Social Science Scholars Newsletter

May 2018


Celebrating the Scholars' Accomplishments

It is no secret that the Scholars work hard, and therefore, it is no surprise when they get recognized for their efforts. In the past few months especially, Scholars have won awards, prestigious titles, scholarships, and so much more. It is our honor and privilege to celebrate these achievements with our students, and to give them a platform to share them with the world. Below are some testimonies of just some of these students who have done some really remarkable things.

Allie Pail, for starters, won her category at UURAF. UURAF is an undergraduate research forum at MSU which takes place every Spring semester, and brings together some of the best and brightest minds of the University. Among them, however, Allie stood out due to the passion and professionalism she packed into her presentation.


"I received the first place award at the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) in the first General Social Science category for oral presentations. The research I presented on was about altering perceptions of refugees through various interventions, a project I have been working on since the beginning of the semester. In March, I conducted a study in an undergraduate introductory-level sociology class that involved students taking a pre-survey, receiving a randomized intervention, and then taking a post-survey. My presentation at UURAF detailed my study method and its results, as well as how my work fits into existing literature. It was very exciting to receive first place, as I have been working very hard to finish this study and literature review in a short amount of time, whilst still producing high-quality work. I am honored to be able to represent the Social Science Scholars Program both by presenting at UURAF and as an award winner – I cannot wait for more Scholars to win in the future!"

Nicole Jedding won her category at UURAF as well. Nicole's research poster was chosen best out of her category, which is crazy competitive and therefore an insanely impressive feat.

20180413_104005(1).jpg"In April, I was given the opportunity to present some (now award-winning) research on which I’ve been working since January at MSU’s University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum. The analysis spanned close to 400 NBC Nightly News segments from 1985-1989 and 2013-2017 and looked at the media’s portrayal of crack users in the 1980s in contrast with how they typically show opioid abusers in the present day. I specifically focused on how the latter cohort extrapolated a sympathetic response from the public while the former did not by seeing what other factors and framing of the story changed as well. After watching hours of footage, identifying items such as the user’s race, socioeconomic status, and locale, as well whether it was framed as a criminal justice matter or blaming the victim for the drug usage, I won my section’s poster session! It was really wonderful to see that the judges and strangers walking by during UURAF and taking an interest in my project, too. How the media affects our perception and interpretation of events such as drug crises and can influence the response is critical to helping avoid misrepresentation in the future."

Grant Burton was awarded the prestigious Beinecke scholarship, a nationally competitive scholarship which honors successful student researchers with graduate school tuition assistance. 

IMG_2835.JPG"Established in 1971 by the Board of Directors of The Sperry and Hutchinson Company in honor of Edwin, Fredrick, and Walter Beinecke, the Beinecke Scholarship provides substantial financial aid for students planning to attend graduate school for a higher education in the Arts and Humanities or Social Sciences. In particular, the Beinecke Scholarship Program selects students with high financial need in order to enable them to pursue their most courageous options of five-year graduate study. Additionally, for students in the Social Sciences, an interest in a research-based program and career is highly preferred.

To become eligible for candidacy, I had to first receive nomination from MSU’s Beinecke Scholarship selection committee by submitting a personal statement, resume, transcript, financial aid data sheet, and three letters of recommendation, to be shortly followed by a group interview between the selection committee and I. Upon receiving nomination, I then met with Dr. Kristin Janka from the office of National and International Fellowships and Scholarships for guidance on final edits to my application materials. Dr. John Waller also gave me invaluable advising throughout the entire application process, writing me a letter of recommendation alongside Dr. Amanda Flaim and Dr. Jason Moser. It is unlikely I would have been as competitive for the award without my experiences in the Social Science Scholars Program. I plan to use this scholarship towards a Ph.D in Psychology at schools such as Princeton or Harvard, where I will research inter-group conflict and interventions that lead to compromise."

Charlie Booher was recognized as a runner-up for a different nationally-competitive award, the esteemed Udall Scholarship.

Charles Booher_H.jpg"I am honored to have received an Honorable Mention from the Udall Scholarship foundation, a group that honors students who are pursuing careers at the intersection of environmental studies and government. I am working to complete a dual degree in Public Policy and Fisheries & Wildlife Conservation with the hopes of working as a lobbyist on behalf of natural resource conservation. Working towards this award was an excellent opportunity for introspective thinking and reflection, and I believe that I am a more focused student because of it. Through this process, I was able to tease apart the elements of my life that I am truly passionate about and will excel at from the things that are simply interests. Subsequently, I have worked to refocus my efforts on the programs, research, and subject areas that will better my personal and professional life for the future. Above all, I am grateful to the Social Science Scholars Program for presenting me with, and equipping me for, this excellent opportunity."

Billy Wetzel & Lockie Woods: Shooting hoops, changing lives

29468867_461822794232495_5672541703588806656_n (2).jpgAfter a couple months at MSU, Lockie and I both recognized that we missed being involved with athletics. Both of us and participated in sports for years, and this desire to get back into the sports world led us to look for volunteer opportunities in sports. We agreed on becoming youth coaches because this was the next best alternative to playing sports and because most of our own coaches had been great role models and we wanted to fulfill that role for someone else. Because it was nearing the end of fall and because we both had some experience playing basketball, we decided to look for basketball coaching jobs. I was lucky enough to make a connection with Jim Jennings, head of the youth basketball league in East Lansing, and he let me know that there was one team of fourth-grade boys that needed a head coach. Lockie and I readily agreed to take this team on and to coach the boys together.

While Lockie and I both are highly competitive individuals and wanted our team to have success on the court, we decided to primarily focus on ensuring that the players had fun and improved their skills– and not on winning games. This approach enabled us to stay positive throughout the season, because even though we did not win very often we still saw noticeable improvement as the season progressed. Furthermore, this approach allowed us to remain true to why we became coaches in the first place– sports were something that we had enjoyed growing up and we wanted to pass that experience on to others. We quickly learned that managing the different interests of the kids and the parents was going to be difficult, with many of the parents looking for wins right off the bat.

Furthermore, the attention span of fourth-graders can be lacking at times, which meant it was extremely important to keep the kids focused and on task. While these challenges showed up time and time again, the kids were clearing improving with each and every game. This culminated in us playing our best game of the season in the very last game, and ultimately getting a hard-fought victory. This was a great moment for everyone involved, as everybody finally saw all the hard work they had put in over the past few months pay off in an awesome win. Seeing the bribing smiles on all they players and parents faces truly touched us and made us feel that all the effort we have put into this was truly worth it. Provided that our schedules work again next year, Lockie and I intend to return as coaches because of the positive experience we had this year.

Annie Brandicourt: Academic all-star, amazing artist

Annie is a senior majoring in Social Work. She was recently recognized as the outstanding senior or her major, as well as the winner of the Philanthropy award at the 2018 Social Science Gala. 

I have always been into making things with my hands. When I was little, I would do a lot of beading, painting, sewing, knitting, and various other hands-on art projects. When I got older, I started created big collages with whole cut out figures and words from magazines. In high school, I took AP Studio Art and realized that I couldn’t use these collages as part of my portfolio without getting copyright information about the images from the magazines. In an effort to get around this barrier, I decided to cut up the pictures and use the simple colors, instead of the whole visual, to make a new figure! I started out with faces of my friends and family but now I make anything from pets, to family portraits, to wedding photos, to landscapes. It’s a wonderful hobby because I can turn on some music and use a totally different part of my brain that is not often utilized by the work I do in my college classes.

Even better, creating art means that I have an actual, tangible, visually pleasing product at the end that I can be proud of. Having an outlet like this lessens my anxiety and helps me to place value in mentally healthy activities. Eventually, I started doing commissions for people and it became sort of a side job all throughout college. However, I have decided to discontinue my commission work so that I will hopefully have time to work on the ideas and projects that mean more to me personally, such as celebrating positive body image, creating a series on the victims of police brutality, and shedding light on mental illness through portrait depictions.



Mickey Stamm: Stepping up to the challenge

Stamm1-245x300.jpgMickey Stamm is a professor in the department of history who will be taking over teaching the Scholars classes while the program director, Dr. John Waller, takes a year away from teaching. 

I wanted to introduce myself and tell you how excited I am about serving as the Interim Director of the Social Science Scholars Program. I’ve been really impressed by everyone I’ve met in Scholars community over the past few years. This sense comes from serving as the research mentor to Trent Koch, who wrote a brilliant research paper on the evolution of newspaper coverage of twentieth-century maritime disasters, and it comes through many informal interactions with students at evening soccer games and in conversations in Berkey Hall. I’m looking forward to spending next year with you over there. One of my absolute favorite things about my job as a professor is that I get to work with engaging, passionate, and creative thinkers – exactly the kind of students who I’ve met in the Scholars Program.

A little bit about me: I was born and raised in what is now called the Silicon Valley, though that was a much different place in the 1970s and 80s of my youth than it is now. I did a BA in English at UC Berkeley and worked in the private sector doing economics research for a few years before heading to the University of Chicago, where I did my MA and PhD degrees in History. After graduate school, I taught in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota for two years prior to coming to MSU in 2008. I have had appointments here in both the School of Journalism and Department of History but have been teaching exclusively in History since 2015.

I come from a very multidisciplinary background, and my scholarship reflects this. Most of my work has been aimed in some way at looking at the cultural and political significance of communications media and the messages distributed through them. I’ve done a lot of research on radio broadcasting, for example in my first book by looking at how radio emerged in the 1920s as a form of what we would later term “new media.” In another article, I looked at how religious organizations approached radio as a way to get their messages out to the public and then how ordinary people used those broadcasts as the bases of a kind of personal “religious experience” that the philosopher and psychologist William James wrote about. More recently, I’ve been researching and writing about newspapers, material culture, and the environment, and I’ve just finished a book on the history of the printed newspaper that traces its industrial production starring from the trees that were cut down to manufacture the newsprint on which the news was printed and distributed to readers in the form of printed newspapers. The book is entitled Dead Tree Media and will be out in the fall.

What I’ve found in my own work is that the most interesting and important questions do not have answers that can one can arrive at through any one academic field. One of things that I find so appealing about the Scholars Program is that is a college-level effort designed to promote diverse methods of inquiry into significant issues and to avoid disciplinary parochialism while doing so.

I’m very much looking forward to working with you all next year and it in getting to know you better as students and people.

Congratulations to our Scholars graduates!

On May 5, 2018, the Social Science Scholars Program saw 14 students cross the stage and receive their diplomas. It was an extremely proud moment for the Scholars, their families and friends, and the program itself, which has now graduated 19 bright and talented students.

The Scholars were formally recognized before graduating on May 3 with a small, intimate ceremony in the Cowles House. There, director John Waller and Academic Specialist Jenn Arbogast shared anecdotes about each individual Scholar and shared some of their greatest accomplishments while parents, friends, and mentors joined in the celebration.

Dr. Waller left the Scholars with this final message at the close of the ceremony: "I would like to congratulate our graduating Scholars once again and wish them all the very best. And, finally, a plea. We want you to stay in touch with us. You did not enter an ordinary academic program. You signed on to a project that involves forming closer relationships with faculty and administrators than is typical just about anywhere in the country. To the extent that we’re entitled to do so, we take pride and pleasure in your accomplishments and so want to hear about them. Know that you are always welcome in 307 and that we will be thrilled to see you."

Two days later, the inaugural cohort officially graduated, joined by a few Scholars from the 2015 cohort who were able to complete their degrees early. From all of us in the Social Science scholars Program and from the College of Social Science, we truly wish them the best. 


The 2018 graduates of the Social Science Scholars are:

Amber Anderson (Psychology)

Skylar Austell (Psychology)

Annie Brandicourt (Social Work)

Gabby Burchett (Interdisciplinary Studies)

Grace Hough (Economics & Economic Geography)

Elias Kokaly (World Politics)

Jennifer O'Connor (Psychology)

Calla Michalak (Psychology)

Samantha Perry (Public Policy)

Erik Rose (History)

Julie Vernon (Sociology)

Tristyn Walton (Public Policy & Interdisciplinary Studies)

Mark Zuccaro (Political Science & Criminal Justice)