Newcomb Scholars Symposium Featuring presentations of research projects by the Class of 2020

Welcome Note

Welcome to our virtual Newcomb Scholars Symposium. The work you see here represents the culmination of a four-year journey of learning and leadership. The academic scope of projects speak volumes for these students’ investment in research and interdisciplinarity. Even in the midst of an international pandemic, the Class of 2020 followed through on their commitment to the program and each other by completing their work on their individual projects. On this page, you will see each Scholar’s research presented via video from her home. Though the cohort has dispersed around the world, they remain connected to Tulane University and Newcomb Institute.
I am incredibly proud of these students and their resilience. As you can see from their biographies, they are bound for great things. I invite you to watch their presentations, ranging from comparative politics to international labor relations to environment studies and neuroscience. I know you will be as impressed as I am. Wishing you all health and peace,

Dr. Aidan Smith

Director, Newcomb Scholars Program

Alejandra González Vargas

Immigrant Integration & Cultural Identity: Mutually Exclusive?


Alejandra González Vargas is from Mexico City, though she lived many years in Monterrey, Mexico, and is currently a senior pursuing a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.S.M. in Management at Tulane University. Thanks to the Newcomb Scholars Program’s encouragement, much incredible faculty support from across Tulane, and the resources of many generous university grantors, Ale pursued studies and research in St. Martin, Paris, and Jerusalem over the course of her college career. Throughout, she narrowed her interests to post-colonial cultural identity, immigrant integration politics, and intercultural communication and xenophobia, which culminate in her Newcomb Scholars Senior Project. These studies also led Ale to serve as a Youth Delegate for the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations in October 2019, where she represented her country’s interests to the Second and Third Committees of the UN General Assembly. She presently serves as a Finance & Operations Associate at Libraries Without Borders, a D.C.-based nonprofit focused on education and digital equity, where she also interned in the summer of 2019. Ale hopes to pursue a professional career that promotes intercultural communication, international cooperation, and the value of cultural heritage.

Project Abstract

Upon arrival to a new home, immigrants and refugees engage with the widely-debated process of integration, which often involves the new arrival and the host society interacting with deeply-held values and beliefs that can help or hinder the integration process. These are intercultural interactions at their most abstract, yet the response they elicit from immigrants is often weighed down by power dynamics that transcend culture. France is reputed to have assimilationist expectations of immigrants, especially those who aspire to French citizenship, and historical interactions between the French and immigrants have precluded marked sociopolitical tensions. Within this context, this project aims to answer the question: How do nonprofits consider the relationship between immigrant integration and cultural identity in their strategies and programs? Six NGOs serving immigrants in Paris, ranging from grassroots efforts to international organizations, offered their insight to this question through qualitative interviews at their worksites. The interviews primarily aimed to assess the extent to which the matter of cultural identity is considered when mapping goals and strategies for the NGOs’ operations. In identifying the modus operandi of the ground-level actors in this broader political phenomenon, this research ultimately aims to identify opportunities to strengthen these organizations’ internal policies and practices, leverage them for success in their cause, and present them as a case study for future initiatives.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Ale’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Alexandra "Blaze" D'Amico

The Politics and Ontology of Freedom in Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, and Simone Weil


Blaze D’Amico is a New Orleans native and a graduate of St. Scholastica Academy. She will graduate from Tulane with a double major in Philosophy and French and a minor in Art History. Through funds from CELT and NCI, she has conducted research in Berlin and Paris on the influence of technology in contemporary art. She studied abroad in Paris at the Sorbonne, and in 2019 was one of the first two Tulane students to be certified in Professional French through the French Chamber of Commerce. Throughout college, she has worked and taught at the Alliance Française and Ecole Bilingue, and she interned with the French Consulate of New Orleans. Next year, she will continue her studies in law school. Her passions include idling, seeing live local music, and arguing about the feasibility of the Universal Basic Income.

Project Abstract

This thesis is the first comparative work on Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, and Simone Weil, and it expands the discourse surrounding the politics of Existentialism. In an introductory chapter, the author identifies a gap in existing literature, describing the omission of Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, and Simone Weil from many important philosophical and political discussions. Then, in three chapters, the work analyzes passages from Arendt, Beauvoir and Weil, respectively, examining the critiques each offers of Marxism and Marx’s philosophy. In a concluding chapter, the three are analyzed comparatively, and it is determined that, while the three could accurately be considered Existentialist, they do not support the economic or political philosophies of capitalism or Marxism. It is ultimately determined that to categorize Existentialism broadly as a Marxist philosophy is to exclude the voices of these women.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Blaze’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Autumn Nieves

Extraction, Dissent, & Deforestation: The Chocó Forest of Colombia and Ecuador


Autumn Nieves grew up in New City, New York. She will be graduating Tulane with double majors in Environmental Biology and International Relations. While they seem to be very different, Autumn is passionate about both and their mutual connection to the future of sustainability. She has interned with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, an organization committed to mitigating carbon emissions but later realized she had a greater love for local politics after working for a New York Assembly member. She hopes to use these experiences to inform corporate social responsibility in her next chapter after graduation. Some of Autumn’s favorite experiences at Tulane have been exploring New Orleans cuisine, studying abroad in Paris, and volunteering at urban gardens.

Project Abstract

Humans are destroying forests at unprecedented rates, leading to decreases in biodiversity, contributing to climate change, and loss of economically valuable land. However, the loss of forest cover differs among nations. For instance, in the biodiversity hotspot known as the Chocó, Ecuador’s tree cover is much more depleted than Colombia’s. Despite institutional similarities between the two countries, political dissent has caused differences in land use and thus the biophysical landscape. In this study, I asked how certain groups intervened against extractive institutions to change the landscape in Colombia versus that in Ecuador. I implement a comparison of case studies on the two nations in order to uncover the effects of dissent, which resulted in different land-use practices. I show that the influence of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – Ejécrito de Pueblo (FARC-EP / FARC) in Colombia prevented extraction from 1989-1999. The FARC was a socialist-populist guerilla movement involved in the armed conflicts in Colombia that prevented extraction by advocating for peasant rights. This study is indicative of the importance of extractive institutions, populism, and violence on environmentalism. With the current surge of conflict and neo-populism, we can better understand how these political influences may result in biophysical changes.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Autumn’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Charlotte Pearson

Your Brain on Music: The Relationship Between Musical Preference, Musical Performance and Executive Function


Charlotte Pearson grew up in New Orleans, U.S., Shanghai, China and Bangalore, India. She is graduating from Tulane with a Neuroscience major and Chinese minor, and hopes to combine the two through international medical work. At Tulane, Charlotte has been involved as a Community Engagement Advocate through the Center for Public Service, an undergraduate researcher of music and the mind in Dr. Colombo’s lab and President of Rotaract Service Club. She also serves as a research assistant in Dr. Yue’s lab in the LSUHSC Physiology department, where she investigates hypertension and chronic nicotine use. Her fascination for music and neuroscience led her to the work of her thesis on musical complexity preferences and executive function.

Project Abstract

This study investigates whether complexity preferences in music correlate with rhythmic and melodic musical aptitude, as well as working memory and inhibitory control. Preference for complexity is a new consideration in neurological music studies, and has not yet been related to performance on music tasks. Complexity is defined by frequency predictability, number of events, harmony, syncopation, variability of melody, and number of instruments. A study by Güçlütürk and van Lier (2019) found that men prefer music more complex music than women do. This study was replicated to see whether we can observe this gender difference. We hypothesized that preference for higher complexity in music correlates with better scores on both rhythmic and melodic musical tasks. We further hypothesized that higher musical aptitude scores correlate with better inhibitory control and working memory.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Charlotte’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Emmanuelle "Emma" Rosenthal

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325: Symbolic or Substantial?


Emma Rosenthal grew up in Portland, Oregon, with two brothers and a series of loving dogs. In her free time, she enjoys learning new songs on the ukulele, listening to crime podcasts, and spending time outdoors. She became interested in women’s roles in conflict after participating in the Mandel-Palagye Program for Middle East Peace in Jerusalem and Amman. In June, Emma is joining the Peace Corps as a Health Extension Volunteer in Benin.

Project Abstract

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR1325) aims to increase women’s participation in international conflict mediation, but scholars critique the effectiveness of its implementation. By comparing two cases in Kenya and South Sudan, Rosenthal argues that women’s participation in formal peace processes is necessary, but not the only platform of action available. Can women effect change beyond the negotiating tables that have historically excluded them? Should the UN be focusing on Track 1 inclusion or bridge the gaps between existing grassroots women’s movements and official negotiation at the table?

Comments or Questions? Respond to Emma’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Gabriella Zimbalist

Dictatorship Legacies: The Lasting Influence of Pinochet Era Policies in Chile


Ella Zimbalist grew up in Northampton, MA. She is graduating from Tulane University with a major in Political Science and Social Policy and Practice and a minor in Latin American Studies. During her time at Tulane she has been involved as a Community Engagement Advocate through the Center of Public Service, and conducted research on descriptive representation of women in the Chilean government with visiting professor Tiffany Barnes. While studying abroad in Chile she became interested in researching the connection between current social mobilizations and the lasting influence of the military dictatorship. She will be working as a field organizer for Organizing Together 2020 during the 2020 presidential election, and hopes to work in public policy.

Project Abstract

On October 18th, 2019 Chileans took to the streets to protest metro fare increases. The sustained protests since the 18th aren’t just about metro prices, they are calling for structural reforms and a break from the three-decade long shadow of the dictatorship. The slogan of these protests has been “Chile woke up.” The protestors have had enough of Chile’s acute inequality, high prices, low wages, and privatized pensions. Part of the protestors’ demands is replacing the constitution that was created during the dictatorship and provides a legal basis for the neoliberal economic model. While the protests are an accumulation of decades of deep-rooted inequality, for the rest of the world that has applauded Chile for its democratic stability and economic growth, the current unrest may come as a surprise. How is it that a country so lauded for its economic success can be experiencing such discontent? This thesis seeks to put the current mobilization into context by exploring relevant and changing social policies and their impact. The research indicates that the balance of power that was solidified during the transition to democracy and remains today has successfully limited significant departure from dictatorship era policies.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Ella’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Lora Starr

Representations of Nationalism: Symbols, Exhibitions, and Italian Identity


Lora grew up in Ketchikan, Alaska, and came to Tulane in search of new experiences. She is majoring in English, Anthropology, and Italian, and was inspired to pursue her research topic after a semester abroad in Bologna, Italy. She has always been interested in the field of museum studies, and during her undergraduate career she has had the opportunity to intern with the New Orleans American Italian Cultural Center, Bologna Tapestry and Medieval Museum, New Orleans Femaissance, and Tulane’s very own Newcomb Art Museum. On campus, she keeps herself busy playing the trumpet in Tulane’s marching and concert bands, is an active member of Phi Sigma Pi, works as a Resident Advisor for Tulane Housing and as a Peer Advisor with the Office of Study Abroad. In the future she is interested in pursuing a career in museum education, but for now is excited to get started on the next chapter of her life teaching high school English in the San Antonio Independent School District.

Project Abstract

How is a nation made? In our modern, globalizing world, people increasingly cling to a sense of national identity to set them apart from others. National pride and sense of belonging within a larger, state-defined community can profoundly inform how individuals relate to the world around them. As definitions of identity become more and more complicated, this research turns to the proliferation of national symbols and the way that they impact how people think about themselves, their communities, and their culture. Italy makes for a fascinating case study due to its unique position geographically, historically, and politically. Though Italy is very young in comparison to other Western European powers, its continued reinforcement of the idea that the Italian nation is the legacy of the Roman Empire gives the nation a sort of timeless, eternal feeling. Rome, though it may be ancient, it is not static, and it interacts with modernity in increasingly complex ways. In an examination of Italy’s most prominent national museums, this research seeks to understand the construction of a symbolic identity, how a citizenry takes part in that identity, and who may be excluded because of it.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Lora’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Madeline Ninno

Remittances in El Salvador: Economic Decision-Making Among Transnational Households


Madeline Ninno is from Oviedo, Florida and is the daughter of Mark and Sharon Ninno. She is majoring in economics and international development, with a minor in public policy. Madeline has been fortunate to work on a number of research projects while at Tulane, including leading her own investigation of the impacts of international tourism and gentrification on public markets in San Telmo, Argentina, and collaborating with Dr. Bonnie Lucero on research for her upcoming book, Malthusian Practices: A History of Pregnancy, Abortion, and Infanticide in Cuba since Colonial Times. She is excited to present her Honors Thesis, as it is a culmination of her interests in immigration, household economics, and sustainable human development. After graduation, Madeline will travel to Brazil to continue her study of Portuguese. In the fall, she will attend Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs to begin work on a Masters of Public Administration in Development Practice.

Project Abstract

This thesis investigates the uses of remittances, or transfers of money from someone working abroad to friends or family in their home country, among households in El Salvador. One in five households in El Salvador receives remittances, and for many, these inflows serve as a vital source of income to support basic needs. This Honors Thesis seeks to answer two questions: Do households in El Salvador that receive remittances demonstrate different saving and consumption behaviors than those that do not? Additionally, within the population that does receive remittances, does the amount of the remittances received determine the magnitude of the change in household saving and consumption? In general, the thesis aims to understand the relationship between remittance inflows and household characteristics, looking at how the two influence each other and what effect their relationship has on the economic situation of El Salvador. By examining both qualitative and quantitative sources, this thesis is able to understand the economic and social factors that affect transnational households’ uses of remittances. Using the Encuesta de Hogares de Propósitos Múltiples, a household survey conducted by the Salvadoran government, and secondary interview sources, this thesis finds that remittance receiving households tend to spend a greater proportion of their income than their peers and that a variety of factors, including gender and emotional connections, affect how remittances are used.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Madeline’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Maya Crain

Implementation Model for Service-Learning Programs in Institutions of Higher Education


Maya Crain is a Public Health and Sociology double major from South Pasadena, California. During her time at Tulane and in New Orleans, she has been drawn to the social determinants of health and what puts certain groups at risk over others. She is an intern at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum where she works to educate the public on the history of pharmacology and disease in New Orleans. Maya has been a Community Service Fellow through Tulane’s Center for Public Service since her Freshman year through which she volunteered at The Bright School, a fully inclusive pre-school for children with communicative disabilities. It was through her involvement in this fellowship where she began to question the effects community service and volunteerism can have on a community from an institutional level. She has worked hard with the Community Service Fellowship to ensure meaningful, thoughtful service efforts that promote sustainable and productive relationships. This continuous work during her time at Tulane is what inspired her independent research towards developing a replicable implementation model for service-learning programs at universities and colleges across the country that takes into account the needs and perspectives of the community partners the university aims to serve.

Project Abstract

Service-learning programs within institutions of higher education are typically reviewed in literature as a positive educational experience for students and as valuable to include in a course curriculum. However, while service-learning programs can be meaningful and productive in the educational experience they can also prove to be problematic, self-serving, and ineffective. There is limited research on the negative components and effects of service-learning in regards to their impact on the community partner organizations universities claim they are aiming to serve through their program. It is important that community partners are included in the conversation when discussing the impact and overall success of service-learning programs. Without creating a communicative relationship with community organizations, universities are unable to create a program that has mutually beneficial aspects between the institution, the students, and the community. This research aims to understand how universities and colleges can best implement service-learning programs in their institution in order to have a successful, meaningful relationship with the community organizations they are serving by incorporating feedback from community partners.

Through reviewing secondary sources and sending out evaluative surveys to community partners of service-learning programs at Tulane University, Elon University, and Northeastern University I was able to create a replicable implementation model for institutions of higher education to use as a tool when creating service-learning programs. These three universities have well known, nationally ranked service-learning programs and had a general list of community partners publicized on the university’s website that were contacted directly through email.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Maya’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Maya David

The Expected and Unexpected Effects of Natural Disasters on Maternal and Child Health


Maya David was born in Haifa, Israel and grew up in Hollywood, Florida. She is graduating Tulane with a major in Neuroscience and a minor in English. At Tulane, Maya has served as the President of the School of Science and Engineering Student Government (SSESG), conducted research at Tulane University School of Medicine, worked at the Language Learning Center since her freshman year, volunteered with a disaster-relief organization (SBP), and been an active member of Phi Mu. Maya is also a pre-medical student who aspires to work as a physician in areas that have been affected by natural disasters. Her previous research experiences include studying breast cancer stem cells in women, and examining the prevalence of meningioma (a type of brain tumor) in women. After dedicating herself to two projects focused on women's health, Maya wanted to use this knowledge to research the effects of natural disasters on maternal and child health. The research she is presenting here will be published this upcoming September in the American Journal of Public Health for Hurricane Katrina's 15th anniversary!

Project Abstract

This research analyzes the trends in birth outcomes following natural disasters. A literature review was conducted to determine patterns for fertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal death when comparing data pre-disaster and post-disaster. The articles used for the literature review included data from hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes. After inconclusive results, a live-birth analysis was conducted on Hurricane Katrina using 2004-2006 vital statistics data of the Gulf states. This analysis also includes what the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes in the population would have been under varying risk scenarios. The birth outcomes studied for the live-birth analysis are: fertility, preterm birth, and low-birth weight. A reduction in the number of births, as well as, low birthweight and preterm births was seen. It should also be noted that the decline in births was much larger in Black women than White women, and the increased risk required to create a significant increase was generally lower. Therefore, it can be concluded that higher exposure to Hurricane Katrina may have produced a reduction in births among high-risk women in the region rather than increasing adverse outcomes among those who did give birth.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Maya’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Paris Zhang

Deadly Double Mutations: The Synergy of Androgen Receptor Mutations in Prostate Cancer


Paris Zhang was born in Harbin, China and grew up in Sydney, Australia. She graduated Tulane in 2019 with a double major in Neuroscience and English on the pre-med track, and will be graduating in 2020 with a Masters in English Literature as part of Tulane’s 4+1 program. As an undergraduate, Paris was a Division 1 swimmer and holds multiple Tulane individual and relay team records. She served as team captain her Junior season, and in January 2018 she was awarded American Athletic Conference Female Swimmer honors, as well as AAC All-Academic Team for all four years. She is involved on campus through Special Olympics, as representative of the International Student Advisory Board for USG and as a writing coach for the Academic Learning and Tutoring Centre on campus. For the past two years she has worked as a research assistant at Dr. Haitao Zhang’s laboratory at the Louisiana Cancer Research Centre, studying the synergistic effects of hotspot mutations in androgen receptors in prostate cancer.

Project Abstract

This study identifies two hotspot mutations in the genomic sequence of the androgen receptor gene- the T878A and W742C mutation- as potentially oncogenic, or cancer-causing, in its co-occurrence. The androgen receptor is a main driver in the progression and growth of prostate cancer. Current therapies such as androgen deprivation therapy removes androgens in the body to stop progression, however, despite effective initial response rates, almost all patients develop a castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). While the mechanisms of CRPC are not yet clearly understood, early experimental results from our lab indicate that the presence of both hotspot mutations correlate with an exponential increase in the activity levels of the androgen receptor when compared to the wild-type androgen receptor. Furthermore, our results from the lab demonstrated that even when administered androgen inhibitors such as Docetaxel (DTX), the level of androgen receptor activity remains 55-60 times higher than wild-type DTX administered samples. Thus, our study hypothesizes a potential synergy, manifesting in the hyperactivity of the androgen receptor, between the two identified hotspot mutations. This hypothesis was investigated further with an analysis of prostate patient samples from cBIO portal to determine the statistical significance of co-occurrence among these specific hotspot mutations. Finally, this study highlights the need for concerted research in the nascent field of hotspot mutational synergy, both towards identifying potentially actionable hotspots and mapping coincidental mutational patterns.The use of tumor genomic data to target the mutational drivers of cancer cells may be the future of oncogenic therapy.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Paris’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Robin Boch

Earned Media, Populism, and Surprise Elections: The United States 2016 and France 2002 Presidential Elections


Robin Boch is a senior triple-majoring in Political Science, Communications, and French originally from Roanoke, Virginia. Her Honors Thesis combines these three majors and is inspired by a project she began during her semester abroad at Sciences Po Paris. During her time at Tulane, Robin has been involved on campus through Newcomb Senate, the Community Action Council of Tulane University Students, Sigma Delta Tau sorority, Green Wave Ambassadors, and being a Resident Advisor, in addition to the Newcomb Scholars program. She has also worked as an intern for the U.S. Department of State, The Brookings Institution, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. These experiences have shaped her career goals, as well as her interests in global political communications and journalism. Robin is passionate about learning languages, writing, and staying up-to-date on politics, and her hobbies include blogging, listening to podcasts, and photography.

Project Abstract

In 2002, people around the world were shocked and confused when Jean-Marie Le Pen, who had previously polled at fifth or sixth, beat Lionel Jospin, established politician and incumbent Prime Minister, for a spot in the second round of the French presidential election. Years later, in 2016, a similar electoral surprise hit the United States. While many assumed that Hillary Clinton would be the next President, Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote, and therefore the presidency. There is a trend in these cases that unexpected candidates can have common successes, despite the differences in locations, years, and electoral systems. This project examines how the combination of earned media and populism contributed to these electoral surprises. While news articles outwardly discounted Le Pen and Trump, promoting the assumption they had no chance of winning, their focus on issues these candidates had strong positions on, such as insecurity and economics, as well as elements of candidates’ personalities and validity, strongly contributed to their abilities to succeed in their respective elections. Though it is not common, every once in a while, it appears that the news media, without any input from the candidates, have a real impact on election results through their symbiosis with populist movements. This this thesis labels these situations as “pop-elections.” Through a mix of content analysis of 25 news articles from each case and analyzing other key texts, this project examines the U.S. 2016 presidential election and France 2002 presidential election as case studies for how earned media combines with populist candidates and discourses to contribute to surprising election results.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Robin’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Sarah Jones

The Unprotected Majority: Investigating the Impacts of Minimum Wage Legislation on Domestic Workers in South Africa


Sarah Elizabeth Jones is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana, and studies Political Economy and Africana Studies. Through her positions with the Community Engagement Advocates, Students Organizing Against Racism, and as a Resident Advisor, she has collaborated with students to make Tulane an equitable and inclusive campus and uplift the voices of marginalized students. Due to working on local campaigns and volunteering for organizations committed to racial justice and women's rights, she has found a home in New Orleans and will always cherish her time here. She credits the Newcomb Institute, Newcomb- Tulane College, and the Taylor Center for their assistance in making her research project possible. From time abroad at the University of Cape Town and mentorship in the Africana Studies program, she is committed studying the diaspora and exploring the intersections of labor and Blackness. She is grateful for her time with Newcomb Scholars, and believes that the best is yet to come.

Project Abstract

Examining the 2002 South African legislation, Sectoral Determination 7 (SD7), and its political and social implications on domestic workers, the study provides an analysis of labor protections within the domestic work sector. While illustrating the transcendence of apartheid architectures that promote exploitation, the main research area of this study contextualizes the significance of SD7 and the plight of domestic workers in South Africa. The methods used to construct the study will intertwine social and economic theories to express the political and personal impact on domestic workers. Based on the ongoing debates of Sectoral Determination 7, findings conclude that the legislation created pathways for progress and reform, but there remain limitations in the state’s process of intervention.

Due to the presence of these issues 18 years post the legislation’s passing, the study reveals that domestic workers’ voices were not central in the creation of SD7. However, the plight of South African domestic workers remains a considerable model for understanding resistance and activism within a state's history of colonization and inequity.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Sarah’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Sophie Drew

Supertiendas, Hípermercados, y Más: The Globalization of Mexican Food Retail


Sophie Drew is a business management major from New York, NY with minors in Spanish and international development. During her time at Tulane, Sophie has been a radio DJ at WTUL and a chapter member of Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity. She spent her junior year abroad in Colombia and Ecuador, studying business at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá and literature, history and politics at Universidad San Francisco in Quito. Sophie is currently working for two departments on campus: as an administrative worker for the Freeman School Study Abroad and Exchange Office and as a research assistant for Dr. Anna Mahoney at Newcomb Institute. Through her work at NI, she is learning more about gender issues in Louisiana state politics and is helping to plan Louisiana’s first NEW Leadership Institute. Sophie is excited to present her independent study at the symposium, which combines three of her academic interests: retail business, international development and Latin American History.

Project Abstract

This project examines the food retail landscape in Mexico as it underwent major changes from the 1990s to the present. The Mexican debt crisis of the 1980s and a global trend of neoliberal economic policies set the country on a path towards the privatization of state businesses and more open foreign investment practices. Over the following three decades, both domestically- and foreign-owned supermarket chains expanded at a much faster rate than they had in the 70 years prior. This paper analyzes the characteristics of Mexican supermarket industry growth as well as its secondary effects on traditional retail channels, the new availability of certain food products, the changing Mexican diet, and the interconnectedness of culture and food shopping behavior. Using the framework of globalization theories, it also investigates the ways in which Mexican economic policies and the processes of food selling and shopping have shifted their focus from local to global, and from the collective to the individual.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Sophie’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Tanya Isaac

Bacterial Community Analysis of Seven Polluted Lakes in Bangalore, India: The Foam Stops Here


Tanya Isaac was brought up in Bangalore, India by Sarah and Ajit Isaac. She is graduating from Tulane University with a double major in Public Health and Psychology. During her time at Tulane, Tanya has been involved on campus through the Green Wave Ambassadors, Phi Sigma Pi, Global Health Collaborative, Housing and Resident Life, and the Tulane Rowing Association. She is on the Dean’s List and was the recipient of NCI Summer funding, Newcomb-Tulane College grant, and the CELT Award for Faculty Mentored Undergraduate Research. She is a research assistant at the Sherchan lab focusing on applied and environmental microbiology, where she found her passion in the environmental health sciences. Tanya wanted to use the knowledge she gained from the Sherchan lab to research polluted lakes in her hometown, Bangalore for her thesis. Tanya will graduate in May 2020 and plans to move to New York in the fall to pursue a Master of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Project Abstract

This study analyzes the microbial population of seven highly polluted lakes in the Varthur lake series in Bangalore, Karnataka. Unchecked development made Bangalore the center of India’s IT development, which led to a demographic transition. This resulted in a city populated with eight and a half million people whose sewage needs could not be met. Due to increased industrial pollution and poor sewage disposal practices, approximately 60% of Bangalore’s sewage goes into the Varthur lake series, primarily into Varthur and Bellandur lakes causing the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria and opportunistic pathogens. Water samples were collected in December 2019 from seven lakes in the Varthur lake series to determine the level of opportunistic pathogens in these water bodies. Nanopore sequencing of 16S rRNA genes identified several pathogenic bacterial strains such as Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and mycobacterium and industrially important species such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The dominant microorganisms found in the Varthur lake series belonged to the phyla Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Cyanobacteria. Additionally, all seven samples had fecal indicator organisms indicating fecal contamination. The results of this study indicate the need for drastic and immediate control and remediation measures to reduce neighboring communities’ exposure to these harmful pathogens.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Tanya’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Towela Margaret Munthali

The Monstrous Unnatural: Exploring Miscegenation in Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl


Margaret is a Zambian-American scholar who grew up moving between the two countries. After applying to Tulane on a whim, she will graduate this May with a degree in English Literature. Inspired by her travels and experiences, Margaret has spent her academic career studying race, gender, and colonialism in literature and refining her own writing. During her time at Tulane, she worked with the Center for Public Service as a Community Engagement Advocate, facilitating diversity workshops all over campus. Through the Newcomb College Institute, she was able to share her love of literature with high school students acting as Dr. Molly Pulda’s assistant in hosting creative writing courses for women over the summer. After graduation Margaret is hoping to travel the world for a while, before settling into the mundane nature of an existence dictated by capitalist society.

Project Abstract

This study explores Blackness and miscegenation in modern horror. Originating in the early gothic literary tradition, antagonists and specifically monsters are coded as mixed race if not Black outright. As this tradition continued through the genre, interacting and reflecting the racial attitudes of the time, this trend of literary anti-Blackness lingers in the genre up to the present. Looking at the recent uptick of Black horror stories entering the cinematic sphere, we may turn our gaze to the world of literature. While there are few Black horror authors represented in the mainstream, Oyeyemi’s debut work The Icarus Girl explores racial identity through doubling and the supernatural, drawing on many of the anti-miscegenation tropes with their inheritance of an anti-Black politic. As such, the reader is forced to recognize that representation does not inherently equate liberatory or antiracist politics.

Comments or Questions? Respond to Margaret’s presentation on Facebook, Twitter, or Canvas

Gifts from these generous donors has supported the work of our students in the 2020 Scholars cohort

Kylene and Brad Beers Newcomb Scholars Fund: Sydney Sheffield (SPHU '21)

Marjorie Cowen Newcomb Scholars Fund: Sarah Jones (LA '20)

Frances Chesworth Diboll N '20 Endowed Scholars Fund: Lora Starr (LA '20), Maddie Grills (LA '21), Abby Bean (LA '21), Christina McCarthy (LA '21), Catherine Grayson (LA '21)

Marian A. Glenn Endowed Newcomb Scholars Fund: Emma Brick-Hezeau (LA '21), Emma Rosenthal (SSE '20), Grace Slapak (LA '21)

Newcomb Alumnae Association Endowed Scholars Fund: Carly Shaffer (LA '22)

Patricia A. Hurley, PhD Newcomb Institute Endowed Excellence Fund: Riley Moran (LA, '21)

Margaret "Marky" Read Pontius Newcomb Scholars Endowed Fund: Renee Trepagnier (LA '21)

Harriott Bobo Endowed Scholars Fund: Annika Bruno (LA '22), Hadley Sayers (LA '22)

Cynthia Heaberlin Beaird: Sophie Drew (LA '20)

Loretta Loftus: Lakia Williams (SSE '21)

Catherine Newstadt Makk: Fabi Lacau (LA '21)

Carol Wise: Hannah Snyder (SPHU '22)

Sylvia Margolies: Charlotte Pearson (SSE '20)


A special acknowledgement to our Newcomb Scholars faculty, who have contributed their time and expertise to these students and many others.

Dr. Aidan Smith

Dr. Anna Mitchell Mahoney

Dr. Clare Daniel

Dr. Jacquelyne Howard

Dr. Beth Wee

Dr. Michele Adams

Thank you for visiting the Newcomb Scholars 2020 Digital Senior Symposium

With thanks to the staff of the Newcomb Institute, our readers and advisors, our supportive friends and families, and those who have helped make the Newcomb Scholars Program a reality.

Scholardarity, Est. 2010

"Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes." -Maggie Kuhn
Created By
Kelsey Williams


Created with images courtesy of the Newcomb Institute, Madeline Ninno, and Claudia Wolff