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Honors Student Profiles


Rachel Hurwitz

Biological Anthropology

Thesis: Effects of GnRH Agonist Treatment on Transgender Adolescent Bone Health and Maturation studied via a Mouse Model

Summary: My thesis looked at a type of drug colloquially termed a "puberty blocker," which is frequently used by transgender adolescents to delay the onset of puberty and lessen feelings of gender dysphoria and make potential future surgeries less invasive. This drug is frequently used in adults with reproductive disorders as well, wherein it is known to cause detrimental losses to bone, but it has not been studied for similar effects in adolescents.

Click here to read more about her thesis.



Megan Knittel

Sociocultural Anthropology

Thesis: More Than Skin Deep: Playing Gender in the Social Worlds of Overwatch 

Summary: My project centered on examining experiences related to gender in the online, multiplayer video game Overwatch

Overwatch is unique amongst virtual worlds due to its design, including compulsory teamwork, and the extensive pop culture presence and fan communities surrounding the game. Through dozens of hours of gameplay and deep analysis of forums, blogs, and news related to Overwatch, I concluded that gender becomes a symbolic marker of ability in the game.

Click here to read more about her thesis.



Franny MeLampy

Evolutionary Anthropology

Thesis: Taxonomic, Geographic, and Temporal Biases in Primate Assessments on the IUCN Red List

Summary: My research focused on the largest database for categorizing threatened and non-threatened species of the world. My study questions were used to find out which factors play into the severity of primate threat statuses.

Click here to read more about her thesis.



Andrew Mitchel

Sociocultural Anthropology

Thesis: La Comida Latinoamericana: Food, Friction and Selfhood among Latinos in New York City

Summary: My thesis was a full survey and examination of the conception of authenticity when it comes to how Latinos in New York City discuss food and food practices. I completed 14 interviews with participants who have ancestry in a number of Latin American countries and whom all live/work/grew up within New York City. I concluded that there exists a general consensus that what is authentic, one which is learned and passed down through culinary experts within the community.

Click here to read more about his thesis.


Katarina Alajbegovic | Sociocultural Anthropology

THESIS: Welcome to the Big Land: Experiences of Land, Power, and Identity through Land Claims in Labrador

SUMMARY: Through surveys and Skype interviews I sought to understand how comprehensive land claims, or CLCs, have shaped both Indigenous and non-Indigenous individual's experiences around issues of land, power, and identity in Labrador.  Through my research I found that the individuals in Labrador grappled with conflicts around understandings of land, the effects of power imbalances, as well as the tension surrounding the birth of a political Indigenous identity, all of which were related to the land claims process. 

FUTURE PLANS: I was recently accepted as an AmeriCorps volunteer to work with the National Health Corps in Chicago at a family planning center where I will create educational materials and programs for high school students about topics such as contraception and safe sex. 


Anna Forringer-Beal | Sociocultural Anthropology

THESIS: (In)Visible Genders: How Central American Migrant Women Navigate Control and Vulnerability

SUMMARY: This thesis is based off of interviews conducted with Central American women from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador mainly in Pakal-Na, Chiapas, who were migrating north through Mexico. As a part of the Undocumented Migration Project, a research group focused on applying a four-field approach to understanding undocumented migration, I was interested in learning from women how gender effects their migration experience. Combining interview analysis with feminist ethnography, I conclude that women employ a variety of survival strategies that tactfully use the perceived vulnerability inherently ascribed to women in order to access goods and services otherwise unavailable to them.


Brianna Mayer | Anthropological Archaeology

THESIS: Status and Identity on a Smallholder Caribbean Plantation: An Archaeological Perspective

SUMMARY: Through my thesis project I analyzed artifacts from two occupations on a small plantation in the British Virgin Islands, to understand the social and economic status differences and negotiation of identity between its inhabitants.

FUTURE PLANS: Following graduation, I will be taking a gap year to work in Ann Arbor and to volunteer in Detroit through the ARSP Growing Together Detroit program. I am also currently applying to graduate programs in historical archaeology.  


Alexandra Newton | Sociocultural Anthropology

Alexandra received the Virginia L. Voss Memorial Award for excellence in writing by senior Honors women.

THESIS: Of Hustlers and Housekeepers: Private Security Work in Bucharest, Romania.

SUMMARY: My thesis explores the private security industry in Bucharest, Romania. Through fieldwork conducted amongst the city's many private security guards, I show how post-socialist transformations and global changes in security apparatuses take on local manifestations in Bucharest. Through the seemingly oppositional figures of the "hustler" and the "housekeeper," I elucidate the dual nature of security work. While, in popular discourse and in their own imaginations, security guards identify as hyper-masculine urban gangsters, the daily realities of security work situate guards as benevolent housekeepers, whose daily practices and obligations come to produce a quotidian social order in the city. This juxtaposition, between the hustler and the housekeeper, also helps to elucidate the complex ways in which masculine subjectivities are reformulated in the face of post-socialist experiences of marginalization, dispossession and discontent. Ultimately, I argue that guards' daily practices come to introduce a new regime of security in the city—one predicated not upon coercion or force, but rather, upon connectedness and care. 


Amber Young | Sociocultural Anthropology

THESIS: Caregiving and Commitment: Stories of Finding Value Through Raising a Child with a Disability

SUMMARY: For my thesis, I focused on parents’ narratives of what it means to be a caregiver while raising a child with a disability. After having a job teaching kids with disabilities how to ride bikes, I interviewed some of these parents to hear their stories. My thesis focused on three of these stories in-depth to share what defined their experiences and how they found meaning.

FUTURE PLANS: Next year while taking a gap year before medical school, I will be a part of Match Corps in Boston, an Americorps program where I will be a tutor in 5th grade classrooms.