St. Olaf College | CURI

2013 AHSSI

CURI Home → Summer Research → Past Projects →  2013 Projects → 2013 AHSSI Projects

Summer Research 2013

Projects in the Fine Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies (AHSSI)

Choose a disciplinary area for a quick link to the associated projects.

Dance  Music  Political Science  Economics  Environmental Studies  Family Studies

(or view projects in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics-NSM)


Kris Thalhammer – Raizal Identity in Colombia – 1 student

Colombian law and the new constitution of 1991 offer special status and protection for that state’s Raizal people. Using responses to interviews already conducted in Colombia, we will analyze the ways that Raizal people define themselves (e.g., through parentage, language, religion, last name). In addition, we will attempt to contact other members of the Colombian society to consider how they define what it means to be Raizal, conducting interviews via Skype or email to contrast with previous in-person interviews with members of the Raizal community, especially its secessionist movement.

Doug Casson – Civility and Its Discontents: Rudeness and Refinement in Modern Political Thought – 1 student

This project aims to respond to current debates over the place of civility in contemporary politics by excavating a largely forgotten connection between liberty and civility in the liberal tradition. Debates over civility often follow the same, familiar pattern. Moralists decry what they see as a decline in civility and insist that a continuing capacity for civil discourse and deliberation is crucial for stable political institutions. Critics respond by pointing out that political incivility is hardly new. They argue that current anxieties are animated by a false view of the democratic process and a nostalgic yearning for frictionless politics. High-minded calls for civility, these critics contend, actually restrain and exclude unconventional dissenting voices and are therefore themselves a threat to genuinely democratic decision-making. To avoid this impasse, I would like to distinguish between civility as pretense which conceals genuine political and religious conflict and civility as civic virtue which promotes candid and honest debate between equal citizens. Many of the most celebrated thinkers in modern political thought, including John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill, envision freedom as a type of responsible agency or self-governed conduct. By reconsidering the relationship between liberty, propriety, and a flourishing civil society, I hope to offer a modest revision of the history of modern political thought while clarifying some of the assumptions at work in current approaches to civility.

This project will involve three distinct yet interconnected tasks: 1) surveying contemporary debates over civility in politics (both in the media and in the field of political philosophy), 2) revisiting philosophical approaches to civil discourse and conduct in modern political thought, and 3) assessing civil discourse in Enlightenment correspondence. The first two tasks will require the ability to gather articles and books in relevant fields and the patience and persistence with difficult reading. Depending on student interest and ability, I would also be interested in pursuing the third task, which would involve computer-enhanced data analysis of some 75,000 letters found in the Electronic Enlightenment database. This data analysis will be pursued with the assistance of Dick Brown (Computer Science). Benefits to the student include include experience in the type of research and writing relevant to pursuing graduate work in the humanities or social sciences. My hope is that the student would produce work that would be appropriate to submit with an application to graduate school.


Ashley Hodgson – The Effects of California’s Nursing Ratio Law – 1 student

In 2004, the state of California enacted a law requiring a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio in all hospitals.  The law sets standards for the number of nurses per patient, although the exact ratio depends on patient mix, patient risk level and hospital characteristics. What was the effect of the law? Was there a reduction in deaths? A reduction in infections? Did hospitals substitute nurses for other kinds of workers or did the hospital workforce increase? Although there have been a number of studies estimating the effect of nursing ratio law, all of them use cross-sectional data. To my knowledge, no study has looked at data on the same institutions both before and after from the passage of this law. I have a rich data set on all hospitals in the state of California from 2001 to 2008 that will be useful for ascertaining the effects of the 2004 nursing ratio law. We will spend time modeling the problem mathematically and then developing a statistical analysis, considering endogenaity issues carefully.

Rick Goedde – Predicting Revenue Growth Using Financial Ratios: Where Will the Jobs Be? – 1 student

Unemployment is a serious problem in the United States, both in general and for graduating college students. A primary cause of limited hiring by companies is a lack of demand for their products and services. Companies that expect significant revenue growth in the future are more likely to hire additional workers. The objective of this research project is to use financial ratio analysis to predict which companies/industries are likely to grow their revenues in the future. A database of financial information for over 10,000 U.S. corporations will be used to test the predictive power of different ratios on future revenue growth. A secondary outcome of this research will be a better understanding of which companies/industries have grown the most since the economy bottomed out in 2008/09. Knowledge of both historical and future revenue growth is valuable information for those searching for work, including St. Olaf students. Understanding the predictive power of financial ratios is also valuable information for managers of businesses and investors in both the equity and fixed income markets. Required Skills: Applicants for this project should have taken a course in financial accounting and statistics, and should have the ability to work with Excel spreadsheets. Reading material on the topic of financial ratios will be provided.


Jim Farrell  Sustaining St. Olaf: Research and Design for Co-Curricular Sustainability Education – 2 students

Ninety-four percent of incoming St. Olaf students think that “at a place like St. Olaf, a student should learn how to live sustainably in the residence halls.” During the 2012-13 school year, the college is planning to respond with a program of sustainability education and practice located in Residence Life. Research by CIS students Amy Kasch (’10) and Patricia Lamas (’12) has provided a substantial foundation for this effort, but I’d like to invite two students to join me this summer in researching effective co-curricular methods of sustainability education, the relationship between knowledge and practice, the programs of other institutions of higher education, and then in designing opportunities for all St. Olaf students to get the broad and practical environmental education they expect from an institution like ours. Students engaged in the summer research project will use conventional research skills in Environmental Studies and  Education (but also in social psychology and social marketing) to discover effective approaches to sustainability education. In addition, they’ll get to consider questions of pedagogical design, experiential education, evaluation and assessment in an out-of-the-classroom setting. They’ll also gain firsthand knowledge and experience in the movement for sustainability in higher education; one of last year’s CURI scholars presented a poster at the national conference of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

Matt Rohn  Environmental Art at St. Olaf – 1 student

I am seeking an assistant to help research and write a report on creating environmental art on St. Olaf property in conjunction with the objectives of the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation endowment funds that the Environmental Studies Department was awarded. The art would be used to attract people out to the natural or agricultural lands and to help educate them about such things as the history of the lands, good stewardship, etc. The report will survey the art that might be created, what is involved in funding such projects, and what sources of funding could be available. A student with good, library-related research skills is important and acquaintance with contemporary or environmental art is desirable. A student who also has studio art skills and an interest in creating environmental art should make that known and could have an opportunity to do this as part of the research.


Jun Qian – Expanding the Solo Clarinet Repertoire: A Quintessential Resource for Music Educators and Young Performers – 1 student

This research project will result in the creation of two compilations detailing a wider scope of solo clarinet repertoire: one for  high school level players and the other for undergraduate players. Each compilation will discuss solo clarinet pieces, concerti, and sonatas and will provide a short description of the piece, a sheet music supplier, and recommend a few quality recordings. Our project will culminate in attendance at the International Clarinet Associations’ annual convention, ClarinetFest 2012, held in Lincoln NE during the first week in August, where we will attend performances and lectures regarding repertoire among other topics. The criteria upon which interested students will be screened for this project include: 1) experience in and knowledge of clarinet performance and music theory; 2) some completed coursework in music performance and/or music education. 3) Computer literacy and experience with web design, or the willingness to learn.

Timothy Mahr – Creating a New Work for the St. Olaf Band – 1 student

The student will work with Dr. Timothy Mahr to create a new work for the St. Olaf Band, to be performed during the 2012-2013 academic year. The intent is to have the work be an artistic response to the St. Olaf College campus-wide them for 2012-2013 (to be announced later this spring). The successful applicant will be able demonstrate advanced skills in the field of music composition and will be a full time student in 2012-2013.


Devyani Chandran – Exploring the Development and Sustainability of Social Capital in LocalCommunities – 1 student

This project involves a collaborative faculty-student endeavor that will examine the development and sustainability of social capital in various programs developed by the Northfield Growing Up Healthy Initiative. Social capital may be defined as “norms and networks that enable collective action” (World Bank, 2011). The Northfield Growing Up Healthy Initiative grew out of a community dialog series with over 200 low-income parents that was conducted throughout Rice County in 2007. The program has established a three-track focus of neighborhood organizing, community education, and systems change to address the identified needs through building relationships of mutual respect. It has been four years since the establishment of the Northfield Growing Up Healthy Initiative and the time has now come to move beyond addressing initial family survival needs to looking at how families can thrive in the community.In a response to an expressed need by community partners in the Northfield Growing Up Healthy Initiative, this project seeks to explore existing social capital in the community as well as ways to sustain and improve capital in order to help families thrive.  Faculty and the student researcher will conduct  in depth interviews and focus groups to explore three dimensions of social capital that exist in the community: 1) Groups and networks that exist already and the support they provide; 2) Trust and solidarity building measures; 3) Spaces and programs that promote collective action and cooperation, inclusion and cohesion. The student working on this project should be open to working with families in the community, frequently meeting with the professor, and learning quantitative and qualitative skill to ensure successful completion of the project. In addition to learning the skills required to conduct interviews and focus groups, the student will also be exposed to a truly multicultural endeavor and have the opportunity to work with diverse populations as well as organizations that serve these populations. In addition, the results of this project will be presented to community partners and the student will be included in all future dissemination efforts such as publications and presentations once the project is completed.


Sheryl Saterstrom  Somatic Networking – 1 student

Established by summer researchers in 2011, is ready to grow. This year’s website development project will focus on assessing the most important somatic content to include on the website and link to it. Student researchers will be involved in continuing to develop the format of the website and monitor its growth. They also will assist in creating video documents and podcasts for inclusion on the site. Students should have some experience with Somatics and/or experience with creating a website.