Student Research - Providence College Blogs

Summer Study: Finding deeper meaning from student-teaching experience in Italy

Posted by: on June 23, 2016   |Comments (0)|Veritas Grant

abroad pcitureHello Readers!

My name is Meaghan Creamer, and I am going into my senior year at PC as an Elementary/Special Education major. In the fall of 2015 I had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy, as part of the Elementary Special Education Diversity in Education program. Once a week, for an hour, I taught Italian students in elementary school how to speak English. I learned how to instruct in a way that is straightforward with high energy. It did not matter that we spoke different languages, the students were excited about me being there, and I couldn’t wait to teach them.

While I was teaching, I found that my intercultural competence was growing, and I was becoming a cultured global citizen. That being said, I loved the program and wanted to look into it on a deeper level. This is where my research for the summer comes in. Dr. Hauerwas and Dr. Skawinski have been working on a research project titled “Culture, Language and Teaching: The Longitudinal Impact of an International Teaching Practicum,” and I asked if I could help out in any way. Dr. Hauerwas and I worked together and decided I should look into the reciprocal benefits that the program has for the Italian children and their teachers. I will be focusing my analysis on the impact of the American university student on the children’s English language skill and global understanding.

How do I do this? Well, while we were in Florence the children filled out a research questionnaire for Dr. Hauerwas that asked 10 questions about their experience having us as teachers. Of course, they responded in Italian, so the first step was having someone translate them to English. Since that step is completed, I now am taking their answers and using a qualitative research coding system called Hyper Research in order to find patterns within their responses. We take every sentence the students wrote and code it into a codebook based on what is said. For example, a sentence such as “They taught me how to pronounce my words better” would go under the code “pronunciation.” This week, we are establishing the reliability of our coding process. At the end, we will be able to see different patterns and then put meaning to those patterns. There are just about 1,500 sentences that need to be coded, so we are busy!

Throughout this process I also am keeping in mind the paper that will be written at the end of the summer to summarize the results! In order to inform myself, I am reading literature that has to do with service-learning programs, abroad programs, and student learning in the classroom. I can’t wait to see the results! I will keep you posted on how it goes!


Hello Readers! My name is Meaghan Creamer, and I am going into my senior year at PC as an Elementary/Special... MORE

Studying the Influence of Russian Chant on Stravinsky

Posted by: on June 16, 2016   |Comments (0)|Veritas Grant

musicTwo works comprising eight movements, 92 pages, and 785 measures. These compositions, Mass and Symphony of Psalms, are at the heart of what I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. Having received my scores from London, I made a preliminary sketch of the pieces, noting their overarching construction, marking cadences, and identifying the general forms used. I also studied the texts used in the works — where they come from, their purpose, and how often they have been set in the past. Basic sketches like this allow me to get a feel for the piece without getting too bogged down in chord function or voice leading — acting as an aural-big-picture, if you will.

With a basic understanding of the pieces in mind, I traveled to the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library at Yale University, where I began to study the characteristics of early Russian polyphony and liturgical chant. This can be a difficult area of study because the neumatic system of notation used in the earliest transcriptions of Russian chant are still largely enigmatic to scholars. But fortunately, in 1772 the Holy Synod published a book of liturgical chants used by the Russian Orthodox Church in a modernized notational system, which gives us a glimpse of what the original chant notation may have indicated.

While at Yale, I studied some chant excerpts and listened to several recordings of monastery choirs performing liturgical chant. Much like Stravinsky, who was once quoted as having claimed to free music from the bar line, Russian liturgical chants are sung very freely — allowing the words and their meaning to take prominence over any sense of strong or weak beats. This same feeling is established in Stravinsky’s works, notably in the Gloria of Mass, where Stravinsky constantly changes the meter in which he is composing, while simultaneously utilizing sixteenth note triplets and quintuplets that break down the sense of rhythmic stability we generally associate with music.

Though by its nature this project is much more grounded in music theory than in musicology, I have also spent some time at Providence College’s own Phillips Memorial Library — studying Stravinsky himself and learning what he had to say about the composition of his Catholic liturgical works. Though he never specifically said he was looking back to Russian Liturgical Chant, Stravinsky did admit that he was composing these works with the intent of looking back into the past. We can also be certain that he did have exposure to early polyphonic chant, since he was not only a member of the Russian Orthodox Church himself, but also a student of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who was instrumental in the resurgence of traditional Russian chant following a period of expansive Western influence. Additionally, Stravinsky was exposed to several examples of Georgian chant, which he studied and transcribed and which continued to fascinate him throughout his life.

Later this week, I will be continuing to delve into my research, traveling to Rochester, New York to visit the music library at the Eastman School of Music and to speak with a Russian hymnographer in Cooperstown, New York. I look forward to being able to flesh out my understanding of Russian chant and to use that knowledge to continue discovering the influence this tradition had on Stravinsky’s compositions.

Joan Miller

Two works comprising eight movements, 92 pages, and 785 measures. These compositions, Mass and Symphony of Psalms, are at the... MORE

Second Helping: Back for another summer of research

Posted by: on June 1, 2016   |Comments (0)|Walsh Fellows

Hi everyone!

briannaFor those of you who are new to the blog, my name is Brianna Abbott, and I’m a rising senior at Providence College. It’s also my second summer as a full-time research assistant in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Because I’m the resident chemistry and creative writing double major (and therefore the resident weirdo in the science building), this is also my second summer writing a blog for the Providence College website. I couldn’t be more excited to contribute, especially since I’m going to need something to occupy my time when I’m waiting for Max to do his thing in lab.

Max, since I brought him up, is more of a machine than a person. Okay, he’s actually a fluorometer; but I spend most of my time with him because I’m the only student working with Dr. Breen in the Analytical Chemistry Lab at the moment, and I need someone to talk to.

In case you’re wondering a little bit more about him, a fluorometer is a machine that measures a process known as fluorescence. Within an atom, there are different, fixed spaces known as shells where electrons exist. When the electrons are as close to the center of the atom, or nucleus, as they possibly can be by being in the closest shells, it is said that that atom is in the ground state. In the ground state, the atom requires the least amount of energy to maintain its current position. This is because the negative charge of the electrons are attracted to the positively charged protons in the nucleus, so the two particles would want to be as close as they possibly can (the reason that electrons don’t simply fall into the protons in the nucleus has to do with potential and kinetic energy, but we can talk about that some other time). It would take more energy to keep the electrons and the protons apart, or have the electrons exist in shells further away from the nucleus, due to these attractive forces between the particles.

A fluorometer, however, adds this extra energy to the electrons with a light beam. The electrons absorb the light emitted by the fluorometer and jump to a shell further from the nucleus because they now have the energy to do so. This new state, known as the excited state, does not last for long, and the electron soon releases that energy in the form of a photon and drops down to a lower energy level. The release of that energy is known as fluorescence, and that is what Max measures.

I use Max in lab to work on my current project, exploring the validity of the Extended Lipid Hypothesis. I won’t talk too much about it now (I’ll save that for another blog post); but we’re finishing up some experimentation from last summer and, hopefully, we’ll begin to work on getting a paper published while I start my next project.

beachAlthough Max is vital to one of the projects I’m doing this summer, I don’t spend all my time with him. I’m actually split between three different rooms to do research because my previous lab is currently under construction. I’m more or less without a home at the moment, but I’ve taken over my own little wing of the science building. My refrigerator with all of the chemicals I need is located in the General Chemistry Lab, some of my instruments and other chemicals are in the Inorganic Lab, and Max is stationed in the Instrument Room. I don’t have card access to any of these rooms, so I usually start the day by attempting to break into one of the three labs. I promise that I’m supposed to be there.

Then again, I would illegally break into several buildings if it meant that I got to spend another summer in Friartown. Even though I commute to PC during the summer because I live in nearby Wrentham, MA., I spend a lot of my time outside of lab still bumming around campus and the city of Providence because there’s no where else I would rather be. A lot of other PC friars, both students and priests in white robes, are around campus this summer as well, meaning that there will most likely be more procrastination than productivity.

For Memorial Day weekend, a few of my fellow researchers and friends and I hit started the summer at the beach in Newport, R.I., and my legs are still burnt from the experience. The sun, sand, and fudge we got downtown, however, made the trip worthwhile. Who says that lab rats have to live in a cage?

More about our adventures and awkward moments to come as I continue to dance while I work, talk to inanimate machines, and spend another fantastic summer in Friartown! Maybe some science will be thrown in there, too.


Hi everyone! For those of you who are new to the blog, my name is Brianna Abbott, and I’m a... MORE

Summer Study: Stravinsky’s Style

Posted by: on May 24, 2016   |Comments (0)|Walsh Fellows

joan miller picMy first personal experience with the music of Igor Stravinsky was in 2014 when I sang Symphony of Psalms with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Two years later, I’m still fascinated. In an amalgamation of styles and techniques, Stravinsky takes elements of music we’ve all grown up with and reinvents them to conform with his own unique conception of music. For an example, you need look no further than the double fugue in the second movement of Symphony of Psalms, which takes a technique perfected by Bach and puts a stylistic spin on it that is unmistakably Stravinsky.

But what is this personal style? From where did it emerge? Is it fed solely from the Western tradition, or are there other influences at play? An examination of the influences on Stravinsky’s style and music is the focus of my research this summer. More specifically, I will be looking at the influences of traditional Russian Orthodox liturgical chant on Stravinsky’s Catholic liturgical works, namely his Mass and Symphony of Psalms. As a member of the Russian Orthodox church, it is highly probable that elements of Orthodox liturgy would have worked their way into Stravinsky’s style and come across in some of his most spiritually powerful compositions.

To accomplish this project, I will be spending my summer traveling to various libraries and archives in southern New England and New York, where I will be studying the development and evolution of Stravinsky’s style and the characteristics of Russian Orthodox liturgical chant, in an attempt to discover the common ground between the two areas. To develop a better grasp of the nuances of Russian Orthodox chant, I will also be in touch with a Russian Orthodox hymnographer throughout my research. Once this portion of the research is completed, my next task will be to complete an analysis of both of Stravinsky’s works to determine the extent to which they were influenced by Russian Orthodox chant. If I’m correct, there will be substantial crossover in style, which will help to explain some of the anomalies in the traditional Western, tonal theory based interpretations of the scores that fail to fully account for the presence of certain chordal progressions and voice leading choices Stravinsky presents us with throughout both Catholic liturgical compositions.

And so begins my summer research project. Having been an avid admirer of Stravinsky’s music for some time now, I’m looking forward to taking a closer look at some of my favorite of his compositions, while simultaneously indulging my love for music theory and analysis — an opportunity made possible by my Veritas Research Grant. I couldn’t be more excited to begin.


Joan Miller, Class of 2018

My first personal experience with the music of Igor Stravinsky was in 2014 when I sang Symphony of Psalms with... MORE

Job Well Done

Posted by: on April 27, 2016   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research

reegan celebrationHey Everyone!


This week I presented my research at the Celebration of Student Scholarship in ’64 Hall. This was a great experience overall, and it was awesome to see the surprised and intrigued reactions that people had to my research. My topic is generally unknown in the United States so the opportunity to inform others of the new knowledge I have about this topic was fantastic.


The social and political issues that Reinaldo Arenas’ story highlights are just as important today as they were during his lifetime. I am extremely grateful to Providence College for the opportunity to not only conduct this research but also share it with the PC community. Professor Simal and I are going to continue working on perfecting an article to try submit to a review board for publication in the American Journal of Pop Culture. Our article is going to focus on why Arenas chose a pop culture icon like Mona Lisa to transmit his story and base his entire metaphor off on in his short story “Mona.” I am excited to see the finished product (even though it will be completed after graduation). I’m thankful that I have been able to document my research journey here in this blog. It’s been a blast!


Go Friars!


Hey Everyone!   This week I presented my research at the Celebration of Student Scholarship in ’64 Hall. This was... MORE