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Bowden fellows share their summer research

The Class of 2022 Dan Leslie Bowden Fellows in the Humanities shared their summer work during an assembly for the upper school community on October 12. The presentations offered insight into research that took the fellows to Israel, Brazil, The Bahamas and other locales, and allowed them to examine a diverse and exciting range of topics in the humanities.
The nine fellows – Anya Dua '22Rebecca Gotterer '22Lauren Heller '22Alexa Hommen '22Mark Mateo '22Kira Oglesby '22Maria Luiza Schuchovski '22Kathleen Stanton-Sharpless '22 and Leah Thorpe '22 – are finalizing their summer projects for a gallery night at the Solomon Art Gallery in February that will mark the fifth year of the fellowships.

The Class of 2022 fellows were selected last spring for summer research grants awarded annually in honor of the late Dan Bowden, an English teacher who worked at RE for 63 years before his death in 2018. Associate Head of School John A. King, Jr., who oversees the program, introduced the fellows at the Lewis Family Auditorium, and all spoke enthusiastically about their work. 

Watch their presentations here and find summaries of their work below:

Class of 2022 Dan Leslie Bowden Fellows in the Humanities

Kira Oglesby ’22: The Great Migration and Effects on African Americans in the City of Milwaukee
Oglesby spent two weeks in June in Milwaukee – her family’s hometown – doing interviews and research, looking at what drove African Americans from the South to Milwaukee during the Great Migration between 1916-70. In what ultimately was a quest to escape racism and find opportunity, she saw the force of educational aspirations. She wondered how this city of opportunity became a city of poverty; her research showed the importance of access to education, and the necessity that all citizens have the opportunity for a proper education.

Alexa Hommen ’22: Spirit and Sound
Hommen studied the importance of music as a component of religious expression, examining how churches in Coconut Grove have used music to share and celebrate their faith over decades. By visiting and studying four churches – Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, Plymouth Congregational Church, Greater St. Paul AME Church and St. Hugh Catholic Church – she discovered the uniquely human form of connection brought about by spiritual music traditions.

Leah Thorpe ’22: Discovering Culture and Humanity through Architecture: the Impact of the Early Bahamian Settlers
Thorpe studied how the original Bahamian settlers in Coconut Grove brought skills and architecture styles, contributions that helped build community while helping to create new traditions. She visited and built models of shotgun-style houses, noting that their trademark front porches and other features brought people together, introduced elements of Bahamian style and contributed to the region’s storied history. Thorpe interviewed Thelma Gibson, Leona Cooper-Baker and the Rev. Jonathan Archer, among others.

Lauren Heller ’22: BreakIn the Ropes
Heller, a nationally ranked jump-rope competitor, explored the foundations of the sport in the multi-cultural breakdance and double-dutch jump-rope communities that grew up in New York City around the turn of the century. She followed the evolutions of both traditions, which eventually broke apart as girls were funneled into jump rope, and boys into hip-hop and breakdance. During a visit to New York, she found the connections between the disciplines still strong, and she invited experts to come together to share their histories and merge their activities in the present.

Mark Mateo ’22: Freedom as a Core Human Value
Mateo examined the trend toward anti-democratic forms of government in Poland and the United States in recent decades, questioning what would make people work against freedom and gravitate to authoritarianism. By taking a class on the history of democracy, studying the two countries and interviewing professors and activists, Mateo came to understand what makes a people free, the constraints in place to prevent the centralization of power, and the lengths people will go to circumvent those safeguards.

Kathleen Stanton-Sharpless ’22: Blackout
Stanton-Sharpless explored how theater is, was and will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She studied the financial loss and despair brought about by the theater lockdowns, and also examined the creativity that emerged during that period: the Zoom productions, plays in parking lots and storefronts, and drive-through productions. The pandemic demonstrated, she said, that human beings will work relentlessly to create, and she speculated about how the forced innovation would affect the theater world in the future, possibly changing the nature of productions forever.

Rebecca Gotterer ’22: Unity in the Face of a Divided Homeland
Gotterer examined the history of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, traveling to Israel for in-person interviews and on-the-ground research in museums and through lectures. She is working on a podcast that will share her findings, namely that Israeli and Palestinian people have shown a willingness to come together to hear and accept each other’s points of view. She noted that her work showed that it is our differences that make us human, and even in the face of significant societal or political disagreement, individuals can still be friends and respect one another.

Maria Luiza Schuchovski ’22: The Green Exchange
Schuchovski traveled to Brazil to study The Green Exchange, an innovative recycling program started in 1981 in Curitiba, Brazil. The program, which views waste as a resource and provides goods to residents who bring it to recycling centers, is considered a model of how to combine community and sustainability. Schuchovski conducted interviews, did research in Curitiba, and considered whether the program could be implemented in Miami, and what it would mean to the Miami community.

Anya Dua ’22: Gen Z’s Political, Social, and Cultural Values
Observing that individual identity is a fusion of age, ethnicity, spirituality and other traits, Dua set out to study the identity of Generation Z, people born between 1997 and 2015. Using results from a survey sent to thousands of members of Gen-Z, she set out to use clustering techniques to determine dominant identity archetypes, which can helpful in drawing conclusions about concepts such as identity. The survey polled respondents on topics including mental health, COVID-19, race, climate change, religion and spirituality and more. Dua, still analyzing her results, will present her findings in February.

The DLB fellowship program was established in 2016 with a donation from former Bowden student Jeffrey Miller '79, and it represents a core piece of the Dan Leslie Bowden Endowment in the Humanities. Since the endowment's creation, more than 100 donors have been inspired to contribute to the fund. When fully funded, the endowment will expand to support two full-time faculty members in the humanities and a future gathering area in a new humanities building. (For information about how you can support the endowment, contact Director of Advancement Melanie Hoffmann.)
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Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The mission of Ransom Everglades School is to provide an educational environment in which the pursuit of honor, academic excellence and intellectual growth is complemented by concern for the physical, cultural and character development of each student. The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.