Digital Shifts in Language Learning and Assessment: Analysis of French as a Second Language in American University Context


by Sophia Minnillo, 20C Linguistics and French Studies
Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

This August, I traversed the Atlantic and landed in France. Paris, the so-called ‘city of light,’ proved to be quite illuminating for my honors thesis research! I chose to travel to Paris because I had conducted research with a professor from University of Paris—Sorbonne Nouvelle’s Language Pedagogy Department while studying abroad in Paris in the fall of 2018. This professor, Dr. Pascale Trévisiol, showed me the rich history of second language pedagogy research that scholars have conducted and documented in France. Thus, I set off in August to learn more from this wealth of resources and to contribute to the field by collecting data of my own.

When I arrived in Paris, I realized to my dismay that many French libraries and universities are closed for most, if not all, of August. Fortunately, many of the resource centers that I wanted to visit were open at staggered times within the month. I spent the beginning of August studying collections of French as a second language textbooks, which I found at libraries, bookstores, and textbook publishing houses, to investigate their integration of educational technology into proposed curricula. I passed the final portion of my stay at the French Ministry of Education’s educational research headquarters in Sèvres, France. In the organization’s Document and Resource Center, I met with experts on language pedagogy who directed me to their large collection of texts on computer-assisted language learning, also known as technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC) in French.  These texts have proved to be invaluable for my thesis in that they have allowed me to answer my research questions in a manner that expands beyond a myopic, America-centric perspective which I likely would have adopted otherwise.

I am exceptionally grateful to the Halle Institute and the Fox Center for providing me with this formative opportunity, as I believe that this fellowship will be the début of a life-long engagement in global research.

Sophia Minnelli is a senior double majoring in Linguistics and French Studies. Her honors thesis examines the process and outcomes of learning French as a foreign language, with a focus on the presence of technology in learning and assessment. Sophia traveled to Paris in the summer of 2019 to analyze specialized collections of French as a foreign language instructional materials. She also collected evaluations of learner speech to gauge differences in the proficiency assessment of human raters as compared to automatic, technology-mediated methods. Through her thesis, Sophia hopes to answer questions related to bias in proficiency evaluation and to the role of technology in the language classroom.

Poems Without a Hero: A Comparative Analysis of Aesthetic Production amid the Absurd in the Poetry of Anna Akhmatova and Natasha Trethewey


by Kira Tucker, 20C English and Creative Writing
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

As a prospective college student, I envisioned a future as a U.S. diplomat. I spent years taking high school Russian classes, attended a Governor’s School for International Studies, and immersed myself in the arena of global affairs. Amid my “political overload” during the 2016 election, I quickly found my true passions not in news headlines but in the lines of poetry and prose filling my readings. I continued my Russian and Political Science courses, but I also began to rekindle my love for literature as a serious pursuit. From my first introduction to the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, her poetry captivated me—her poignant imagery of love and terror transported me to the height of Soviet life and resonated long after my eyes left the page.

As I read and reread Akhmatova’s poetry, I was driven to pinpoint what made her work so gripping. In my readings about the Soviet era, I encountered Akhmatova’s remarkable critique of the patriarchal tradition, in which she said: “to be a woman and a poet is absurd.” I had to pursue the idea further. What if the absurd could be a frame for understanding the conditions of Soviet Russia? A regime that was violently repressive against its own citizens to the point of illogic. The paradox of making life more livable through art that might get you killed. As a longtime student of Russian language and literature, I dreamt of going to Russia. The potential for archival resources to enrich both the breadth and depth of my analysis was invaluable.

The Halle-FCHI Global Fellows Program allowed me to encounter Akhmatova not only in the archive but memorialized in the physical landscape of Moscow and St. Petersburg. I visited the house where writers gathered alongside Akhmatova to preserve their craft while escaping raids for suspected radical dissidents. I read her original letters and manuscripts, saw the portraits and songs she composed in retreat from the harshness of Communist life. I spoke with literarians whose perspectives illuminated and transformed my approach to scholarship. Moving forward, I aim to channel Akhmatova’s inspiration and harness my own poetic power as I allow my creative work to inform, challenge, and expand the possibilities of my literary study.

Kira Tucker is a senior majoring in English and Creative Writing with a minor in Linguistics. She is completing a senior capstone research project as well as an honors thesis in poetry. In her literary research, Kira comparatively analyzes select works by poets Anna Akhmatova and Natasha Trethewey to understand marginalized women’s resistance within the Stalinist Soviet Union and pre-Civil Rights American South. Kira explores a process she terms lifemaking, demonstrating how artistic practice can offer a means of surviving oppressive social conditions. In her honors thesis, Kira will further develop these themes by drawing on her lived experience and employing the power of her own poetic eye.


Be Ready for Uncertainties


by Junyi Han, 20C History and Media Studies
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

When I first arrived in Myanmar, I thought I already knew exactly what to expect. With a detailed research agenda in hand, I planned to interview five to seven people who were the second generation of Chinese World War II veterans, and I thought I would be able to get abundant first-hand accounts for my thesis. However, my journey was full of surprises. Some of the people that I talked to only had a very vague understanding of the past war. Even though they were willing to help my research, they did not have much to say. Luckily, one of the interviewees was very supportive. He volunteered to drive me to two nearby cities and we visited war memorials and museums there. Through this unanticipated experience, I managed to find valuable memoirs written by war veterans and interview more people than I originally expected. He also gave me the contact information of two Chinese scholars who share similar research interests with me. I ended up visiting them in Yunnan, and they gave me much useful advice on my research. Even though I did not collect a huge amount of interviews, I was able to carry out my research project by shifting my focus from personal accounts to memorial sites.

Looking back at my research trip, I think it is a great adventure. While I did not quite end at the point where I originally expected I would be, I managed to slightly pivot my research and pursue a new direction. This trip allows me to acquire rich primary sources and to establish professional connections overseas. The most valuable lesson that I have learned from my summer experience is that researchers should always be flexible and open-minded. It is very important to cope with uncertainty and serendipity along the way.

Junyi Han is a senior double majoring History and Media Studies. She is currently working on an honors thesis that examines war memories through the case of the Chinese Expeditionary Forces, a military unit dispatched to Burma and India by the Nationalist government in 1942 in support of the Allied efforts against Japanese invasion in Asia. The thesis will answer how and why the war efforts of the Chinese Expeditionary Force started to be recognized in mainland China in the late twentieth century. It will explore how war memories and post-war politics have mutually shaped each other, and thus provide new insights into contemporary Chinese history.





Detrioters: The Rise and Fall of the Detroit Rumor Control Center, 1967-1970

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by Martin Pimentel, 20C History and Political Science
Fox Center Undergraduate Humanities SIRE Fellow

In the summer of 2019, I spent a week in Detroit and a week in Austin researching the Detroit rumor control center with the generous financial support of SIRE and the Fox Center. I had initially intended to travel to Chicago and Washington D.C. as well, in order to write a comparative examination of various rumor control centers across the country. However, after traveling to Detroit in May, I realized that the trove of rich primary sources I had gathered necessitated a focus on Detroit.

In Detroit, I worked in the archives of the Reuther P. Library at Wayne State University. In the archives, I spent most of my time in two collections: the personal papers of Jerome P. Cavanagh, the mayor of Detroit during the period of my thesis, and the Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR), which was the government body that housed the rumor control center. Cavanagh’s personal papers gave me a unique insight into the decision-making processes of the political and community leaders of Detroit during the period, while the DCCR’s collection of internal rumor control center documents provided an unparalleled view of the internal workings of the rumor control center. In particular, the call logs to the center have the potential to provide a valuable set of quantitative data on call rates and geographic distribution that can add a quantitative element to my history of the rumor control center.

In Austin, I worked in the archives of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, which is housed on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. In these archives, I focused primarily on the records of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, whose endorsement of rumor control centers ultimately contributed to Detroit’s adoption of the method. At the LBJ Library, I combed through the records of Department of Justice officials, Federal Bureau of Investigations leaders, and White House aides to ascertain what, if any, role the federal government had in establishing and supporting Detroit’s rumor control center.

These private records were invaluable in pushing my research beyond the current historical record. Archival research is a laborious and detailed process, and progress is only possible through collaboration and financial support. The Fox Center’s financial support of my research and the collaborative environment of the Center itself made an indelible impact on my thesis and me personally.

Martin Pimentel is a senior on the pre-international affairs track, double majoring in History and Political Science. He is currently writing an honors thesis on the history of the Detroit rumor control center. Martin conducted his research in Detroit, Michigan and Austin, Texas during the summer of 2019. Using previously unseen archival documents, including personal papers, internal reports, memos, and call logs, Martin hopes to ignite a historical discussion of a highly understudied institution.

Supporting New Mothers: Factors Affecting Parenting Self-Efficacy


by Darien “Penny” McElwee,  20C Psychology
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

In May 2019, I traveled 22 hours to Cape Town, South Africa to investigate maternal health in conditions of high social adversity. I was drawn to South Africa because of the country’s unique history of Apartheid and its subsequent effect on the socioeconomic status of black mothers today. Through the generous support of the Halle Institute, I studied under Dr. Mark Tomlinson, a professor at Stellenbosch University studying maternal health. I also worked as an intern for the Perinatal Mental Health Project (PMHP) under Dr. Simone Honikman. The PMHP advocates for the integration of maternal mental health services with the healthcare system at large.

I began my research by attending the 9th Annual Rural Health Research Day at the Stellenbosch University Worcester Campus. At this conference, I viewed presentations on recognizing newborns with high-risk of perinatal HIV transmission, the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders across the lifespan, and theories of inequality in health. These presentations informed my research interests by highlighting the unique challenges faced by mothers with sexually transmitted diseases and other health concerns. On the mountain-lined drive back from the conference, Professor Tomlinson discussed how greater interest is being placed on the effects of social inequality on maternal health. Without the Halle Institute, I would not have been able to learn one-on-one from a South African professor studying my same research interests.

I also spent much of my time working with Dr. Honikman at the Perinatal Mental Health Project. Alongside other international PMHP interns, I traveled to a clinic in Hanover Park, one of South Africa’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. I viewed first-hand the under-sourced conditions that mothers in low-income community’s experience. Many mothers go to public hospitals to receive cheaper care. However, there are many patients and only a few doctors, and thus quality of care may suffer. My experience as a Halle Global Fellow allowed me to not only learn more about South African healthcare, but also learn in the hospitals first-hand.

Darien “Penny” McElwee is a senior majoring in psychology and minoring in quantitative sciences. She is currently writing an honors thesis on environmental factors that affect parenting self-efficacy. During the summer, she traveled to Cape Town, South Africa to investigate how parenting ability is affected by factors such as living in a rural community and refugee status. Through her exploration of factors affecting parenting confidence, she hopes to contribute to a better understanding of factors that affect parenting self-efficacy and subsequent child development.

Neighbors against Neighbors: Historical roots of the Donbas War, 1985-2014

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by Daniel Thomas, 20C History and International Studies
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

I am currently researching a very contentious issue in not only Ukrainian politics, but world politics: the roots of the Donbas War, Europe’s bloodiest quagmire since the Yugoslav Wars. While I was in Kyiv, many Ukrainians were eager to tell me that native Donbasians were not responsible for the war; rather, culpability lies directly in the hands of Putin and his “bloodthirsty oligarchs.” Their concerns are justified; the Russian Federation did supply Donbasian separatists with crucial hardware and manpower during the conflict’s later stages. However, it is reductive to state that the Donbas War’s sole origins are in Russia. Pro-separatist political organizations, such as the Kornilov Brothers’ Interfront Donbassa or the popular Party of Regions, were instrumental in sowing the seeds of separatism in the post-Soviet Donbas. Moreover, the economic privations that ravaged the Donbas’ coal-mining and manufacturing industries gave credence to these organizations’ viewpoints. Needless to say, the feedback that I received from Ukrainians made me reconsider my research approach. Perhaps I would find more information talking to people directly affected by this conflict, rather than perusing the paragraphs of some bureaucrat’s memos or party-affiliated newspapers.

The greatest challenge that I encountered whilst in Kyiv had to do with the availability of archival materials. Early on in my five-week trip, I went into the Central State Archive of Public Organizations, expecting to find documents pertaining to the Party of Region’s 1998 pro-autonomy campaign in the Donbas. Unfortunately, the titushky (i.e., hired thugs employed by the Yanukovych administration to stomp out dissidents) got to these documents before I did. The thugs burned nearly all of the party’s documents, save for a few inconsequential minutes and memos. As a result, I had to reshape a significant portion of my research methodology. This upcoming winter, I will travel to Kyiv in order to conduct interviews with individuals who lived in the Donbas during the late 90s and early 2000s.

My thesis advisor, Prof. Matthew Payne, mentioned this opportunity early last Spring. Seeing that I needed funding for my research abroad, I applied for the fellowship as soon as I could. This project has already evolved significantly since the start of this semester. At first, I thought that my argument would rely primarily on archival materials. However, given the aforementioned “issues” that I ran into whilst conducting my research, I have come to realize that this thesis will have to rely on not only archival materials, but the oral historical accounts of native Donbasians.

Daniel Thomas is a senior on a pre-law track, double majoring in History and International Studies.  He is currently writing an honors thesis on the history of Russian separatism in the Donbas, a region in Eastern Ukraine. Daniel conducted his research in Kyiv, Ukraine during the summer of 2019, using archival documents, periodicals, and oral history techniques in order to chart out the various social problems and economic privations that gripped post-Soviet Ukraine. Through the usage previously unused archival documents and personal first-hand accounts of daily life in Eastern Ukraine, Daniel hopes to both contribute to the limited historiography on post-Soviet conflict zones and shed light on the tumultuous history one of the world’s least-discussed conflicts. 

Institutions and Marginalization: Defining Voting Behavior in 21st Century Brazil

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by Aleksei Kaminski, 20C African Studies and Economics
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow

My research question was originally to understand why 29% of the LGBTI+ and 45% of black and pardo (multi-racial) communities voted and support President Jair Bolsonaro. Elected in October of 2018, President Bolsonaro has vowed to end racial quotas, decrease funding on social welfare programs, and repeatedly stated vicious and violent homophobic and racist comments. To investigate this phenomenon, the Halle Institute for Global Research funded my time living in Rio de Janeiro and traveling to São Paulo, Brazil.

In Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, I interviewed conservative members of the LGBTI+ and Afro-Brazilian communities in Portuguese and collected survey data from Brazilian university students which include social demographics, political opinions, voting behavior, and the impact of violence on respondents’ lives. However, my research came with certain challenges while spending my days meeting community members and academics in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Many potential interviewees from the LGBTI+ and Afro-Brazilian communities were afraid to speak on their behalf. This challenge led me to interview only four percent of the identified participants. Fear and opposition are now a central component of understanding conservative voting behavior in the LGBTI+ and Afro-Brazilian communities of Brazil. On the other hand, this challenge led me to further examine the life stories of marginalized Brazilians who voted for President Bolsonaro.

As my research evolves, I hope to explain the fundamental role that news broadcasters and leaders in the LGBTI+ and Afro-Brazilian communities can have in relieving political tensions and addressing mutual hopes and political concerns of polarized individuals within such communities.

Aleksei Kaminski is a senior on the pre-law track majoring in African Studies and Economics. He is currently writing senior honors thesis, “Institutions and Marginalization in Brazil – A Discourse in Shifting Voting Behavior”, the discourse in shifting political attitudes towards populism and authoritarianism amongst marginalized communities in Brazil. Aleksei conducted his research during the summer of 2019 in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil creating online survey polls and interviewing academics and conservative members of the LGBTQ+ and Afro-Brazilian communities. His thesis explores the context of  inequality, sexuality, religion, and racism in 21st century Brazilian politics following the election of current President Jair Bolsonaro.