Hunter College, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows 2014-2015

Professor Arlene Torres, Program Director (

Ms. Lisette Nazario, Assistant Coordinator (



Margo Cruz, Political Science, Economics

Class of 2016


The Suez and Panama Canals: The making of Nationalism and Economic power in the 20th Century


Though it is often overlooked, American and European industrialization was built on the Panama and Suez Canals. The two canals shifted global trade patterns, and perhaps even more importantly, the development of many Latin American and Asian countries. This project examines the intersections of nationalism and global trade, and the political ideologies in Panama and Egypt after control was transferred from the United States and England. I seek to understand three things: how the building of the canals affected their host countries, how Egypt and Panama expend their national power through the canals, and how this compares to the United States’ and England’s use of the canals for the development of their colonial power.



Javier Picayo, Religion

Class of 2015


Ecological Shift in Santero Ritual


This study examines the way Santeria in Cuba influences ecological perspectives and worldviews.. Data collected over the course of a six-week period in Havana, Cuba informs this research. A study and analysis of the preparations leading to a ritual of initiation into Santeria reveals that the Orishas (Gods), time, space and the self are all influenced by the earth.  This study sheds light on the connection between the natural world, Santeria and its practitioners to offer different perspectives on how to view and treat the earth for the benefit of all beings.


Paulina Toro, Statistics, Sociology

Class of 2016


“Choose Your Character!”: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Player Identity and Avatar Creation in Single-player versus Multi-Player Games


As interactive media, video games have tremendous potential in social identity research. Some scholars have suggested that video games allow for a unique kind of identity experimentation through the use of avatars. This study attempts to answer to what extent this identity experimentation takes place - if it takes place at all. Does this identity experimentation occur along the lines of social identities such as gender and race, or are players concerned with other kinds of identity experimentation? Studying players’ selection of avatars and players’ understanding of their avatar choices can help answer this question. Previous research in this area has focused on avatar selection within multi-player games in which an avatar is presented to other human players in a virtual environment. Thus, researchers have not considered a difference between avatar selection in single-player games and in multi-player games.  This study, through the use of mixed methods design, compares these choices to help further understand when and why identity experimentation takes place.


Claudia Vargas, Economics, Math

Class of 2015


The Effects of Floods on Education Attainment for Young Children in Bangladesh


This paper aims to understand the medium and long-term schooling consequences associated with exposure to flooding early in life for young people (5 to 11 years) living in rural areas in Bangladesh. This project takes advantage of the Barker hypothesis. During pregnancy or around the time of birth, malnutrition or other complications causes the fetus to shift blood and nutrients from vital organs to the brain in an attempt for survival. The Barker hypothesis says that this process of diversion leaves certain organs preprogrammed for failure in later life. Using flood data calculated from satellite observations of surface reflectance taken from the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments operated by NASA and the Bangladesh DHS surveys from 2007 and 2011, this paper tested whether flooding occurred between 2000 and 2006 affected the schooling for children 5 to 11 years old in rural Bangladesh. This paper found that exposure to floods in the second trimester of pregnancy and in the first and second trimester after birth have a significant and negative effect on the number of years of education attained for rural children in Bangladesh. The effect is stronger for males than for females. This supports the well-known fact that male fetuses are weaker than female fetuses.



Allison I. Villegas Roman, Environmental Science, Anthropology, and Human Rights

Class of 2016


Shifting Landscape: Impact of United States Land Polices on Puerto Rico


This study evaluates agricultural and land policies implemented by the United States government and the impact on agricultural sustainability in Puerto Rico. The geographical and ecological landscape of the island is studied and evaluated to determine whether decreases in production were in fact due to environmental factors or a change in economic and land use policies. Archival records regarding land practices during the Spanish occupation from 1493-1897 allowed for an assessment of the region prior to the United States occupation. This historical overview allows for more accurate analyzes on the severity that United States policies had on the landscape. Shifts in land use and import and export rates are also considered. While the Puerto Rico was failing economically prior to United States intervention, United States policies have not efficiently created a stable and sustainable agricultural sector. This report will provide a clear understanding on how past policies are impacting current agricultural trends in Puerto Rico, as reported in the recent New York Times article, Reclaiming Puerto Rico’s Food Paradise.


Andrea Dionne Warmack, Philosophy

Class of 2016


Power Queer


Foucault gives us a seductive and seemingly revolutionary heartbeat when he argues that power is productive (and, that what it produces is restriction), the way that discourse serves power (by channeling the uncoded into codes, by locking flows into patterns, turning bustling tributaries into aqueducts), and where power exists, so too exists resistance.  And it is this: where there is power, there is resistance that feels like both match and powder keg for the revolutionary mind.  This is an incredibly sexy idea.  Power does not exist in a vacuum.  There is always a resistance to power, something that runs contrary to power.  Power never gets powerful enough to run unopposed.  Resistance is an inherent component of this schema, when we embrace power we must embrace the insuring resistance. 


Yet the notion of this resistance is problematized by McNay who argues that the neutrality assumed for the Foucauldian body (and its relationship with power) is anything but.  Neutral to McNay, reads as necessarily male most notably because there are specific interactions the female body has with power that the male does not (and vice versa).  She argues that when the body is considered passive, Foucault presents a totalirizing relationship between the body and power.  The difference of bodies is flattened by the sameness of power, which results in a sameness of body.  One body; one relationship to power.  The body becomes a singular subject and--as we have seen with Irigaray and as we shall see with Cixous subjectivity means masculinity. 


In this paper I take up McNay’s critique of Foucault's construct of power.  I too read the Foucauldian body—specifically because of its silence on sexual asymmetry (and its lack of mention of gender)—as male, and I hear her reading of the body as passive acted on by a totalizing power.  However I believe if we can take up the Foucauldian body as active and reframe resistance as engagement then we can also see our way to a sexed and gendered body.  It is through an active engagement with power that the finite sexed body interacts with the infinite gendered imaginary. This paper will explore embodied difference, liberation, and the eventual expression of gender.


Nadejda Webb, English

Class of 2015


Another Country: Race, Space and Time as Dominance


Time, as it were, thickens, takes on flesh, becomes artistically visible; likewise, space becomes  charged  and  responsive to  the  movements  of  time,  plot  and history."

--"Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel," Mikhail Bakhtin


In the final moments of James Baldwin's Another Country, Rufus, the protagonist, leaps from the George Washington Bridge. I trace the architecture of New York City, the body of Leona, Rufus’ girlfriend, and water, to make visible the complex relationship Rufus has to both space and time. Though he only has one life, he is the recipient of many livesthe history of those before him. The collision of time and space impacts him on a daily basis. The destructive relationship he has with Leona epitomizes this. Rape and abuse are vengeful acts, meant to avenge the complex history her white body embodies. These acts also symbolize Rufus' need to find understanding. He struggles with the reality he witnesses, but does not know deal with it. In the final analysis, the jump is a mediation: Rufus intervenes in the dominance race, space and time exerts upon his body, freeing himself from its bondage.