Clark University’s 2021 Steinbrecher Fellows were honored at a Nov. 3 dinner at Harrington House, where they presented research projects on an impressive array of topics, from the Brazilian immigrant experience to the rights of sex workers, to the culture and community baked into a popular trading card game.
President David Fithian congratulated this year’s Fellows, whose original ideas, intensive research, and community service pursuits are supported through the generosity of Steve Steinbrecher ’55. He thanked Steinbrecher, who was unable to attend the dinner, and Nancy Budwig, director of the Steinbrecher Fellowship Program, and noted that the program provides an important and enduring opportunity to Clark undergraduates.
“The ability to do independent research takes you from being a passenger in a car that’s driven by someone else and puts you in the driver’s seat of your own education, your own learning, and your own expression of intellectual passion,” he told the students. “That is a very important shift to make, and the earlier you make it, the more compelling your time is at Clark.”
This year’s Fellows and their projects:
Claire Isabella Cohen ’22 conducted an exploratory study of trading card communities and partnered spaces as well as the resulting impact on the communities formed by players. The study focused on the significance of the popular trading card game Magic: The Gathering, which boasts more than 35 million players worldwide and possesses its own complex culture, including language, humor, institutions, and lore. Cohen has been studying the inner workings of these communities to identify the existence and significance of the Magic: The Gathering community. The study consisted of semi-structured interviews and data collection of public primary sources, which are being coded and analyzed and will be included in Cohen’s sociology honors thesis.
Cohen majors in theater arts and sociology. Her faculty sponsor is Melissa Butler, visiting lecturer of sociology.
Colleen Falconer ’22 conducted research that stems from the backdrop of the American legal and criminal justice system’s historical marginalization of sex workers, whether via regulation (or lack thereof), criminalization, police violence, or incarceration. Falconer’s study focuses on the ways in which sex worker communities interact with the law and how they seek to change it. By working closely with COYOTE RI, a group led by sex workers that advocates for their rights, she examined the impact of sex workers on policy discussions around sex work in Rhode Island. This project is part of her senior honors thesis and aims to provide insight on organizing strategies that seek legal recognition, protection, and respect for sex workers.
Falconer majors in international development and social change and sociology. Her faculty sponsor is Denise Humphreys Bebbington, research associate professor of IDSC.
Raquel Jorge Fernandes ’23 aims to discover what meanings Brazilian immigrants in Massachusetts give to their Brazilian identities, as well as how they maintain these identities while living in the United States. She is creating a documentary to better understand the influences and challenges to the Brazilian immigrant identity in local communities. Her goal is to make a film that promotes and values the diverse voices in the state’s Brazilian immigrant community — an increasingly large population that is often forgotten by academic studies, undervalued politically, and overlooked by the media. Fernandes drew on personal experience, including interviews with local Brazilian immigrants.
Fernandes majors in psychology and screen studies. Her faculty sponsors are Sarah Michaels, professor of education, and Hugh Manon, associate professor of screen studies.
Thomas Mueller ’22 created a project designed to inspire the love of jazz in generations of elderly citizens across Massachusetts. Mueller composed and arranged a variety of jazz standards and originals for voice and various chamber instrumentations (piano, bass, etc.) with the help of professional composers at Clark. He performed the songs at Mechanics Hall with accompaniment and has fashioned those performances into a short film featuring seven songs. Mueller has been making his songs and video available to senior centers across Massachusetts, and to local radio and television stations, streaming platforms, and other media networks.
Mueller majors in management and music. His faculty sponsors are John Aylward, associate professor of music, and Paul Buono, affiliate professor of music.
Kate Rivard-Lentz ’22 built her project around the imperative topic of access to play among children experiencing homelessness. A contribution to her senior honors thesis, the project studies how various focus groups value and promote play for children experiencing homelessness and how these groups can use play to encourage positive developmental outcomes. Rivard-Lentz interviewed individuals in various positions in homeless shelters around Worcester, including administrators, volunteers, and caregivers, to determine their outlooks on play and how play contributes to overall child development — especially among children facing socio-economic adversity. She expects to create an informational flyer to be presented to shelters and caregivers about the importance of play.
Rivard-Lentz majors in sociology and psychology. Her faculty sponsor is Ana Kamille Marcelo, assistant professor of psychology.