Inaugural ‘Summer Support Scholars’ provides funds for humanities graduate-level research


STARKVILLE, Miss.— Mississippi State University’s Institute for the Humanities announces the inaugural Summer Support Scholars recipients—each receiving $1000 for extended summer research, simultaneously allowing the Institute to highlight graduate research at the land-grant university.

“One of the goals of the Institute for the Humanities is to support research in the humanities—we are doing that for the faculty with the Faculty Fellowship and for the undergraduates with the Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and I wanted the graduate students to have some support, as well,” said Julia Osman, director of the institute and an associate professor of history.  

“I learned from the graduate coordinators that summer is when graduate students have the least amount of funding, and that they have to take on extra work. I hope our student support allows them time to finish projects related to their degree,” Osman said.

The Summer Support Scholars’ research projects will be displayed on the Institute’s website at the end of the summer, providing the public an opportunity to become acquainted with the wide array of humanities related research at MSU.  

The inaugural recipients include:

Patricia McCourt, a native of Bandera, TX, and a fifth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History. McCourt’s project, “‘These Deleterious Drugs’: A Gendered History of Addiction in the United States” will explore the relationship between gender and addiction in American culture during the late nineteenth and twentieth century and its impact on drug policy and addiction treatment. 

“Not only do I examine that ways that medical professionals and popular writers employed gendered and racialized discourses to stigmatize and pathologize addiction, but I also show how progressive reformers—many of them women involved in the temperance movement—managed to further essentialize femininity as they advocated against narcotics. By the mid-twentieth century, Americans considered habitual drug use to be a criminal and thoroughly unfeminine activity despite the fact that less than a hundred years earlier the country’s addict population was mostly comprised by middle- and upper-class white women holding a doctor’s prescription. By bridging the gap between pre-regulation and regulation eras, ‘These Deleterious Drugs’ will reveal that drug policy was both shaped by and helped to inform gender roles in American society,” McCourt said.

Ashley Melchert, a native of the Netherlands, and a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology. Melchert’s project, “Group Identity Formation and Experiences with Colorism” seeks to gain an understanding of the influence of colorism on group identity formation. 

“With this project, I aim to contribute to the growing body of colorism literature, by providing insights in the working of colorism in Europe, specifically the Netherlands, in light of its colonial legacy and in particular the relationship with former colony Suriname. My goal is to take on a transnational and intersectional approach in working towards decolonial scholarship. Those colonial ties and that colonial legacy impact people’s understandings of who they are and what their identities mean to them. This means that the history surrounding the themes that I touch on is extremely important in guiding my research. I see this project as a collective endeavor shaped by group conversations, in the form of focus groups, and strengthened by in-depth interviews. Given my focus on group identity formation, as well as capturing the group dynamics of my participants, face-to-face focus groups are what I am striving for. Ultimately, I would love for this project to contribute to our collective healing,” Melchert said.

Jackie Perkins, a native of Michigan City, IN, is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History. Perkins’s project, “Pursuing Maps: Locating the Transformation Inside the Lines,” aims to acquire copies of maps of urban public parks held at the Chicago Public Library that show the transformation of Chicago parkland from 1834 to the modern day. 

“The funds provided by this summer support program will allow for the purchase of physical and digital copies of the maps which can only be viewed in-person or through the purchase of a copy. The copies will then allow me to produce an essay detailing how the maps from the Chicago Public Library provide previously unexplored details about urban park building at the turn of the twentieth century. The overall goal of the project is not only the purchase of these copies but also to create an opportunity for me to familiarize myself with using architectural and survey maps in an academic essay,” Perkins said.

Part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Institute for the Humanities promotes research, scholarship and creative performances in the humanistic disciplines and raises their visibility, both within Mississippi State University and the wider community. 

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