KC Johnson

Autobiographical Statements

Jessica Velez

SPCM 3185

Autobiographical Statement


Learning a new language might not be familiar for everyone, but some of us have had to go through the experience of being thrown in a room where nothing made sense. In the United States speaking English is one of the most important parts of every day life, specially in New York, where English is the common ground all cultures and races are able to communicate through. I realized this when I came to the United States and found my 6th grade ESL class filled with Western Europeans, Asians, and Hispanic kids. We needed a language in common.

Since I started to learn English I became fascinated with the language, a language very different from my native Spanish in so many ways. When I entered high school I was offered to take French and I loved the idea. Languages since then became something of a hobby. I have taken Japanese and Italian classes, and hopefully I can learn another language in the following years. However, it was because I had to learn English to communicate that I was encouraged to learn it. When I was in junior high I noticed that languages aren’t given until the end of middle school, and that Spanish is the primary language being taught. In high school only French and Spanish were available, with an overwhelming number of people taking Spanish. It wasn’t until college that more languages were accessible, and even now they seem scarce and inadequate. I’ve realized that the curriculum seems to be backwards, and the older you get the more choices become available, but the harder it is to have the time and dedication to learn. While in other countries conversational English is taught since elementary school leading to other languages in high school, the United States has fallen behind in modern languages.

This summer I spent teaching English to small children in Ecuador and it was evident that their grasp of the language was much better and faster than it is with adults. It was easier to incorporate new words and use songs and activities to teach them both Spanish and English at the same time (some of the children were very young and were learning new things in Spanish as well). Also, the children were excited as children often are with new things, something that in adulthood is harder to achieve.

Although it is true that English is the most used language in the world, it does not mean that English-speaking countries should dismiss other languages. Foreign languages in schools have become a requirement, with levels that really don’t help in a real conversation. After the requirement is met there is no need to keep learning, and the mentality that it was only a requirement continues to foment the idea that foreign languages are not needed.

In my research, the audience would be people in academia, those that know about the foreign language curriculum in schools. To appeal to this audience I plan to concentrate more on statistics and research done that shows learning a foreign language at an earlier age is better, and probably add surveys and interviews I’ll be conducting. Of course any other readers could be the audience as well, such as parents, who sometimes have the power to change things. To parents I would try to present the benefits of learning a foreign language for their children’s future in a competitive nation.

The key questions of the research would be: why is it beneficial to learn a foreign language? Why should it be taught at a young age and how is it effective? And, why should it be extended to the classroom since elementary school/become part of the curriculum?



Sabine Saint-Cyr

Senior Colloquium

Professor Johnson

8 September 2011

Culture Understanding

Knowledge and learning are key factors to reach a goal. My specific goal is to conduct a research with the purpose to find an understanding to why ethnic groups have a reluctance to seek mental health treatment.

I have started my journey to the path of knowledge like many others since elementary school, but it is not until college that I have decided to take a leap of faith to focus on a topic that has interested me. The epiphany of my research topic struck me in a cultural psychology course I took in the spring. It was a discussion on culture. Culture indicates a particular group of individuals and information that is provided by members of the group through social learning.  The role of culture plays a part in how people understand themselves (self-concept), and categorized themselves in either individualistic (independent) or collectivistic (interdependent) setting. Since culture plays such a crucial role in individuals when different culture clashes the question is what happens. Can people trust others with other cultural backgrounds with the way they act? The answer should be yes, but it is more difficult when there is not only one concept for seeking help. This is where my exploration and ideas begin to flourish and expand.

There is a correlation between culture and institution.  The psychologist in his/ her search needs to understand the cultural aspect in order to apprehend how people behave in an institution. In the general psychology field, the majority of people is from a western hemisphere and because it is a fact, I wonder. Can psychologists attract ethnic groups to seek mental health treatment?

The answer is obvious. All professionals have the essential training to help people deal with everyday stressors or more complex issues with the appropriate treatment. There is a lapse.  Ethnic groups do not seek mental health treatment, and this is a topic that should be furthered addressed.  The issue here is how to provide this knowledge/ tool to others and captivate them.   Is it a topic that can be an interest to everyone? Readers may say, it is not only ethnic groups that do not seek mental health treatment, but it is all groups. Perhaps, people do not seek help because they do not want to or see it as necessary. Culture or ethnicity does not play a role in this. It is an individual case. This is not true. There is a higher percentage of Caucasians that seek mental health treatment/ counsel. It is a disparity between Ethnic groups and Caucasians. Thus, I must find a captivating way to connect with readers as I embark in my steps to a research project. I want people to have a reason to know about the topic and to provide awareness, but the key question is how can my topic add to previous research and be significant. I am working on finding information on ethnic group’s reluctance to seek treatment because I believe it is a topic that is not discussed enough.

Everything in life is not easy. There are many different components that lead me to this research area. I hope that in the future I will be able to captivate future readers and answer a question that is ambiguous to me at this moment because I do not have the answer for it now.




Daniel Shayowitz

Autobiographical Statement


I always loved arguments. Not the nasty personal arguments, but debates about policies and viewpoints. I could listen to older people argue for hours without losing interest. The idea that someone can know enough about a topic to be able to argue for a position with conviction was amazing to me. I joined the debate team and arguing became a part of my high school life. I always thought of myself as open-minded, because even though I would constantly hear arguments for conflicting positions, I couldn’t make up my mind about which position was right. All of the different arguments seemed to be valid and make sense. I later realized that what I had mistaken for open-mindedness was actually an inability to properly critique and analyze arguments. This became perfectly clear to me in my last year of high school.

In my senior year of high school, I had to take a class in medical and biological ethics. This wasn’t a proper class with tests and reading assignments, but it was rather a class that was aimed at making students think critically about ethical problems. My teacher would ask hard questions that would pin different moral intuitions against one another. Thoughts experiment after thought experiment was thrown at the class. As soon as I thought something was clear, the teacher would give a situation in which my reasoning fell apart. At the end of every class I would feel confused and conflicted, but I did realize that my teacher had a way of knocking down arguments with ease. I would come up with an argument, and my teacher just came up with a situation in which even I agreed that my argument doesn’t work, and I wanted to be able to do that also. I later learned that this type of reasoning is common in philosophy.

I took philosophy in college because I wanted to be able to analyze arguments more clearly. I loved the way in which one could show that a principle is flawed or that reasoning is inconsistent. My favorite method of analysis was the thought experiment. A thought experiment is a hypothetical situation that is used to test whether or not a theory holds. As I came in contact with more thought experiments I realized that our intuitive answers to questions usually come into conflict all the time. A common thought experiment where this happens is called the trolley problem. A trolley is headed toward 5 people on a track. They will all die unless you pull a lever that redirects the trolley onto a track that has one unsuspecting bystander on it. Should you pull the lever? This question can drive someone crazy. If one says no, then we can change the number of people dying to 100 instead of 5. Would you still say no? What about a thousand? If one says yes, then we can tweak the experiment so that saying yes seems ridiculous. This is an important problem in ethics. What do we do when our intuitions are so unstable on a topic? Entire systems are built in philosophy based on our intuitions, but what if someone has a different intuition? These are the questions that will be the central topic in my thesis. The role of intuitions in philosophy is an important topic with far reaching implications.

The role of intuitions in our though processes should be an important topic for people outside of philosophy also. People use intuitions all the time when thinking about different topics. There are huge policy issues in America where intuitions play an important role. Abortion, torture, and euthanasia are all topics where intuition plays a major role in thinking about the topic. When people say that something feels wrong, or that they just know it’s wrong, those are all intuitive judgments. My topic should connect to any reader because it deals with the core of human reasoning. Every person in the world relies on intuitions one way or another, and understanding to what extent we should use our intuitions, would be important in everybody’s lives.

At this point, my main question will focus around the role of our intuitions in philosophical reasoning, and how much should we rely on our intuitions. Are there specific circumstances in which it is reasonable or beneficial to rely on our intuitions? If so, then what are those circumstances?


Ricky Yam


Although I am a chemistry major, I have a wide range of interest in many different areas of study. These interests follow a general guideline. Anything that is esoteric (sorry was preparing for standardize exams the past month) and is linked to any daily aspect of life becomes something I am interested in. This diverse range of interest came from years of reading entertainment sites featuring random facts (extreme emphasis on this one), consumer news, and occasionally foreign news articles (translated of course). Since many of these sources are not reliable, I tend to look up facts that I find particularly interesting in more reliable sources just to make sure they are accurate. (For some reason scholarly articles that address these issues tend to be entertaining and easy to read.)

Now, how is this relevant? Well, with regards to the thesis, I have a bunch of different topics in mind. A while ago, I read a book on the importance of water throughout history as well as the issues around water today. These issues include water privatization and the fact that many countries in the world are running out of drinking water. Water is something almost every living being need to live and the fact that many countries are either running out or are relying on nonrenewable resources is something that I feel compelled to write about.

Another topic that I wanted to explore is the US patent system and its effect on scientific research. I have read a few articles on how the patents on the research on certain areas place restrictions on research in that particular area as well as the impact of this on development of new technology. Some researchers have run into problems trying to work around this restriction in the development of new drugs. On the other hand, the patent system is there to provide people with incentive to do research. The restriction of research in certain fields is something that I am not happy about and I want to see if I can find a compromise between these two points.

These two topics currently rank highest in importance to me. Other topics that I have in mind include the appeal of violent entertainment, the negative effects of video games (it does fun stuff to your brain and there are addiction centers just for this), optimal position to poop (the average toilet are not ergonomically efficient), correlation of sitting and mortality rate (a scary study, long story short, don’t sit for more than 3 hrs a day), and the value of charisma vs logic in an argument. I can keep going with this list. Basically I have a lot to choose from and I somehow narrowed it down to two topics.

In terms of relating to the audience, I do not think either topic (water or patent) will require me to use terminology that is unknown to the reader. If it does, I will do what I can to put things in plain language. Even in making notes for my own uses, I prefer to put things into everyday terms. That way, if I ever have amnesia, I can easily relearn what I have forgotten. To remedy the issues of dumbing things down too much for experts in the field, I plan on making an introduction which provides background information on the issue, enough for the average person to understand the rest and experts who already know all of this can simply skip that and move on to the main issue.

Last semester, I took a class on innovative techniques in African art and literature. One of the things that I was exposed to in that class was different innovative techniques in works of literature like footnotes that addressed a different issue, playing with grammar, and irregular word choices. Ever since taking that class, I want to include a few innovative features in my projects to just to make it more unique and entertaining as well as gauge how well my audience is paying attention. Will they notice anything unusual or not?  I will see how much of this I can get away with. (Yes, I know that on page 20, the book said “you must use the right terminology, find and present the right evidence, all in the right format” but I like to play with my audience)

Whether I do my topic on water or patents, I think I will take on the role of providing information rather than solving a practical problem. At most I will list some solutions that have been proposed and their upsides and downsides in the conclusion. But my main goal is to present more information about the issue rather than focus on a solution and why it will work. I prefer not to adopt a particular view if both have good reasons behind it.

In terms of key questions, on patents, I will start with how it started and what it intends to do, as well as factors that have changed the US patent system over time into what it is today. These two will serve as a background. I will also look into restrictions on research subjects as well as research that have to be halted because of these restrictions. Another thing I will look into is alternatives and changes proposed to the system.

With water, I am not sure whether I will focus on just water privatization in general, combine water privatization and shortage in water, or just shortage in water and whether I will narrow it down to a particular country. It will depend on how much I can find on these issues and how related they are. Things I will look into include the benefits and downsides to water privatization, purpose behind it, and examples of water privatization throughout history. For water supply, I will look into water management policies and cultural factors that go into it. In the end, it depends on how much I can find on each issue.

Generic conclusion that does not add to this autobiographical statement goes here.


Sunny Liu

I have always loved to learn new things. Brooklyn College has offered me an academic and extracurricular spectrum of courses and clubs from which I could not wait to benefit. I’ve grown fond of Virgil’s literature in both English as well as Classics. A humanities based college experience has fostered an affinity for the classics, but has also magnified my curiosity of the natural sciences. To me, science has always been the brightest star in a universe of academic subjects. The seeds of my reverence were planted at the New York Hall of Science.

My intrigue into the sciences began at the age of six. My mother, taking advantage of a day off from work, took me to the New York Hall of Science in Flushing, New York. I was enchanted by the optical illusions and the bicycle that generated energy for a fan at least ten feet in diameter. Eventually, I made my way to an octagonal shaped table in the center of the room, and sat down curiously at one of its sides. The table had its own alcove filled with colored, plastic balls and gray links. They were the type of things that my mother always warned me to keep out of my baby brother’s mouth. Burrowing through the dish of colored pieces, I was eager to make the first picture in the diagram: water. I hastily found the red and white balls and linked them using the gray pieces so I could proudly present it to my mother who was looking at the floor plan of the exhibits that we would later visit. After impatiently jamming the pieces together, I was convinced that the diagram was wrong. It had to be wrong. Water is clear and wet, and the thing I made looked more like Mickey Mouse without eyes. I would later discover that I had built my first molecular model of water.

Since my days of watching a cow’s eye get dissected and dissecting several organisms myself, my love of science has flourished. My best memories of high school will always be the sparkle in my fellow alchemists’ eyes as we learned to zinc plate pennies and heat them to make bronze in sophomore chemistry—we thought we had turned them into gold—our trembling hands as we performed gel electrophoresis under the ever-watchful eyes of our science research teacher, and my excitement of watching the oxygen in a seemingly empty bottle give a loud burst when my chemistry classmates and I were confirming the combustibility of oxygen harvested through a single replacement reaction.  Over the summer at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth, I made my own soap in chemistry, and waited patiently for the sodium hydroxide in the Erlenmeyer flask to turn pink from phenolphthalein in acid base titration. I was fascinated by the fact that mechanisms on the blackboard of my organic chemistry class could make beautiful designs on an old white shirt—or what we know as tie dye. My passion for the sciences brought me to where I am today: a senior in the Coordinated Brooklyn College B.A.-M.D. Program with SUNY Downstate Medical Center beginning my thesis work in which I can grow and expand the horizons of my education in the health sciences with true hands-on experience.

Of my universe of passions, science is my Polaris.  Today, I pursue health science as a profession looking forward to practicing medicine and one day conducting research—the natural progression for the young girl deep inside no longer questioning why water looks like Mickey Mouse, but looking forward to writing her own thesis after reading the work of many others.


Joseph McClellan


Thesis Colloquium


Autobiographical Statement

I have decided that my research project will aim at exploring the relation between moral luck and the US legal system. There have been many intellectual interests that have influenced my passion in this area.  I am a double major in philosophy and history. One of the courses the most interested me in my study in philosophy was on the foundation of ethics.  A session devoted to moral luck unfortunately had to be cut because of the large scope of the course. Nevertheless, I read up on the concept because it interested me, and found it to be problematic for many implicit assumptions people make when assigning responsibility.  I am also interested in the legal system. This was influenced by a course I took in US constitutional history and an internship I had completed for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.  All of these interests cultivated into my research project, and I think there is an interesting intersection between the legal system and the concept of moral luck.

In order to plan effectively, one must assess how one will connect to there readers. The Craft of Research outlines three possible ways of understanding your role. I think my role will be finding an answer to an important question. My research question will deal with the how moral luck relates to legal responsibility. I will try to synthesize information from legal and philosophical texts that deal with the relationship and try to compile an answer to the question. I will try to connect to my readership in a variety of ways. I think it would be unwise to assume a deep familiarity of moral luck or the legal system in regards to my readership. I will devote a portion of my work to explain what the concept of moral luck is, the different kinds of moral luck, and detail the types of laws and criminal sentences are influenced by it.  I will try to strike an intricate balance so that the readership of my project could potentially include both laypersons, and persons who are deeply invested in the subject matter (lawyers and philosophers).

I must also deal with their reader’s imagined role, and what techniques one will use to pique their interests. I think I will take the role in helping them understand something better. If my project is successful, the reader will come out with a clear idea of how the legal system judges moral agents when the consequences of an agent’s actions were at least partially influenced by events out of their control, and the interesting dilemmas that result from this pairing. The project will try to aim to be as informative as I can.  I also think this topic is inherently interesting, because so much of public policy is driven by the law.  The topic I deal with has very deep implications over the fate of not only individuals, but the laws the govern society at large.  I think that these implications are engaging enough to warrant interests in a potential readership.

There are a number of research questions that I have at the present moment. I think that once I do more research these questions might be vastly different then they are now. They could become narrower or perhaps even larger in their aim. I suspect that once I really start to refine my goals and start outline the thesis I will have a clearer idea of what questions I shall attempt to answer. The questions I have at the moment are as follows: What is moral luck, and can it understood in different parts? How do these different aspects of moral luck effect criminal actions and prosecutions? How can moral and legal responsibility be assigned when at least part of an agent’s actions were the result of luck? Is it fair to judge criminals differently when their intentions were exactly the same? I hope that these questions will be answerable by the research and that they will become more refined in the future.



Myrodati Lyristis

Children are not always given the amount of credit they deserve when it comes to evaluating their intelligence.  There is a common misconception that language abilities give a clear insight into children’s cognitive abilities and therefore also show a correlation to intelligence.  Evidence by some researchers makes a claim toward the contrary.  These researchers believe that language is not a necessary function in determining how much a child actually knows.

Many believe that because a newborn or infant cannot speak, they are not as intelligent as an older child or adult, but what is language and when and how did it become synonymous with knowledge?  Language, after all, is something arbitrary.  According to many linguists this is just one of the ways in which language can be described.  Author David Bjorklund mentions a few other aspects of language in Children’s Thinking.  Language is also productive, meaning, that with a limited vocabulary, a person can create innumerable sentences.  It can also be described as semantic; words represent objects.  Through narrative, a speaker can displace the listener while speaking about events at a different point in time or place.  And lastly, language has a feature of duality.  Language can be represented through phonology, the sounds of words, and the underlying abstract, the meaning created through syntax (Bjorklund, 2005 p. 300).  Once children begin learning new words they seem to expand their vocabulary at an exponential growth.  Is there a reason for this?  According to astrophysicist, astronomer, Dr. Carl Sagan, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”  Just because infants do not speak, does not mean that they do not have knowledge.  “It is estimated that by the time children speak their first words, they understand approximately one hundred” (Bjorklund, p. 301).

Focusing on the period before toddlers become expert speakers, Hanako Yoshida and Linda Smith conducted a study that was meant to observe how children differentiate between objects, whether they use an object’s shape, or material in generalizing about its categorization.  By the age of three, toddlers are able to understand this.  They are able to generalize the name of a novel exemplar by using their knowledge base to infer about the new item.  This developmental milestone is a result of children’s ability to semantically bootstrap.  Children are capable of expanding their lexicon just by being exposed to a single new objectIn their research article, “Linguistic Cues Enhance the Learning of Perceptual Cues,” Yoshida and Smith spoke about their study involving two year olds with a smaller knowledge base.  In order to remove the bias of languages’ reliance on regularities to hint at an object’s identity, they used a subject pool of monolingual Japanese-speaking children.  In the Japanese language there are no regularities such as those found in the English language, which are (1) “solidity predicts category structure” and (2)“count syntax correlates with solidity and shape-based categories, and mass syntax correlates with nonsolidity and material-based categories” (Yoshida & Smith, 2005 p. 90).  Basically, toddlers generalize based on an object’s shape when observing a solid object and based on the material when shown a non-solid object.  The second regularity refers to the grammatical structure of a sentence.  Saying “a ___” or “some___” indicates the count or mass syntax and with these cues children are also provided with clues to the prediction of category structure.  Count syntax cues solidity, whereas mass syntax correlates with non-solids and therefore the material of a category.

The sample of two year-olds studied, were randomly split into one of four categories:

1) those who received the training session with correlated linguistic cues present and were then tested with the correlated linguistic cues present at testing, 2) those who were trained with the correlated linguistic cues but did not have the cues present at testing, 3) those who received training without correlated linguistic cues and were then tested with the cues present, and 4) those who were trained with the absence of correlated linguistic cues and were tested with the absence of correlated linguistic cues.  The toddlers were taught four lexical categories by way of two similar examples in each.  Two of the categories were meant to habituate the children to the shape of the object, while the other two referred to the material of the objects.   The two groups of children that were trained with correlated linguistic cues present were taught to distinguish between the two types of categories, while the other two groups were trained using the same sentence frame to refer to both the solids and non-solids.

                Yoshida and Smith found that when assessing children who were trained with correlated linguistic cues present, they were able to outperform the other two groups trained without the linguistic cues present, both when the cues were present during testing and when they were absent (Yoshida & Smith, p. 93).  Their findings were in support of their original hypothesis that solid objects help predict shape-based categories and non-solid objects help predict material-based categories.  The redundant training sessions allowed children to discover the connection between their perceptual cues and category structure.  Interestingly, in the control group, which was made up of eight children who received no prior training, when tested with correlated linguistic cues, researchers found that the two year-olds over generalized the names of solids and non-solids based on shape.   By exposure and repetition of the correlation linguistic cues, the toddlers were able to increase the strength of their word associations even before they could formulate a complete sentence or create their own form of speech through word-utterances.  Even the control group was able to learn how to do so without any prior training.

                Another theory of cognitive development is based on the hierarchical organization of language as a superordinate level (i.e. vehicles), a basic level (i.e. cars, airplanes), and a subordinate level (Honda, Boeing 787).  One school of thought presented by researcher Eleanor Rosch and her colleagues, was that toddlers initiate their knowledge acquisition process by learning about basic level categories before any other level in the hierarchy (Bjorklund, p. 310).  Researchers Andrew Meltzoff and Alison Gopnik furthered this notion by conducting a test on 15-to18-month olds.  They carried out the test by showing toddlers sets of objects that could be grouped into various basic level categories and then allowing them to play with the items.  Most of the children grouped the objects based on similarities to one another, successfully providing confirmation of the theory that children categorize basic level nouns based on similarities (Bjorklund, p. 311).  These results also provide evidence for the initial theory presented by Yoshida that similar objects are generalized to belong to the same category.

Later studies by Dr. Laraine McDonough, a researcher and professor at Brooklyn College, speak to the contrary of the Rosch-Meltzoff theory.  Dr. McDonough and her colleagues believe that toddlers begin their categorization from the superordinate level rather than from basic level categories.  According to their research presented in Early Concepts and Early Language Acquisition, similarity can be biased by three basic factors: gross structural similarities, a structured knowledge base, or overall shape similarities (McDonough, p.1).  Dr. McDonough conducted an inductive generalization task to attest the invalidity of the Rosch theory and prove that toddlers begin their knowledge acquisition from the highest point in the hierarchy.  The task was meant to make use of implicit generalizations made from inferential assumptions based on previous knowledge.  The study included infants as young as seven to nine months old who were tested via a preferential looking technique.  The infants were tested to see if they would imitate a demonstrated action, which would indicate that they knew the function of the objects they were being shown.  In this way, there would be no doubt that the infants were misinterpreting the purpose of the study and choosing an object based on color similarity or any resemblance in objects’ shape (McDonough, p. 3).  The outcome of the study was exactly what the researchers had hoped for; the infants were generalizing the actions that they were shown across multiple basic level categories.  An example cited in Dr. McDonough’s research article, is one involving the overgeneralization of drinking to all animals, including fish and a keying action to all vehicles, including airplanes (McDonough, p.3).  Infants are content with over-generalizing until about eighteen to twenty-four months, which is around the time that they begin to restrict their generalizations and learn more about basic level categories.

The age range of 18-24 months, is the age around which Rosch believed children categorize basic level nouns.  Rosch’s later studies seem to provide support for Dr. McDonough’s theories.  In a study conducted in 1975, Rosch suggested that certain examples within a category are more representative of the category than others: category prototypes.  The example used in Children’s Thinking,” is the case with socks and shirts.  They are both examples of articles of clothing, but shirts seem like a more typical example for young infants to pick out.  This process, the prototypical grouping of articles of clothing is representative of superordinate and basic level categorization and starts as early as 13 months (Bjorklund, p.312).  Despite what Rosch had originally alluded to, children do not only begin the recognition process at 18-24 months, but also get a head start a few months earlier and begin with superordinate taxonomy.

Whether it is through superordinate or basic level categories, Dr. McDonough, Meltzoff and Rosch might all agree that children understand more than we sometimes give them credit for.  They know how to categorize; either based on the function of an object or by similarities among like objects and can do so with or without the aid of speech.  Although languages differ in the amount of redundant correlations they offer to the learning process, children are able to learn to distinguish between shapes and materials and even do so with little or no training as we saw from the Yoshida and Smith experiment.  With the support provided by these researchers and many others who have conducted tests to analyze cognition in children, and some inductive reasoning, we can conclude that even in the absence of language, children can show their capabilities and prove that there is a lot more meaning behind their sometimes-incoherent and ungrammatical speech.


Rianna Moustapha
SPCM 3185
Fall 2011

As I was elbow deep in a plastic storage box of old school papers this summer, I stumbled across a worksheet that I had filled out in the third grade. On this ‘In the Spotlight’ worksheet, I answered eight questions about myself and though all of them made me pause and smile, two answers caught my attention for days. Question four: When I grow up I hope to be a teacher. Question eight: If I could have one wish come true, I would wish to be a teacher right now. My main point for bringing up this historical find was not to suggest that I have decided to become an early childhood professional simply because my third grade self said so but rather because recently, I have been asking myself and wondering why I wrote that in the first place. What was the appeal to me to become a teacher at such a young age? I know for a fact I was not thinking about the paid summers ‘off’ and the ‘wonderful’ benefits. There must have been another naive driving force for me to write that, a force similar to the one that helped me to answer that the thing I like best about myself is that I like to share things with people.
Why does this all matter to me? Recently, I have noticed that while I share classrooms with many bright, driven individuals who would serve as fantastic educators of our youth, I am constantly shocked to hear some of the reasons for choosing this profession over others. I have learned from conversations with my fellow students that while some cannot picture themselves doing anything else, others simply cannot think of anything else to do and do not mind the perks of teacher benefits and summers off. With the way our educations system is today, it angers me to think that there is an unimaginable amount of hopeful educators waiting for any opportunity they can get while there are teachers with secured positions and similar mindsets to some of my fellow students.

In my education,  have been blessed with such remarkable, impactful teachers, who were not perfect by any means, but who provided me with rich, fulfilling experiences that helped me get to where I am today. Throughout my life I have seen the impact teachers can have on their students and I am yearning to become a teacher that can transform the world we live in today into an amazing place for learning through exploration and discovery. Each day I am glad that I chose to become an early childhood educator. Though my personal reasons for doing so are not right for everyone else, my desire to have a positive impact on the lives of children is the driving force behind my chosen career path. Due to my fascination with some of my fellow student’s reasons to become educators, I am eager to learn about how teacher’s actions, opinions and motives in their own lives impact the education of their students.

Even before entering the third grade and filling out that worksheet, I grew up surrounded by teachers who taught me about the importance of education daily. Throughout my education, I continued to have wonderful experiences with most all of my public school teachers all of which led me to eventually get my first job working at a Pre-School. Of the many rewarding, bizarre, and memorable experiences I have had at my job working at a Pre-School, the one aspect of it that I love the most is the unmatched feeling present in a classroom when a great book is being read; where all of the children leaning forward, with eyes glued to the page waiting for the next sound to be uttered. It is my love for that supremely captivating stillness that has been pushing me to look towards topics relating to children’s literature and the teachers role in it for my thesis.

Though it is true that not all the future readers of my thesis are studying to become early childhood education professionals, everyone has gone to school and has worked with a teacher at some point in their life. By giving people information that they can understand in relation to either their own early childhood educational experience, that of their siblings’ or children’s, I will be able to help them fully grasp the ideas I plan on introducing to them. Of the many useful things I have learned in my education classes, one concept that I will never forget is that in order for someone to truly learn, a connection has to be made to them on a personal level. The readers of my thesis will have to notice a meaningful link between the information in my research and some aspect of their life. I plan on creating several ways in which these readers can see that my research is relevant to our society and them as an individual.

At this point in time, there are a few key questions that I have been looking into, all relating to the role of the teacher and children’s literature. For the most part, I know that my thesis will involve one or both of these very broad topics yet as of now I am still deciding what combination and what direction to take them in. Some of the different directions I have been playing with are how much educators remember and use from their own education, the quality of teacher’s knowledge of and use of children’s literature in the classroom, whether or not teacher’s own personal reading habits at home influence their students’ and also, looking at the habits of teachers in their spare time to see if these actions impact their practices in their classrooms and ultimately the learning of their students.


Elizabeth Persaud

SCP 3185


Autobiographical Statement


In selecting my research topic on healthcare and the dependence on and therefore misuse of drugs, there were a few prominent intellectual and background interests that steered me towards this area.

The most salient influences, in terms of setting the foundation for my interest in medicine on a whole, are my personal background with family and my academic career. There was a time where my family virtually lived in hospitals. With my understanding at a young age, it appeared as though grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles were all taking turns. They filed in one after the other for treatment for diabetes and its complications, gall bladder surgeries, surgeries to fix other surgeries, blood clots, stroke, heart complications, pacemaker implants, heart transplants – If there was any other common ailment out there, I was sure someone in my family had it. During all of these hospitalizations, my family members switched roles between those who were ill and being visited and those who frequented waiting rooms, most often becoming personally acquainted with the staff and medical professionals. It was by living through this period in my family and observing the string of interactions they had with the healthcare system that I decided to pursue a medical career. There was a great need for care; however, for me it was not an issue of the country needing one more doctor to treat common health problems, but the change needed in the quality of care given.

This was an aspiration that developed further as I studied pre-medicine at Brooklyn College. Clubs and organizations introduced me to the field and interests of public health. I learned not only about health issues, but how there is an interaction between the needs of the public, health care administration and health care policy. This was the missing link for me. My goal to become a humane physician would be reached not simply through practicing medicine, but by understanding the areas that encompass health care.

It was through my personal experience with the healthcare system, as well as observations of others’ experiences, that led me to this specific topic. A year ago, my throat was so swollen that my tonsils almost touched, my speech was affected and it was very difficult to swallow. Logically, my doctor should have taken a culture to assess what I had before treating me. However, he did not. He took one look and then prescribed something. A week later things got worse and he acted as if he didn’t even want to see me because he felt “I was acting like a baby over some swollen tonsils”. When he saw what my throat looked like now, he prescribed something stronger – that prevented me from eating regularly and induced vomiting. To sum this up, had he simply tried to figure out what was wrong with a simple procedure, I would not have been misdiagnosed and the problem would not have escalated to where it did. Around the same time, my cousin was hospitalized and her physician prescribed seven drugs- four of which we found out all did the same thing! Interestingly enough, she was also misdiagnosed and treated as though she was overreacting.

These specific encounters, as well as a few more concerning other friends and family, disturbed me. Our approach to medicine in this country is so backwards and seems to be counterproductive. I wondered how it is that no one else sees this as a problem. After speaking with a few people close to me, I discovered that sometimes people do realize this, but nothing is ever done about it. As a result, I feel the need to inform people and provide a new perspective on our health care practices when dealing with drugs. I imagine that since health care is something that touches everyone’s life, my reader would have interest in this topic too. It is something that impacts their quality of life. However, it is conceivable that this common interest would have different audiences- some who are of the general public with some knowledge of healthcare, some who are experts in public health and policy and some who are the very subject of scrutiny. Therefore, by using anecdotes and interviews I will be able to illustrate my point through real life examples. This will hopefully allow experts to see the way these things affect the people they are treating or creating policy for, while still entertaining the common person. On the other hand, I will have to be careful that when talking about things like policy, I do not over simplify issues for the experts, but also do not lose the interest of non-experts.

Overall, at this early stage of development, I have many questions that will determine how my argument develops. To help others understand the issue better, I must first find out what experts in the field have already said about the overuse and reliance of drugs in healthcare.  I wish to argue that doctors have become too reliant on drugs, that pharmaceutical companies are businesses driven for profit like any other so they push their product, that insurance companies are not willing to pay for costly procedures and instead cover drugs that are cheaper but maybe less effective and that not only is this approach to medicine in undermining the quality of care received, but that it has changed the mentality of the public to become too accepting of drug use – leading to things such as doctor shopping. To make these arguments, I need to find out what health policy, physicians, insurance and pharmaceutical companies are saying in regard to this issue and how they each play a hand in promoting or challenging the way things are currently practiced.  Once I understand the conversation that is already in place, I will become aware of the possibility of suggesting a shift towards eastern medical practices as the solution to a healthcare system where the causes of illnesses are not treated, but symptoms are simply suppressed.


Anup Shah

Professor Johnson

Senior Thesis Colloquium



Autobiographical Statement


Sports have played an important role in society for thousands of years and it has impacted the lives of many people and continues to do so today.  The players obviously play a crucial role in sports but sporting events wouldn’t be the same without the fans and the media. Spectators, or fans, have been around since the beginning of the Olympics but the media’s involvement in sports has been fairly recent. I’m interested in studying the role that the media has played in the development of sports, what leads to fans behaving like they do at sporting events and whether or not the media plays a role in fan behavior.

I first became interested in sports when I was eight years old. My father signed me up for little league baseball and this was the first time I played organized sports. I never watched sports or knew the rules of sports before I began playing baseball. While playing organized baseball for 5 years, I became extremely interested in professional baseball, especially the New York Yankees and eventually began to follow the National Football League closely as well. There was always something interesting about the environment and atmosphere that drew me closer to sports. It’s always fun watching games on television but there is nothing like going to a game with 50,000 fans cheering for the same team as you. Sports are now more than just entertainment for me. I use sports, especially baseball, as a way to take my mind off of things that bother me the same way some people use music or reading as an outlet. This made me wonder what initially sparks someone’s interest in sports and also what role the media plays. It is much easier for fans to stay updated on their favorite teams and sports due to the media and this may contribute to the increasing popularity in sports. The media has done this by making sports such as baseball and basketball global sports. In addition, fans become very caught up in the moment and many recent sporting events have led to fans rioting after the playoffs and championship games. I want to further investigate how sports have evolved with the invention of modern technology and the impact the media has had on the way fans act.

I plan on using articles and books to investigate how sports have evolved from the ancient times to what it is now. I plan on using examples from the United States as well as countries from around the world. I want to keep the readers engaged and make them feel the passion that I have for sports and the importance of sports in my life.  I know that there are people who aren’t interested in sports but I hope that my audience will gain a new perspective on sports and what factors are involved with being a fan. I also hope to use my experiences to relate to the findings of my research and learn about the psychological aspects of being a fan. I expect social media to play a major role in sports as well. Many people nowadays turn to Facebook and Twitter to get their news and this may also affect fans by allowing them to display their pride for their city and team.



Fatima Syed

SPCM 3185


Autobiographical Statement


My research area of interest is infant mortality and the health disparities that exist in infant-injury deaths in the United States. I want to pursue a career in medicine so health disparities are a topic of concern for me. Disparities exist at all levels in the health care system and I believe that it is very important to research where exactly they stem from. Once we find the root cause for such disparities, health policy measures can be taken to find solutions to the problem. As a physician I want to ultimately specialize in pediatrics, which is why topics concerning children, infant mortality being a very crucial one, are of great interest to me.

One aspect of infant mortality that I would like to include in my research is infant suffocation deaths. Infant suffocation deaths are a topic that I developed greater interest in when I conducted a literature review on the topic last semester for one of my classes. I learned about the growing number of infant suffocation deaths and the risk factors for them. As I further delved into the literature on the topic, I realized that I had a personal anecdote that I could relate to it. A cousin of mine passed away in infancy about twenty years ago in Pakistan. I have heard the story of her death many times and how to many her death till this date remains a mystery. She was lying in her crib and when they found her, a blanket and pillow were near her face. After becoming aware of the causes of infant mortality I realized that my cousin’s case might have been one of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or maybe an infant suffocation death. Thus, I realized that this was a relatable topic and one that I wanted to research more on to possibly figure out how the loss of such precious lives can be prevented. The death of an infant is a very sensitive issue and one that traumatizes all people related to that infant. Therefore, I believe that it is important to conduct as much research as possible that may help to possibly prevent these terrible mishaps.

I think my first task towards connecting with the readers of my research would be to present them with information on infant mortality and show the various areas in which the numbers of deaths are increasing. This will make them realize the importance of the issue and garner their attention. Further I will tell that how my focus is to identify and possibly find a solution to the problem of racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality. In the United States, and especially here in New York City, with such a diverse population, individuals can relate to problems of different racial and ethnic groups so I hope that such an issue would interest my readers. Along with this I feel that since infant mortality is one of the main measures of the health of a population, this issue would be one that concerns everybody. Alongside this, here in the United States we promote equality on all levels and areas of life, so areas of inequity, especially with regards to mortality, should be interesting to the readers.

At this beginning stage of my research some of the questions that I am considering with regards to infant mortality include where in history the problem began to be recognized and what policy measures were taken to tackle the issue of increased infant deaths. Along with this I want to look at the reasons why the number of deaths are increasing in certain racial groups, particularly African Americans. Is there a lack of education and more need for awareness? Is there a need to better understand cultural norms and practices of these groups? Have they been offered help to prevent the problem and have parents taken the initiative to accept this help? I want to basically figure out the cause of the disparity because only then can preventative measures be taken.



Jennifer La Manna

Helping people has always been a goal of mine. Any way possible, I have always tried to help those in need around me no matter how big or small the problem was. As I grew older, my desire to help everyone grew into an interest in psychology and helping people in a mental and emotional aspect, rather than a direct physical aspect. I realized that if people had good mental health and well-being they could help themselves more. I felt that studying psychology and being able to help people psychologically, I was helping them to help themselves. This interest in helping to maintain good mental health and helping people to help and better themselves soon grew to focus on children and adolescents. I realized that children, although once very important in society, are now a population that is often ignored or looked down upon. Due to this, I want to focus on child psychology, specifically school psychology, as school is the place where children spend most of their day and can get the help they need when needed.

Recently I took a child psychology fieldwork class, in which I worked in an after-school program at a high school with disadvantaged youth. Many of these students were struggling students; some had academic problems, while others had difficult home lives. Whatever the students’ issues were, the after-school program strived to help them all, providing group discussions to help them mentally and emotionally, activities to challenge them and to help them feel comfortable and safe in their surroundings, and academic help, among other things. Being part of this program made me want to study school psychology and adolescents, as well as further research programs like this particular after-school program. I want to learn more about school psychology, the who, what, when, and where of school psychology. How has it evolved and grown to include after-school programs, the community, the family, and peers of the children? How do children benefit in school, outside of school and overall from school psychologists? How do schools, communities, and families benefit as well? How do school psychologists differ from psychologists in other fields? Did the development of school psychology lead to psychology in other fields, such as in the business world? Do students usually know when there is a school psychologist, and if so do they make use of the psychologist? How are students who see a school psychologist viewed? Is there a stigma associated here as well? What if school psychologists were not there to help the students? How would students be affected? Do all schools have school psychologists to help benefit the students? Why don’t all schools offer helpful after-school programs to benefit the students? Working in an after-school program, I saw how difficult it was for the program to run successfully, how difficult it was for the students in the school, and I also realized that most of the students in the school were not aware of the after-school program offered or the individuals within the school all there to help them. I want to further research such programs to better understand why they are not more well known or acknowledged, as well as further research school psychology to see how it is viewed in society.

When writing, I know that my audience will be a mix of both experts and non-experts. Balancing my writing to make sure I do not talk down to the experts, but also not beyond the non-experts will be difficult. I plan to write in the role of an informer, informing the reader of things that they may or may not know about the topic and that I may think are particularly important. Also, I may informer the reader of any new information or make the reader aware of information they already know of, but discuss it in a different manner or context that they previously knew the information. Writing appropriately for my readers will be a challenge, but I hope to balance it appropriately and I hope my readers will be interested in and maintain interest in my topic.


Juliane Locquet

Autobiographical Statement



Going to the farmers’ market was one of my favorite things to do when I was a little girl.  I usually went with my mom on Wednesdays when I was off from school and it was always an adventure for my mind.  The colors, the smells, the shapes, the flavors, the noises, the organized mess, and the people giving each other advise on how to best prepare some food item were a real spectacle, and my mom was an active participant of the scene.  She loved gardening and naturally she religiously grew many vegetables and took care of some fruit trees in our garden. When she was not outside in the dirt, she was inside cooking. I could assist her in those tasks, but I could never try the food until it was ready and set before me in a plate.

Being French, the meals were always a special occasion and it brought our family together as we talked about food and how wonderful it is.  It is no exaggeration that at every meal my mom talks about her preparation for what she is going to cook for the next one.  She never bought sodas, candies, and other factory made foods claiming that they were not food, rather poisons designed to make us sick, fat, and decrease our intelligence.  Growing up, I wished she was not such a food guru because I enjoyed the manufactured poisons quite a lot.  However, when I arrived in America five years ago, and after giving up to new eating habits, I missed her food hygiene and morality.  I started to go to the farmers’ market, buy fresh food and cook it myself.  It came naturally to me that I wanted to major in nutrition and wanted to learn more about the science behind food and how to conceal my personal background and “food religion” with a profession where I can help people understand that food is not an enemy rather it is an ally to commit to.

I love to eat and I often wondered to myself how would it be to not eat? I thought I would be extremely sad to be put on a drastic diet or on a fast.  I tended to associate fasting or dieting with torture that I would never put myself through, until one day I read a book on fasting.  After reading it, I realized a whole different side of the so called torture and found that it is not only a means to diet and loose weight, it is also and more so a spiritual exercise where the mind tells the body to let go of its addictions to the physical world and to focus on the spirit.  Religions require fasting at time as a way to purify, not conceal in the temptations of the flesh, and it can be a form of discipline.  The more I read about it, the more I enjoyed the spiritual concept associated to it.  I like the idea of discipline behind it, it resembles martial arts in a way where the spirit and the mind have to be stronger than the body.  When you are able to control your hunger over a long period of time, is your mind stronger?  Or, is your body physically getting stronger because your mind is?

I am very interested in researching the act of fasting.  How scientifically, from a doctor or nutritionist point of view can it something positive or detrimental?  How does the science meet the spiritual meaning of fasting?  Are the two sides in agreement or are they against each other? Should we or should we not fast?  Recently, I came across the school of breatharianism in which people claim to not eat or drink for years at a time.  It is a philosophical movement where its participants apparently live off of light.  It is difficult to conceive this idea from a scientific point of view.  We learn very early on that food and water are the two only things necessary after oxygen for us to survive in this world, so how is breatharianism possible?  Is it bogus or it there a rational scientific explanation behind it?  Can the highest degree of purity and faith be enough to counter some basic rules of the universe?  I do not know enough about this yet, but I intend to research the matter and tie it in with fasting.  Ideally, my hypothesis will link fasting and breathariasnim with science and religion, and where is the point of contact between the two if there is any.

The way I am planning to approach my readers or listeners is as if they did not know anything about my topic.  We all have ideas about what fasting is, but do we think about how it is implied in the medical field versus how it is applied to the religious field?  I am interested in the topic and the controversial ideas around it and I want to know more about it.  As I embark on my research and find the facts, I will bring the concepts together into one organized larger idea, I will be able to make the topic clear for my audience. I would like them to enjoy my presentation of the information, so I will utilize my enthusiasm to deliver my report as a compelling story.

Elizabeth Cusick

SCP 85: Autobiography- Assignment 1

My interest in public health and nutrition stems from an experience I had two years ago working at Camp Glen Brook. This small camp in southern New Hampshire attracts longtime campers from wealthy families in the New York suburbs. That particular summer low enrollment led the camp to fill the empty bunks with inner city kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods. On the first day of camp granola bars and orange slices were spread out on picnic tables. As I watched over the new campers, I remember thinking, “Wow these snacks just evaporated in less than 10 seconds!”  Meanwhile, the old time campers did not pay much attention to the snacks. The next day the same thing happened. The new campers literally dove on the food and finished the snacks immediately. I finally got the idea: these children were hungry.

I grew up in a house where food was plentiful and easily accessible. I had no idea what it felt like to be really hungry. Watching these children was a revelation. For them, food was not something they took for granted. This got me thinking about a set of choices for my future that had to do with the fundamental issues of health.

I had always planned to go to medical school but this camp experience focused my interest in medicine towards public health, the branch of medicine that deals with the causes and distribution of diseases in populations. I decided that if I want to treat diseases, first I needed to understand the social conditions in which they arise.

The lesson I learned in New Hampshire stayed with me when I returned to Brooklyn College in the fall. As a result, I registered for an honors seminar in public health, “Health and Globalization”. In this class, we studied not only the strengths and limitations of global health practices, but also the effects of global health policies on the health of individuals. For this class, I did an extended research paper examining the effects of World Health Organization (WHO) infant feeding policy on HIV-positive women living in poverty in South Africa. For the first time, I realized the important role nutrition plays in the fight against HIV and the profound influence the WHO has on the health of communities around the world.

During this project I came across a research unit at Tygerberg Hospital in South Africa known as the Children’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit (KIDCRU). This unit was established in 2002 to address the inadequate care and unanswered research questions relevant to HIV care for children in South Africa. I immediately liked the mission of this unit and wanted to be a part of it. After receiving a grant from Brooklyn College, I traveled to South Africa this past summer to work on my own research project at KIDCRU. My project focused on studying head growth of children with HIV compared to healthy children, to determine the effects of HIV on brain development. This involved charting children’s head growth measurements on standardized WHO head growth charts to compare the curves between healthy and sick children. My findings raised concerns among KIDCRU physicians because the data showed the majority of kids in my research project had delayed head growth compared to WHO standards, suggesting the children at KIDCRU are delayed due to reasons such as HIV related brain disease and malnutrition. This research is important to both clinically treating HIV and understanding the link between HIV, nutrition, and development.

For my thesis research, I would like to continue with this research and expand upon what I began this summer. I am particularly interested in researching the methodology the WHO used in creating these growth charts and how their growth standards have changed over the years. Also, I want to research how WHO child health guidelines changed as a result of the global HIV epidemic. I am also interested in looking at the role the WHO has played in improving child nutrition and child development in the face of diseases like HIV. On a more general note, I would like to gain a greater understanding of how public heath policy by the WHO effects healthcare delivery at a community level.

It is very important to me that I can convey my research findings to my peers in a way they find interesting. My role is to inform students of child development, nutrition guidelines, and WHO policy in a clear, interesting, and exciting manner to everyone, including students in majors other than the sciences. It took me several courses and a trip to South Africa to only begin to understand these complex health issues so I will not expect my audience to be very knowledgeable about my topic. Therefore, I will give background information and use simplified language to make the topic accessible to all. Most importantly, I will point out that the link between child development, health policy, and nutrition is a topic that is relevant to each of us in some way as future parents, teachers, doctors, psychologists, historians, and politicians. I will try my best to provide information to my peers that will help them understand this important relationship better. I am really excited for this opportunity to spend a year working on a project that I feel is so important and my goal is to compose it in a way that others in class learn something new as well.

Igor Beytelman

Scholars Program Thesis Colloquium Autobiographical Statement

From a very young age, a never ending drive to learn has been an inherent part of my being. Instilled in me at a young age, my parents taught me that the value of an education knows no bounds. With those words always in the back of my mind, I’ve always strived to succeed in academic, as well as in other settings. This drive is the very reason that I was able to get to where I am today- a senior in the Brooklyn College Scholars Program.

The great emphasis I put on education throughout my life may perhaps be the single most important factor in determining how I wish to approach this project. Due to the standards I’ve set for myself, I’ve always tried to get high grades in every one of my classes, leading me to dedicate the bulk of my time to studying. The fact that I ultimately aspire to go to medical school only served to increase my motivation to do well. Therefore, during the year, whatever time I didn’t spend studying, I generally devoted to building up my resume via some form of extra-curricular activity, working a job, or preparing to take on academic endeavors outside the college (including but not limited to doing research and studying for MCATs). Such activity and work ethic would continue to be characteristic of me throughout my college career until very recently.

Initially, I wished to do my thesis project about an issue related to the American health care system or medicine in general. However, around early August of this year, I spoke with some students who took this thesis class and asked for advice regarding how to do well. Overall, everyone seemed to agree on two things: (1) pick a topic that is interesting and enjoyable and (2) complete assignments ahead of time. The latter piece of advice was not a foreign concept by any means but the first piece really hit a nerve. For just about the first time since high school, I stepped back from all the activities I’ve been doing and really analyzed what I’ve accomplished to get me where I am now. I noticed that with the exception of a few psychology and physics courses, I didn’t really find much of my coursework fun or interesting unless it was directly related to medicine. At this point, I took a good look at what I did during the last four years and decided that given my future goals, I’ll have plenty of time to write theses and dissertations about medicine at a later point.  I wanted this project to be something that reflects the work I did in my favorite classes thus far at Brooklyn College: Abnormal Psychology and Psychology of Language.  With that in mind, I decided to integrate the two and investigate how certain learning disorders (such as dyslexia and ADHD) affect language acquisition and development in humans across all ages.

In my approach to this project, I plan to connect to the reader on several levels. Firstly, I plan to take on a role as somewhat of an educator in that I plan to present data to my readers that they previously may not have known. However, I intend the tone of the writing to be in no way condescending, but rather informative and professional. Additionally, depending on how the tone of the paper develops, I may, at certain points, choose to ask rhetorical questions to stimulate thought as well as lead my audience in the direction I’m heading. Most importantly, however, I intend to discuss the importance of any individual findings I present as well as their implications to the world at large. In this manner, I believe that I could successfully engage the reader while also showing to him/her why the topic of my project matters and how it could affect what we know about the nature of any of the disorders I wish to cover or language as a whole.

At this point in the project, I do have some key questions I wish to answer as but I also have some concerns to acknowledge. First and foremost, the main question I wish to answer is: to what extent do learning disorders affect one’s language abilities and how is that significant to our understanding of language as a whole? The main issue I am concerned about is whether the scope of the paper is too broad. An analysis of learning several disorders as well as their effects on human language can be approached in a plethora of ways. First, I would look at what the relevant aspects of each disorder are. Next, I may choose to describe how each one affects language. Aspects of this section that I may want to explore include: how each disorder affects language at different points in development (from infant to adult), effects on secondary language acquisition, whether the disorder is more detrimental in learning one language over another (ex. examining language abilities in English v. French dyslexics)…etc. Based on these possible directions my research may lead, the most significant question I have at this point is whether my topic is too general. Should I only focus on one disorder or should I do a comparative study of several? If I choose the latter, should the paper emphasize the comparative aspects or rather have a primary focus on each disorder? Thus, it seems that the main issue for me at the moment is to crystallize a clear and succinct topic for this project.

Overall, I feel very excited and confident about this research project. I find the topic to be particularly interesting and I look forward to diving deeper into it. At this point, I believe my main goal should be to determine exactly what my paper’s general focus should be and to then set an appropriate course of action.






Sherine Thomas

I am currently a senior who has completed her pre-Med requirements, in the process of applying for medical school, and completing a B.S. in Psychology.   Currently, I am contemplating on writing an inter-disciplinary senior thesis on human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking.  Through this thesis I would like to find out as to why there has been a significant increase in human trafficking, despite its identity as a severe social problem and the numerous actions that have taken to annihilate it.   I would like to look at the conditions and causes that lead up to human trafficking in different regions, through economic, political, environmental, and social lenses.  I’m interested to see how marginalized groups are becoming further vulnerable to the poisonous sting of human trafficking and how globalization is feeding this beast.  I would like to look at what anti-trafficking movements are taking place, past UN sanctions and actions, individual government input, and national and international NGOs that have sprouted in response to such conditions.  I would like to look at the losses and wins of such organizations and the actions that they have taken, and to see how exactly they have targeted and affected the victims of human trafficking, the traffickers themselves, and the conditions that lead up to these cases.  I’m also curious in finding out the measures that are being taken to care for the victims of human trafficking, if any at all.  I would like to see the contrast in arguments that oppose and support anti-trafficking movements and the rationalizations behind it all.   Thus, as of now, my questions are a bit broad and cover numerous aspects.  However, I hope that after some time researching and previewing different articles, I’ll be able to further narrow down my questions and specify exactly what I would like to gain from dwelling into this social dilemma, as well as, what I would like my readers to know through reading my paper.  As of now, I would like my readers to have a more accurate and expanded understanding of human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking and to know what actions can be taken to hinder such atrocities.

In terms of relating this topic to my peers, professors, and others who may read my paper, I believe human trafficking is a topic that is known by most.  However, by the means of a well-written introduction, I do hope to bring my readers who are well informed about this topic, as well as, those who are new to this topic, roughly to the same page.  Through this paper, I’m aspiring to provide new factual knowledge, help my readers to see those underlying causes which aren’t usually presented, so that if they wish they can come up with ways of battling such an issue.  Of course, I am writing this paper with the hopes that individuals are already empathetic of the victims’ plight in such situations.  However, as a precaution, I will make sure that there will be information to elicit such feelings and others, especially since I strongly believe that the victims of human trafficking shouldn’t go unseen. While my readers may never have experienced the horrors of human trafficking themselves, I’m sure that as with other social dilemmas, they can at least understand to a certain extent, the pain that a victim undergoes physically and mentally.   I do believe that this an issue that most of my readers will take seriously, and that there will be a few points that may disagree with, which will welcomed.  Human trafficking, unless of course you’re a trafficker, shouldn’t have much areas of dispute, except when it comes to solving the issue.  I would presume that it would be possible for my readers to develop their own arguments as they read through my paper, which is exactly what I would want them to do.

There are numerous reasons as to why I chose such a topic.  As the oldest daughter and an older sister, I can often empathize with the girls who became victims to their situations.  I can understand the responsibilities and burdens that would fall upon their shoulders and their feeling of necessity to do something for their loved ones.  While I am now 21 years old, I can still understand the innocence of these young girls who have been caught in the clutches of sex trafficking through my own sisters.  So the stories of these young girls often borrow the faces of my own, which compel me to do something about their situations.  Thus, as a Christian student, I know it’s my responsibility to create whatever changes possible, whether it is through fundraisers for NGOs that provide aftercare for the victims of human trafficking, or doing research and making my peers aware and conscious of such an issue.  Now, I do have to admit that I don’t just wish to shed some light on this social atrocity, but rather I wish to call my peers to action.  I desire that through my research and paper, my peers would feel a desire that innocence and lives should not be taken away as a result of our ignorance.  Also, through my psychology classes I’ve gained a greater insight of the different mindsets, biases, and prejudices that individuals generally tend to form towards marginalized groups.  Thus, through my paper I also wish to dispel such prejudices and biases.  Families should never be forced into a situation where they have to sell one of their daughters or send her off in a foreign country so that the rest may live.  A child shouldn’t be forced to sell their innocence for the chance to live.  Young girls and boys, who should be sitting on school benches, are instead found performing sex labor.  Such an issue needs to stop!  Instead of focusing on what a Kardashian may have done last weekend, people need to expend their time and resources impacting lives and making sure that the possibility of another child getting coerced into sex trafficking gets slimmer and slimmer each day.

Pamela Branch
SPCM 3185 Autobiographical Statement

Learning how people conform or go against the dominant ideas of society has always interest me. For other research classes, I’ve focused on minorities and how they are negatively portrayed in the media through stereotypes. However, I learned that it’s not only ethnic minorities who have negative stereotypes. Homosexuals are seen as foreign objects that don’t quite fit into society and the norms of everyday life. I wanted to focus more on how they form their identity as a homosexual and how it may contradict society standards of what men and women should be.

I became aware and made contact of a gay male when I was in high school. He was one of my closest friends and was always depressed, because he felt no one would accept him because of his sexuality. My friend was afraid that his family wouldn’t understand and would shun him, so he kept his sexuality a secret. It wasn’t until he came out as a gay male, that everything was easier for him. He felt comfortable with his sexuality and learned that his real friends would support his decision to be gay, regardless of their religion and other beliefs. From this experience, I wanted to learn how and why homosexuals learn from a young age to be fearful and ashamed of their sexuality. How do children know if they are gay and at what age? Why do they have to keep everything a secret to make others feel comfortable around them? Do they feel like they have to emulate homosexuals that are on sitcoms like Will and Grace or soap operas like All My Children? These questions lead to my other set of ideas that I would like to research for my paper, such as what is the true definition of homosexuality, who determines whose gay or not? Are heterosexuals defining who’s gay and how they should act through representations in media whether it’s print, television, or film? Are homosexual characters in sitcoms or films being written by heterosexuals, and in turn is that a right representation of one’s sexuality? From my experience with helping my friend to feel comfortable with his sexuality, I want to write about how others cope with the same dilemma and how this can be changed into an easier transition without people feeling like their life is over or to think in terms of suicide.

Being that I am not an expert in this field of study, I have to research and compare and contrast different scholars to really find conclusive evidence for my paper. However, I know that I shouldn’t just repeat the same ideas but I need to contribute something new in my field of Television and Radio. Learning how people are perceived in the media is extremely important because that’s how others form ideas of different groups whether they are minorities or homosexuals. The information is being sent to millions of people in the United States and all over the world. How people perceive others can affect how they treat them. In any way I can, I want to bring a topic that people view is bad due to religion or other views and say that even if they are not the same as everyone else, they are still human beings.
Knowing the audience who is reading your work is extremely important. I know that I have to connect with my readers who may be experts in the field or just a typical college student who doesn’t know anything about the topic. I know that my paper is going to be read by professors who know about this topic along with parents and others who are not familiar with homosexuality and difficulties they face. I feel that I need to be careful in making sure I’m not talking down to my readers who may be experts and feel like I didn’t need to include certain information. However, I don’t want to leave out information and explanations that may be helpful for someone who never approached the topic before. I want to be fair to my readers and keep them interested in reading my work. That is why it’s essential that I love my topic. By being interested in my topic, it will be reflected in my paper which my readers would see and eventually respect and want to read it.

I feel that by following the steps in conducting research like writing notes on information that I come across, asking questions and debating on evidence that scholars conducted and always keeping my readers in mind, I can be successful. I have to let my readers know what perspective I’m writing from and why it’s important for them to be interested in my work. Through my personal experience and information I’ve came across, I feel that I am on the right path.




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