My undergrad humanities research led me to examine climate change and women’s security

Sophie LuijtenSophie Luijten is a junior majoring in global studies and Spanish, with a concentration in environmental sustainability and social responsibility. Luijten is a Global Studies Leader, a Bailey Scholar, a CFA Social Justice Scholar, a James Scholar, and serves as a mentor for the Campus Honors Program.

She recently conducted research through the Humanities Research Institute (HRI) on campus. We caught up with her to learn more about her experience as an undergraduate researcher in the humanities.

Question: How did you initially get involved with research on campus?

Last summer, I worked as a research assistant at the Safe Global Water Institute to research water toxicity and wastewater treatment in the pursuit of alternative water resources. This was my first time working in a biology laboratory, which was an enlightening opportunity as a student in the social sciences. This spring, I heard about HRI's Environmental Humanities Research Symposium (which ultimately became a journal, "Defining Environments," due to COVID-19), and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to share prior research done for a class. This summer, I was fortunate enough to be granted a Summer Research Grant from the Campus Honors Program to research women’s empowerment strategies in the Global South.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your research project.

My research in "Defining Environments" focuses on the effects of climate change on women’s security in Mozambique. Climate change increases the frequency of extreme weather and natural disasters, which negatively impacts marginalized populations in vulnerable geographies. Specifically, the 2016 El Niño-related drought resulted in Mozambican women being subject to a number of ill effects, including increased gender-based violence and reduced health and educational outcomes.

Q: What drew you to this specific topic?

Last fall, I took a global studies seminar, GLBL 296: Gender, Peace, and Security. For one of our papers, we were instructed to write about the intersection of gender, security, and a global issue of conflict in a specific country. Studying climate change as the global issue of conflict was an obvious choice for me given my interest in sustainable development. I had vaguely known about women's increased vulnerability and empowerment regarding climate change adaptation in Sub-Saharan Africa and wanted to gain a deeper understanding of this topic.

Q: What has been your favorite moment from your time completing this research?

Experiencing the publication process for the first time has been extremely educational, from crafting the proposal to the final stages of copyediting. It felt special to collaborate with a group of researchers to create a polished project, and receiving constructive feedback from various professionals was invaluable. Ultimately, my favorite part of the process would have to be admiring the research of my co-authors and having the honor of being published alongside them.

Q: Any advice for other humanities majors looking to get involved in research?

Make use of the plethora of wonderful resources you have as a student! Read flyers and newsletters; attend workshops, webinars, and conferences; visit career and professional resource centers; talk to professors, advisors, guest speakers, and workshop leaders about their research and opportunities…The list goes on! The world of undergraduate research may seem intimidating at first, but an incredible experience may be just around the corner.

Click here to view Sophie's research, "Climate Change and Women’s Security in Mozambique" as well as other undergraduate research in the humanities conducted through HRI.

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Sophie Luijten