data generated by students themselves. White Supremacy has therefore been primarily identified on an institutional level, without an analysis of the embodied experiences of the students subject to the white gaze in their own country (Gardner-McTaggart 2018). Data was collected through visual self-portraits and written interview questions from four Chinese students who attended an American International school in China. My study revealed that attending AIS produces painful disconnections from participants' cultural identity that must be gradually reconciled through the process of cultural reconnection. In conclusion, this project closely examines American International Schools under a lens of critical whiteness to validate the under-explored feelings of double-consciousness and racial melancholia as lived by Chinese international students.


Kelly Yue

Session 1, Room A

Predicting Anti-Democracy Votes through Attitudinal Variables: A Study on the 2019 Hong Kong District Council Election

Abstract: This study uses 2019 Hong Kong District Council post-election data to challenge existing demographic narratives on the electoral split and to explore alternative factors in identifying population segments that are more prone to anti-democratic ideologies. This ideological tendency is operationalized as voting for the pro-Chinese Community Party (CCP) camp. With the use of bivariate analyses and logistic regression models, this study finds that Hongkonger identity, societal pessimism, and political agency serve as more precise and effective predictors of Hongkongers’ voting preference than demographic variables which are commonly cited by political elites. In general, individuals that identify as Chinese rather than Hongkonger, are less pessimistic about the city’s future, and have lower political agency are more likely to vote for the pro-CCP camp. 



See thesis titles and abstracts from the class of 2020 here.

Report an issue - Last updated: 05/06/2021