Today, in our third post covering this year’s Senior Projects, we have perhaps the most diverse group of project topics and subsequent research-all falling under the umbrella of social sciences. This selection of BISV projects covers a large swath of subjects, including politics, history, anthropology, sociology, social classes and divisions, and more. Amidst the diversity emerges a common concept: researching topics and ideas that have the potential to powerfully impact the world around us or change how we view it.
In this group alone, projects range from strategies to make the Internet and social media applications more accessible for blind and deaf teenagers to investigating certain changes in procedure that take place when high-profile public figures enter the courtroom.
We asked Mr. Steven Vermouth, English and Psychology Subject Expert Teacher and Senior Project Advisor, what it was like to work alongside several of these unique projects with our students. “What always impresses me most is the diversity of interests in our student body,” says Mr. Vermouth. “We often get stereotyped as a school that pushes kids to pursue science, math, engineering, etc. However, this year I am advising one student who is using her journalism skills to highlight the plight of homeless individuals in her community. Another one of my advisees is looking into the value of art and music therapy for autistic children. These projects are both from very diverse fields, but each tackles a real-world issue in the local community.”
Community, as it happens, is a driving force in several of the projects being featured today, ranging from school communities to entire cities.
One student, Anushree T., whose project delves into the study of disprivilege in Silicon Valley, has documented her experiences in interviewing people of color on her blog: “I [met] with an owner of her own hair salon, a member of BASIS faculty, an international specialist at NASA, and a retiree who got her PhD in political science and spent a lifetime being an activist. Whether these people had the same answers or not—whether they had experienced more or less racism over the course of their life, or were filled with hopefulness for the future or resignation—they all inspired me in their own ways. All of them had faced their share of struggle but are carving out a space to thrive as best as they can, and I admire that a lot.”
Another student, Persia L., shares that she wanted to research something she really cared about. She is very much interested to see growth in BISV’s drama department, so much so that she decided to take a scientific approach to showing the importance of the arts.: “…I thought that by looking into the scientific, psychological reasons that drama could benefit kids, I would increase support for the performing arts.”
If you want to read more about the amazing discoveries these students are making and the strides they are taking to enact positive outcomes and change in both the world and the societies that form it, explore the project abstracts below. Take a look through their blogs and comment away—our students love the interaction and support!
Senior Projects: Social Sciences
Follow Nithya’s blog here.
September 11, 2001 was a turning point in United States History. Immigration once again became a national security issue, rather than an issue of foreign development. The United States government began to implement new immigration policies in order to protect the country against any future threats. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its subsidiaries were created in order to enforce immigration policies in the name of national security. 9/11 and these policies have brought an increase in anti-immigrant sentiment and the intense vetting process of refugees and immigrants. Immigrants also face a number of economic, social, and cultural challenges which makes it difficult for immigrants to adjust to life in the United States. With these policies, especially recently after President Trump took office, fear has permeated the immigrant community. By working with immigrants and conducting research, I will understand how immigrants have been personally affected by these policies. Understanding the immigrant experience can help us reform the immigration system and bring awareness to people who do not know the personal implications of post-9/11 immigration policy.
Follow Kimberly’s blog here.
During and as a result of the Industrial Revolution, horses were replaced by machines in many of their economic roles and disappeared from the daily life of the average American. Though there is current literature that examines how the economic role of horses changed through the years, there are few papers, if any, that investigate this question through an analysis of secondary sources. This project examines how horses were portrayed in newspapers during three different time periods that correspond to advancements in transportation, such as street cars, automobiles, and tractors: 1880–1890, 1910–1920, and 1940–1950. The method of this project consists of using Dedoose, a coding software, to track themes that occur throughout the texts. In reviewing the literature, this project investigates whether social and economic labor trends can be anticipated and in what ways. Automation threatens to change many jobs around the world, ranging from transportation and entertainment. Though the current literature comparing how automation affected the demand for both human and horse labor focuses on humans, the focus of this project is on horses, thus looking at this comparison from a unique angle. I hope that the findings from this project will be able to demonstrate how humans can anticipate and adapt to technological changes. In reviewing the literature, I wish to investigate whether social and economic labor trends can be anticipated and in what ways.
Follow Ishika’s blog here.
What does it take to persuade the public? This is a question that many marketing experts, as will this project, work to answer. Nonprofit organizations have the benefit of having no hidden agenda, which makes them more appealing to potential partners or donors. But since there are so many, they have to differ in brand, meaning central goal, external identity, and proof of their impact. The College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) is a school for special needs adults looking to expand to a college campus, meaning the primary demographic includes parents of college-age individuals and college administrators from other schools. Their communication methods, such as flyers and word of mouth, are outdated and difficult to track, and their digital presence lacks memorability. This project’s short term goal is to develop a strong brand by revamping the website and adding media showing CAA's impact, increasing social media presence, and analyzing responses to different approaches. The long term goal is to conclude the most effective strategies, which can be applied to other nonprofit organizations that are just beginning and trying to attract support. Many companies have made the shift to simpler, more memorable, and more tech savvy marketing—I hope to discover whether this will appeal to the demographic CAA wants to reach.
Follow Shreya’s blog here.
Consider this: more than 1 in every 7 people has some kind of disability. That's over one billion people in the world. Although companies are taking steps towards making their products highly usable by all, many websites and applications are either inaccessible or difficult to use even with assistive technology for the disabled. I want to change this through my project, Equal Information Access for All. The purpose of this project is threefold: to examine the way that teenagers with visual disabilities use social media and websites, to gauge the average high school student's understanding of accessibility, and finally, to understand how tech companies present their stance on accessibility. Ultimately, I hope to bring change to a problem that has gone unnoticed for so long. In my opinion, social media and the Internet in general are integral parts of the modern teenage experience, both recreationally and educationally. I want to bring that to as many teenagers as possible. With this research, I hope to take this first step and share this part of my life and experiences with teenagers who want to express their voices and extend it to a broader audience.
Follow Megha’s blog here.
When did slavery end? 50, 100, a 150 years ago? What if I told you that slavery still existed? Modern slavery - the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act―is the world's fastest growing illicit industry and affects every corner of the globe. Sex trafficking is one of the most profitable businesses in the world and human trafficking generates profits of 150 billion dollars annually. After learning and researching the connection between sweatshops and economics, I wanted to learn more about how other global issues were affected by economics and more specifically globalization. Along with growing trade and technological development, globalization has also led to an increase in human trafficking, a social cost that often goes ignored. My project aims to not only understand the effects of globalization on human trafficking through analyzing economic policy, such as international trade deals, but to also find ways that policy can be better crafted to take into account for social costs and humanitarian crises. Additionally, I hope my research will shed more light on the refugee and immigration crises, as these groups are some of the most vulnerable to be trafficked. I will be working with Irfan Nooruddin at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and Ashutosh Bhuradia at the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies at Stanford.
Follow Anushree’s blog here.
Too often, Americans pat themselves on the backs for having solved racism by ending slavery and segregation and electing a black president. However, the harsh truth is that racism and discrimination are pervasive and systematic, designed in a way that still leaves people of color feeling left out of the "American Dream." In my project, I hope to bring the voices of people of color that have been historically downtrodden by talking to them one on one, diving past the data and facts to understand the stories behind the day-to-day experience of discrimination. I will be going out into the Bay Area - San Jose, for the most part - and interviewing African Americans, Asian Americans, and members of the Latino community on topics like discrimination, self-image, and possible solutions to issues of race. I expect to find that racism and actions that stem from a racist root are more commonplace than the average person would believe. By bringing the voices and stories of these people to light and compiling them in a short story collection that I'll send out to cultural centers, my peers, and anyone who helped with the project, I hope to bring empathy and a greater understanding of another's struggles to the general population. I want those around me to stop skirting the issue of race and face it head-on, and show that racism can affect individuals in far more ways than they might have thought.
Read Sabrina’s blog here.
Public interest in sexism in the film industry has never been greater than it is right now, with many claims of sexual abuse arising regarding film producer Harvey Weinstein, but many people aren't aware that sexism affects production roles even more so than acting. The stories told on film are seen by a vast amount of people. Yet, it is still largely men who are the storytellers; the stories we see are often ones told from their point of views. It only makes sense that if women are watching films, their point of views should be reflected as well. However, the small amount of females in film production means that their voices are often drowned out. While much publicity has already been achieved for other forms of sexism in Hollywood, less light has been shed on the lack of women in these production roles. By researching online data, reading literary journals, and interviewing people in the industry, including students at USC, I will evaluate to what extent there is a gender gap and why it may exist. My final product will be a documentary, covering the sexism that takes place on the more technical side of the industry. Once the project is complete, I will be uploading the documentary onto several social media sites, making people aware of this issue, spreading the word, and calling for action.
Nikki Wang - Red Carpet Courtroom
Follow Nikki’s blog here.
Is anyone above the law? Is anyone beneath it? Does fame make you an exception to the system? In this project, I am investigating the changes that take place when a red carpet is unfurled on the courtroom floor. To achieve this, I am researching a plethora of high profile court cases through the years, especially those with defendants who were particularly loved or particularly hated by the public. By reading the work of legal theorists and observing jury selections, I hope to see and understand the type of media bias that threatens the integrity of our justice system, as well as consider possible solutions. While I don’t expect to be able to come up with a flawless working solution, I have hope that the short story I will produce at the end of this project will make readers more aware of the nature of this problem.
Follow Sophia’s blog here.
The Oak Grove School District has recently been hit with a decrease in adequate funds or the failure to properly allocate these funds to fully operate all of their elementary schools mostly due to a decrease in enrollment. In consequence, there have been multiple board meetings and forums held to discuss the closure of two to five schools and the movement of these students to the schools that survive. My project revolves around studying the trends that led up to these school closures and these closures affect everyone involved. This project mostly consists of reading documents constructed by experts on the topic of school closures and following up with updates on the events occurring in Oak Grove. Most of the analysis, research, and discussion is done with Dr. Marachi to fully understand the trends and effects. Factors that will be studied are demographics, policy, and how businesses can interfere. I talk to parents, teachers, and students (if given parent consent) to understand their personal perspectives on their situation after school closures.
Mahodarini N. - Art and Music Therapy for Children with Autism
Follow Mahodarini’s blog here.
Doctors have been able to research more about the symptoms of autism and discover new ways to help the kids cope with stress. To bring awareness to new methods of helping children who have been diagnosed with autism I will be looking into the effects of art and music therapy. Art and music therapy are important because they are new psychotherapies compared to speech and occupational therapy so they have often been disregarded. In order to understand more about autism, I will be volunteering at the adult program of the Morgan Autism Center. But, for the art and music therapy for kids with autism I will be volunteering at the Organization of Special Needs Families (OSF). These two facilities specialize in after school daycare programs, with several therapists coming in and helping the children and adults with methods to relieve stress. I will raise awareness on art and music therapy and the impact it has on children with autism by providing research on how these methods impact the behavior of children with autism. As a final project, I will be writing a research paper about the effects I have discovered through my volunteering and the independent research I have been conducting.
Persia L. - Acting to Achieve
Follow Persia’s blog here.
Proponents of theatre programs for children often remind parents of the benefits of participating in drama classes and clubs, benefits which include boosts in self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and in some cases test scores. These advantages are stated as facts, but as a drama enthusiast myself, I wonder what psychological links there are between performance and these perks. Through multiple surveys, heavy participation in the BISV Drama Club, as well as collaboration with Drama Teacher Ms. Efsun Sweet and long study sessions of several books and articles regarding adolescent psychology, I hope to answer my question. I am also interning at CMT San Jose with Deanna Knudsen, the Education Manager, an opportunity which allows me to speak with more kids involved in theatre. As for my hypothesis, I expect to see that students who participate in theatre programs such as the BISV play and CMT productions will demonstrate an increase in self-confidence and interpersonal skills as well as a potential boost in academic standing as evidenced by the surveys I will be distributing to the students, parents, and teachers. All in all, I hope that this project may be able to encourage a greater love for and deeper understanding of theatre arts.
Bethany L. - Upcycling the Desirability of Worn Clothes
Follow Bethany’s blog here.
As the 3rd largest polluter, after oil and agriculture, the fashion industry generates more than 14 million tons of textile waste per year in America, and only 15% of which will get reused or recycled. The goal of my project is to explore how to improve upcycling clothing and eco-friendly clothing through an interview process. I will also be learning about the most up-to-date methods and technology in the field of eco-fashion by interviewing the pioneers in the field, such as the company Patagonia and scientist Dr. Mark Brown. Not only will I share what I have learned on my blog and website, I will also create a line of upcycled clothing using the points of improvement curated from the interview process, to raise awareness about the present and future of green-fashion.
Follow Ananya’s blog here.
There is a misconception about homeless individuals that seems to be false, especially in the Bay Area. Specifically, homeless individuals are often misconstrued to be nothing but panhandlers, gamblers or addicts when the reality is that a significant portion of these people are educated and employed but unfortunately suffering from the Silicon Valley housing crisis. We know that in today’s advanced society, the power of a visual is significantly greater than numbers and words alone. My final product, a book titled "Homeless of Silicon Valley" (inspired by Brandon Stanton's "Humans of New York") will shatter stereotypes and build empathy within my community. In order to do this, I partnered with homeless shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens to collect photos and quotes from my interviews with homeless individuals to feature in my book. I will put stories to the statistics and faces to the facts about homelessness in Silicon Valley and break down the preconceived notions and stereotypes that people have. I am giving a voice to a poorly represented group of individuals that aren’t all that different from you and me. I hope my project will serve as an educational took and raise awareness on the reality and abundance of Homelessness in Silicon Valley.