Announcing the Second Annual Lennihan Arts & Sciences Grant Winners

The Futures Initiative is pleased to announce that the second annual Dr. Louise Lennihan Arts and Sciences Grants will be awarded to seven outstanding doctoral students at the Graduate Center. The grant recipients were chosen by a four-person selection committee from a pool of 28 highly competitive applications across many fields.

Thanks to a generous gift from Curtis Wong, recipient of an honorary degree from the Graduate Center in 2016, and a matching grant from Microsoft, the competition honors Dr. Lennihan for her extraordinary service on behalf of students and faculty at the Graduate Center. Six micro-grants in the amount of $500 for research or travel related to the intersections of humanities, arts, science, and technology will be awarded to eligible doctoral students at the Graduate Center each year for five years.

Funding to the following students has been awarded for research or travel related to scholarship at the intersections of humanities, arts, science, and technology.

Param Ajmera, English

Param Ajmera is a doctoral student in the English program researching the seventeenth and eighteenth-century global corporation, colonialism, racial capitalism, and digital humanities. The Louise Lennihan Arts & Sciences Grant will allow him to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria, Canada, where he will participate in the “Introduction to IIIF: Sharing, Consuming, and Annotating the World’s Images” seminar. Ajmera is developing an interactive online publication that curates images of early modern corporate correspondence, secret memoranda, public disclosures, and other early records from transnational joint-stock companies. By showcasing these images within their context of colonialism and slavery, Ajmera intends to create an online space that sparks conversations on the foundational role of imperialism and racism in structuring corporate identity.

Alicia Andrzejewski, English

Alicia Andrzejewski is a sixth-year student in the English program whose dissertation, “Queer Pregnancy on the Early Modern Stage” illuminates how early modern drama is rich with queer pregnancies, pregnancies that fail to reproduce the family in a recognizable form. From rue’s abortifacient properties in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, to late-term abortion in John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, to superfetation and premature birth in The Winter’s Tale, to lesbian pregnancy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Andrzejewski is particularly interested in “problem” pregnancies,​ ​pregnancies that challenge how we continue to imagine and understand pregnancy as a bodily​ experience. As a part of this interdisciplinary project, Andrzejewski looks at how figurative language works in medical texts, examining archival materials from the early modern period—everything from the bestselling gynecological manuals of the time to receipt books, letters, and midwifery manuals written by women. The Louise Lennihan Arts & Sciences Grant will allow Andrzejewski to expand her archival work by visiting the Folger Shakespeare library this summer in order to look at collection materials related to obstetrics and gynecology and the experience of pregnancy in​ ​the early modern period.

Maria Agustina Checa, Music

Agustina Checa is a doctoral student in the Ethnomusicology department studying communicational dynamics in independent music scenes of Latin America. She analyzes social media’s agency to empower marginalized “indie” scenes to challenge traditional pathways to recognition in their countries. Checa is a longtime contributor to Indie Hoy, an outlet of independent culture recognized as one of the most influential music publications in Latin America. She has also worked as an editorial director and producer of other online media platforms such as Revista Maple and Radio Manija. With the help of the Louise Lennihan Arts & Sciences Grant she plans to do fieldwork in Peru to enable participatory action research in Lima’s indie scene. By participating in Lima’s indie scene, Checa hopes to collectively identify problems and outline possible solutions regarding communication and circulation of their disenfranchised music-making. Ultimately, her participatory action research project seeks to further the proliferation and recognition of Peru’s scene throughout broader indie circuits. She also wishes to explore dynamics of collective and individual identity formation to allow a comparative study with her multi-site ethnographic work in Argentina.

Madhuri Karak, Anthropology

Madhuri Karak is a Ph.D. candidate in the Cultural Anthropology program. Her dissertation is an ethnography of an indigenous anti-mining social movement. It explores processes of statemaking in the bauxite-rich mountains of southern Odisha, India to understand how extraction [of an area’s resources] and development [of an area’s “backward” peoples] constitute mutually reinforcing logics of government. Karak’s dissertation is accompanied by a digital repository of archival and contemporary ephemera collected during her 15 months of ethnographic research; this ‘virtual museum’ counters mainstream representations of an ‘out of time’ tribal other. The Louise Lennihan Arts and Sciences Grant will allow Karak to present a paper at the American Association of Asian Studies’ annual meeting in Washington D.C. on how road building, and infrastructure expansion more broadly, is implicated in reproducing backwardness and colonial logics of racial exclusion.

Raj Korpan, Computer Science

Raj Korpan is a third-year doctoral candidate in Computer Science at the Graduate Center. He completed a Master of Science in Statistics from Baruch College in 2015 and now teaches computer science as an Adjunct Lecturer at Hunter College. His research explores how cognitive models of human navigation can be used to build autonomous robots that navigate more naturally around people. This work applies psychological theories of human behavior, state-of-the-art artificial intelligence algorithms, human-robot dialogue systems from computational linguistics, and neuroscience results on spatial information processing to a robot navigation architecture. The goal of his research is to enable a robot to travel alongside a person while it adheres to social norms and efficiently arrives at its destination. This interdisciplinary project will not only result in improved human-robot collaboration but also will build a computational model of how people and robots interact while they navigate together to a common destination. The Louise Lennihan Arts & Sciences Grant will support Korpan’s travel to present his recent results at the annual ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction in March 2018. His paper, “Toward Natural Explanations for a Robot’s Navigation Plans”, will be presented at the workshop on Explainable Robotic Systems.

Helena Shaskevich, Art History

Helena Shaskevich is a doctoral student in the Art History Program, focusing on modern and contemporary art. Her dissertation examines the shifting parameters of the woman’s body at the intersections of medical discourses, health activism and avant garde art in the 1970s. With a specific focus on the utilization of video technology, she attempts to trace the visual strategies employed by feminist health activists in an effort to resist the controlling gaze of medical texts. In print, these strategies are most famously illustrated in Our Bodies, Ourselves, an educational text on women’s health originally published in 1970. This text definitively testifies to the growing primacy of personal experience in women’s health, a philosophical shift evident in a wide range of practices throughout the 1970s. The Louise Lennihan Arts & Sciences grant will allow her to do archival research at the Getty Research Institute’s Long Beach Museum of Art Archives, which was one of the first collecting institutions to devote serious resources to video art.

Kasey Zapatka, Sociology

Kasey Zapatka is a second-year doctoral student in Sociology, who studies housing, neighborhood change, and racial and economic stratification using spatial and quantitative methods. The Louise Lennihan Arts & Sciences Grant will allow Zapatka to attend the 2018 Summer Program at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The mapping and quantitative skills he will hone at the Summer Seminar will help him complete his research into how voters in New York City responded to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent changes to housing policy. Analyzing voter registration files aggregated to census tracts, his analysis will uncover how specific neighborhoods with high proportions of renters and fewer new housing developments reacted to de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan. This research will help frame his larger project, Housing Literacy, which a website that centralizes educational resources and housing research about rent regulation in New York City. Working with tenants’ rights groups and housing lawyers, Housing Literacy will tell tenants’ stories and host important resources like a bilingual annotated lease and a mini-podcast series about key housing issues like how to read a rent history and what to expect in housing court.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
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