The Thea Bowman and AHANA Intercultural Center is launching the Community Advocacy and Research Engagement Program for the 2022-2023 academic year. This is a two-semester, seven-credit program designed for students interested in gaining research experience in issues that impact AHANA communities meaningfully pairs this research with the identification of solutions. It is a great opportunity for undergraduate students to conduct scholarly, community-based research to impact public policy. This program embodies the importance of combining theory and practice.
Andy Petigny, the Associate Director of the AHANA Intercultural Center, shed some light on the specifics of the program and its learning objectives. Students who choose to pursue this research opportunity will be supported by a faculty member and a graduate student who help the student fine-tune and develop their research question. Andy boasted the empowering outcomes of this research opportunity since it allows students to learn about the process of social justice-oriented research while seeing the impacts within the communities they choose to engage with.
This program has existed at BC since 2008, but for the 2022-2023 academic year the name has changed from the Community Research Program to the Community Advocacy and Research Engagement Program. The title change, as Andy explained, better reflects what students do through the CARE program. Andy emphasized the word ‘engagement’ as an integral part of the program’s name; the program aims to afford students the opportunity to participate in research on topics they are passionate about, and the word ‘engagement’ embodies and revamps this mission. This change is happening alongside the removal of the term ‘AHANA’ from the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center’s title to purportedly better represent the center’s aim. While the curriculum and learning objectives have not been changed after rebranding, the name now more accurately reflects what the students do. Since its foundation, the program has expanded and become increasingly intersectional. Initially, the program had one track focussing on African American experiences, but it has grown to include more and more groups and experiences as areas of study. With more virtual work opportunities the program has also been able to expand its touchpoint and students are less limited by geographical boundaries. As society becomes more interconnected through virtual communication, this program will hopefully evolve and reach greater communities.
Andy described a few fascinating research projects from years past. There have been projects on the impact of diabetes in Vietnamese communities, on expressions of love in Asian communities, on school admission policies for Black and Brown students, on reassessing the ethics of abortion, on racial disparities and aspects of traumatic brain injuries, and on barriers within higher education for undocumented Latinx students, to name a few. All of these projects highlight intersecting social issues and are completely guided by the passions and interests of students. Class sizes within the program are usually 8-15 students, and the intimate class sizes create space for discussion and the input of classmates with similar passions.
Students have had profound takeaways from this program, as well as terrific research opportunities. Some objectives of the CARE program are to learn about community based research and how to conduct it. Students also learn how to present academic research and have the opportunity to submit their abstracts to a conference at Harvard where schools with similar programs congregate. Student outcomes include going on to graduate and PhD programs that prepare them to go into government and policy work, and the foundational research experience that the CARE program provides helps cultivate interest in these fields. Overall, students gain a deep understanding of a particular topic of interest, self-guided research experience, adaptability to challenges, and the opportunity to get to know faculty members and outside organizations that support research endeavors.
At a predominately white institution like BC, these research opportunities are critical. They promote widespread education and allow just about anyone to join and bring knowledge on their passions into the community. This program promotes a greater knowledge and awareness of social justice issues through culminating presentations at the end of the year. As much of the research focuses on communities of color and the nuances of social issues that these groups face, attending these presentations is a great way to educate oneself.
To students considering applying for this course, Andy Petigny encourages coming in and speak with the BAIC. Through conversations with staff members who are familiar with this offering, students can discuss their potential research interests and receive detailed answers to any questions. Andy is proud that this program ensures that students have support from a graduate assistant and a faculty member even if they’ve never done scholarly research before. This program enhances one’s education and experience through personalized research opportunities that may not be available in other places on campus. Interested students are highly encouraged to reach out to the BAIC to learn more in-depth about the program and even potentially speak with students from their same major about topics of interest.
More information about the program and application can be found here, or through contacting Andy Petigny.