The Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowships offer funded independent research in the humanities. We're highlighting the research of this year's fellows in a series of online profiles.
Elicie Edmond '21, English: "Deconstructing Voluntourism and Community Engagement in Contexts of Inequality"
Abstract: My study explores how college students reflect on institutionally supported community engagement with underrepresented communities. The goal of this study is to understand how solidarity can continue in culturally and ethically competent ways as students aim to act as global citizens in contexts of inequality. A Qualtrics survey was distributed to Bryn Mawr and Haverford College students who received institutional support to undergo acts of community engagement for their summer internships and/or fellowships. Through conceptual and theoretical frameworks I analyzed the strategies of cultural and ethical competency as students reflected on their summer experiences and communities they were engaging with. Lastly, I identify ways in which student recommendations on cultural and ethical competency preparation may inform other students and educational institutions in the development of internships and fellowships that look to serve underrepresented communities.
Was there anything surprising about the work you did for your project?
One thing that surprised me about the summer research that I did was the number of students who responded to the survey. Given the pandemics—COVID-19 and anti-Black racism—that were at a boiling point this summer, I was expecting that not many people would have the mental capacity to volunteer to take the survey and participate in this study. However, a larger number of students responded to this survey than what I anticipated, and I am so grateful for all of these students’ thoughtful feedback and generosity. Another thing that surprised me was how critical Bi-Co students were of their summer experiences and the institutions that supported their work. It never ceases to amaze me how brilliant students in the Bi-Co are, and how students are frequently engaging with critical thought outside of the classroom.
How will you use your research in future studies?
This research will motivate me to keep exploring complex questions and to continue discussions on various topics, such as critical race theory, social inequality, systemic marginalization and oppression, and moral ethics in volunteer opportunities. I hope to continue to explore these topics in other disciplines of study as well. This research experience will be one experience that I use to navigate potential studies in grad school and potential careers in academia.
How did you choose your topic?
I chose this topic after I reflected on my own summer experiences where I did internships/fellowships in "underrepresented" communities. While working in these communities, I noticed that a lot of college students chose to participate in humanitarian acts by working with organizations, or participating in projects, that serve marginalized communities. I also noticed that many higher education institutions were often providing some form of support to these students as they participated in their community engagement opportunities. I felt weird that I was using these experiences, and the people in these communities, as a token for my resumé. As important as these humanitarian efforts are, I realized there are systems of oppression that are being conflicted, especially when I consider my own positionality as a student attending an "elite" and affluent liberal arts college. I wanted to explore if other students were also aware of what power dynamics were being conflicted in these volunteer opportunities and ways we can continue to engage in these efforts in a critical way.
The Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowships offer funded independent research in the humanities. Each summer, Bryn Mawr College awards up to 15 students a summer fellowship of $4,500 to undertake an independent research project in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. The research may either be the beginning of the senior thesis or a project that stands alone, but is relevant to their intellectual interests and must be supported by a faculty advisor.