A new cohort of eight University of Florida students have begun a two-year period of undergraduate research, civic engagement training and public service as part of the Graham Center’s Reubin Askew Scholars program.
Under the guidance of Center director Matt Jacobs, those selected will study public policy, receive leadership training and work with a faculty mentor while they conduct independent study or a community service project. The goal of the program, named for the late Florida governor Reubin Askew, is to prepare outstanding UF students for a life of civic involvement.
The students identified for the 2020-22 period and their research topics are:
- Grace Banahan – Roles of apprenticeship programs and higher education institutions in workforce development
- Eileen Calub – Dismantling language barriers and increasing access to legal resources for migrants in Florida
- Aimee Clesi – The death penalty in the time of mass incarceration
- Roberto Ferrer – Perceptions of environmental crime among Latin Americans living in Florida
- Madison Gore – Mapping anti-Semitism in the United States
- Sarah Louis – Effects of COVID on education inequality
- April Rubin – Local trust in local news outlets
- Hannah Townley – Social media: the new dimension of civil society
Askew Scholars receive a scholarship of $3000 over the course of their fellowship to support a significant public service or research project.
This year’s cohort comprises many different disciplines from all corners of the academic world, and their research topics are equally diverse. Meet them and learn more about their research below.
Grace is a junior majoring in journalism and political science. Her research seeks to better understand the decline in apprenticeship programs which threatens to induce a scarcity of trade jobs as more elderly workers retire without an available replacement..
“High-school students in America are guided through the school system into a career path that revolves around a college degree, devaluing a bachelor’s degree in the job market and saturating the field,” she says. “On the other hand, skilled-trade jobs are high-paying roles that are looking to be filled, but do not meet the societal norm of ‘success.’
“The results could influence a rethinking of higher-learning and its value to society. Results will also increase awareness of opportunities in the workforce for uninformed students.”
“More than one in five Florida residents is an immigrant. With 18% of the Florida immigrant population undocumented, it’s essential to secure the safety and wellbeing of undocumented immigrants in our state through legal protections,” says Eileen Calub.
Eileen is majoring in linguistics and international studies, while minoring in mass communication studies. All of these disciplines are integrated in her research topic, which examines how language barriers impact Florida’s immigrant population. She also hopes to identify ways to help.
“My research seeks to identify legal resources that empower migrants while also examining how lack of translation services can deny access to those who cannot speak or understand English. I will also research methods of advocating for migrant rights in Florida through increasing multilingual legal resources in communities with sizable migrant populations. The results could positively impact the lives of immigrants who have had difficulty navigating the legal system, and help reduce social inequality resulting from language barriers. Results will also increase public awareness about the necessity of multilingual language resources and translation services for migrant accessibility.”
Aimee is a philosophy and history major pursuing a women’s studies minor.
“My Askew Scholars project will examine the leading reasons for wrongful conviction, the
implementation of the death penalty, and the impact of conviction integrity units across the United States,” she says.
“Conviction integrity units are the implementations in prosecutor’s offices that work to identify where a wrongful conviction went wrong. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, only 1.5% of American prosecutor’s offices have them.
“According to the National Registry of Exonerations, innocent Black people are nearly seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people. The goal of this research is to discuss barriers to the implementation of conviction integrity units, paying particular attention to politics and financial investment. Moreover, this project will discuss how properly run conviction integrity units can bring justice to innocent defendants who have been capitally tried and found guilty. These defendants are likely to be Black, studies show, and their cases tend to involve instances of official misconduct, false or misleading forensic science, and perjury.”
Roberto is a criminology major, pursuing minors in Latin American studies and Portuguese. His research will look in depth at how environmental crimes play out on a local scale, especially in the context of perceptions specific to Florida’s Latin American community.
“By focusing on environmental crimes committed by transnational criminal syndicates, governments often overlook local environmental crime. Smaller-scale environmental crimes, while not as impactful, can contribute significantly to regional criminality,” he says.
“In this study, I aim to highlight the cultural dimensions involved with environmental crimes among Latin American populations in Florida. This demands a modest literature review of relevant research, enforcement data, and media reports. A qualitative survey will be distributed to the study group as well as other stakeholders to determine perceptions of wildlife/environment value orientations. A review of current environmental practices and policies will also reveal any potential reasons for why these crimes are committed and areas for policy changes.”
Madison is a junior political science major whose research topic concerns anti-Semitism.
As defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, anti-Semitism, she says, is a “certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Her research aims to better identify and track anti-Semitic activity occurring in the U.S. “In recent years, anti-Semitic events have increased drastically globally. Within the United States, however, these events have not been tracked effectively, leaving towns with anti-Semitic events but no action being taken,” she says.
“Through this project, a resource will be created that would highlight what type of events are taking place and where they are occurring, so policy-makers can enact policies to help eliminate anti-Semitism in these areas.”
Sarah is a political science and African American studies major who will research inequities in the education system made worse by the COVID pandemic.
“For example, how are the success of students being affected when not every student has equal access to internet connection or functional electronic devices?” she asks.
“I am also thinking of broadening my initial research topic to have a component that incorporates teachers and how they are having to adapt to a new normal.”
April is a junior majoring in journalism and minoring in Latin studies and anthropology. Her research will examine trust of local media.
“During a time when trust of news is more contested than ever, I will research how that plays out on a local scale,” she says. “What is the relationship between Gainesville’s news outlets and people? How does the public trust its local outlets? How is media literacy in the area and how can it be improved?”
Hannah is a political science and English major who is also pursuing minors in Latin American studies and African studies. Her research will focus on the effects of social media on civil society.
“The creation and promotion of democracy has long centered around civil society, the ‘third sector’ of our lives where connections are made across gender, race, and class, creating a sense of community that drives civic processes,” she says.
“Civil society has served as a primary actor in every movement for equality, justice, freedom, and democracy in the U.S. and around the world. But previously held understandings of civil society – picturing the sector as composed of community organizations, religious institutions, social clubs, to name a few – do not account for the new dimension of civil society: social media.
“I’m interested in conducting a comparative study of the role of social media as the newly predominant civil society in the United States and around the world. Does a social media-driven civil society create more opportunities for civic engagement? What risks does social media pose to democracy? And how can those risks be overcome to turn social media into democracy’s greatest tool?”