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Redemption and the Civil War

Posted by: on April 20, 2016   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research

Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War – Nicholas Lemann

Redemption – “the act of making something better or more acceptable”

colfax2The dictionary definition of redemption seems pretty self-explanatory, but how about redemption in relation to the Civil War? A book I read recently dealt with this concept in terms of what happened once the war “ended.” Yes, the quotes around “ended” are deliberate because, after reading this book, I questioned whether or not the war ended in 1865 with Lee’s surrender to Grant in the Appomattox courthouse. After reading this book, it would seem that the war continued on — but in a different and crueler way.

This cruelty can be seen in Colfax, Louisiana, which was the site of what became known as the Colfax Riot. I bet when you first read the name nothing came to mind – which happened to me. It holds significance that cannot be overlooked or forgotten, but most people have no idea what happened. As the picture included shows, the riot is commemorated by a sign that reads, “On this site occurred the Colfax Riot in which three white men and 150 negroes were slain. This event on April 13, 1873 marked the end of carpetbag misrule in the South.”

Yikes. The simplicity with which this even is remembered is kind of shocking — even more so once the whole situation is known. On Easter Sunday 1873, eight years after the “end” of the Civil War, a riot broke out in which politics was the main culprit again. Voting was the actual issue, but underneath lay the tensions that caused it all. After 1865, with the “end” of the war and the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, slavery was abolished and voting rights were given to all men. On the surface, this seemed to solve the problem, but it did not. The inherent racism that was carried out by many White Americans continued, and they simply found other ways to oppress Black men and women.

The Colfax Riot was a prime example of this because it showed the corruption that ensued even after the creation of those amendments. The election for governor of Louisiana was contentious because White, Southern Democrats created shadow governments behind those that were legally in place and created an institution called the White League. Members of this group intimidated and attacked Republicans in the South, as well as Black citizens. The tensions came to a head with the election of governor. Requests were sent to Washington when it became obvious that the White League was going to show no mercy and eventually almost all Blacks that were part of the riot were murdered.

President Grant was contacted, but he did not send troops, and that worried Black residents of the Southern states. The political Civil War had ended, but the social Civil War was still raging on in the South. But, in a way, that was less overt. Many White southerners used intimidation, as seen in Colfax, and eventually loopholes that allowed them to continue to suppress members of the Black population — without technically breaking the law. Redemption then becomes another battle for Black residents, and one that is necessary for their safety in the free country they called home. They did not feel like redemption was being worked toward, and nothing was getting better for them. If anything, their lives were getting worse.

Abby Norberg



Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War – Nicholas Lemann Redemption – “the act of making something better or... MORE

California Love: Chemistry students, faculty attend San Diego conference

Posted by: on April 8, 2016   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research

seanHi, everyone!

I want you to meet my friend and fellow chemistry major, Sean Goralski. Last month, Sean went to the American Chemical Society (ASC) meeting in San Diego, and I want to share with you some of his experiences.

Here at PC, Sean conducts organic chemistry research under Dr. Kenneth Overly. Sean went to the ACS meeting as a representative of Dr. Overly’s research group. (Satyam Khanal went to ACS as the representative from my research group under Dr. Seann Mulcahy.) Sean and the PC group — consisting of three professors, a post-doctorate, and two other research students — attended the ACS meeting from March 14 to March 16. While I was enjoying a few days off from my chemistry classes (which were cancelled because my professors were in San Diego) by catching up on some sleep, Sean was enjoying himself in an entirely different way.

acs-logoEvery day, Monday through Wednesday, Sean and the PC group would wake up fairly early to attend 20-minute research presentations throughout the morning. The presentations ranged from different fields of chemistry and research. Most of the presentations were given by graduate students or researchers at universities, but some presenters were representing pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical company presentations were interesting because the presenters were not able to reveal too much information about their research due to pending patents. In general, though, Sean liked how these presentations exposed him to different areas of chemistry that he has not been very exposed to, such as medicinal chemistry. Since the presentations were short, it allowed him to attend many presentations. This exposure to different types of research was very beneficial since he is, like me, considering going to graduate school.

In the afternoons, there were undergraduate poster sessions, which each PC student presented at. Each day, a different field of chemistry was represented. There were also graduate and post-graduate poster sessions. Sean and another PC student were particularly excited to recognize the author of the solution manual to their Quantum Mechanics textbook. They thanked him for helping them pass that class, which amused him! Sean also saw and spoke with a PC graduate.

So, for Sean and the other students, this was more than just attending presentations and poster sessions. They interacted and connected with other researchers to learn more about the opportunities in the field of chemistry. At ACS, there were even mock interviewers and resume reviewers to help undergraduates prepare for their next step.

Overall, it was a great experience for Sean, who was able to explore the city a little, as well as learn more about chemistry and research. After talking to Sean, I hope to attend the next ACS meeting in 2017 to experience these same things!

Signing off,
Caroline Foley

Hi, everyone! I want you to meet my friend and fellow chemistry major, Sean Goralski. Last month, Sean went to... MORE

Lincoln’s Ascent to Power & Lessons in Leadership

Posted by: on April 6, 2016   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research
  • In February 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln traveled from Springfield to Washington, visiting his supporters and finding his voice on his way to taking the Oath of Office on March 4.
  • In February 2016, I traveled around campus, learned a few things and concluded the month with Spring Break.

lincoln-cattlecarIn my last post I gave you a super brief summary of the Civil War and presented the case that Lincoln faced many problems leading up to his presidency — and even during the war. In this post, I want to talk about some of those.

For the most part, Lincoln’s trip to Washington D.C. from Illinois was uneventful. He stopped in 27 cities and was greeted by crowds of supporters who he spoke to about his plan-of-action while in office. However, one city in particular posed a slight problem for him — Baltimore. You may have heard about the Baltimore Plot, or you may not have. It was a supposed plot to assassinate Lincoln upon his arrival at the train station. His security caught wind of the plan and insisted that he bypass Baltimore — so he proceeded directly from Pennsylvania to Washington. Lincoln did not want to do this, but despite his many reservations about skipping the city, his convoy continued straight onto Washington.

Many people did not actually like this move, and Lincoln was ridiculed because of it. Some newspapers created caricatures of him as a coward, like the picture included, and they said that he was weak and would not be able run the country to the standards the people would have wanted. The people of the Union began to question their decision and his ability to lead them.

Even after the Baltimore Plot was cleared up, Lincoln still faced issues and problems with the people around him. He had cabinet members who made decisions behind his back, generals who did not take action against the Confederate troops, and a nation that was divided and unable to stand together as one. You would think that people would be more inclined to listen to their Commander-in-Chief, but with the tensions surrounding Lincoln’s presidency, it is more understandable why people did not listen. Now, I’m not saying this is a valid reason for not listening to your boss, and his words and actions should not be undermined at any point, but this is the root of all the problems. Secretary of War Cameron essentially went behind Lincoln’s back and tried to create actions that directly countered his ideas and weakened Lincoln’s relationship with his other cabinet members. General McClellan was cocky, hotheaded, and timid — he continually set up attacks on Confederate troops and then failed to attack further and defeat them when he could.

This was Lincoln’s biggest problem area and the one with which he struggled the most. General McClellan was a West Point graduate and extremely knowledgeable of war tactics — much more than me, so I’m going to do my best to explain what was going on. During the war, more specifically the Peninsula Campaign in which the Union forces attempted to take Richmond, McClellan failed to keep the trust of Lincoln. Trust was necessary to win the war, and this is what I have taken away from this reading and learning experience. The war was a complicated political situation that cannot be summed up by one thing. However, trust was something that every participant needed to have. Lincoln’s actions in removing McClellan from his position and appointing General Grant taught me that sometimes you have to make a decision that is not always the easiest or most popular. I know this sounds trivial or makes it seem that I’m diminishing the decisions Lincoln had to make throughout his presidency and the war, but it is true. There are times when I have to trust my own judgment and make an unpopular decision, not at all like the ones Lincoln had to make. His resiliency and ability to stand by what he believed shows me that even through the darkest times, it is still possible to come out on the other side and “win.”

Abby Norberg



Opening fact:

In February 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln traveled from Springfield to Washington, visiting his supporters and finding his voice on his... MORE

Bringing My Research to the Masses

Posted by: on April 4, 2016   |Comments (0)|Undergraduate Research

reeganHey Everyone,

Professor Simal and I presented our paper on Reinaldo Arenas at the Northeast Modern Language Association Conference in Hartford, Connecticut, last week. Our essay was entitled “Mona or Reinaldo Arenas: Negotiating Identity through the Lens of HIV/AIDS.” I personally presented the paper that Professor Simal and I wrote together, and she presented another paper she had written for the conference. We had 10 minutes to present each piece.

I wrote up a focused summary of what our paper contained and analyzed our main points within those 10 minutes. I was definitely nervous, but everyone on the panel and those who attended the panel were very warm, inviting, and respectful. Panelists presented in both Spanish and English and my personal presentation was in English. Professor Simal presented in Spanish (her native language). The discussion that followed the eight panelists’ presentations was cut short because our presentations ran over time. However, the short discussion was engaging, interesting, and drew similarities between the very different topics of all eight panelists to show how auto-fiction can serve independent authors’ purposes.

programThis was a great learning experience and a wonderful way to share some of the hard work that Professor Simal and I have done with others in a community that really appreciates the kind of research we have been engaged in since last summer. Another panelist approached me after the discussion to tell me how intriguing she thought our points were about how Arenas used auto-fiction with respect to his short “Mona.” She particularly liked that we read the story differently than the critic Jorge Olivares.

I am extremely appreciative to both Providence College and Professor Simal for making my attendance at this conference possible. I would recommend going after or taking opportunities like this to any other student in the humanities. To be surrounded by other academics who share your passion from other institutions, different backgrounds, and who speak different languages is a phenomenal experience. Professor Simal and I will now be re-working our essay with the intent to publish a piece in a popular culture journal. I will also be presenting on our essay at the college’s Celebration of Scholarship on April 20th. I am very excited for this next step in my learning process and will keep you all updated!

Thank for reading,

Hey Everyone, Professor Simal and I presented our paper on Reinaldo Arenas at the Northeast Modern Language Association Conference in... MORE

Preparing for presentation on health care marketplaces

Posted by: on March 24, 2016   |Comment (1)|Undergraduate Research

erika may imageHello again! Thanks for checking in on my research blog; I’m excited to share everything that I’ve been up to since my last post. As I mentioned before, Dr. Hackey and I recently published a piece in JAMA regarding the health insurance marketplace, and we decided that we wanted to continue with the same topic but also expand our research.

This year we had the amazing Sabrina Guilbeault (PC ’18) join our research team to help work on our next publication! As a team, the three of us have been hard at work creating and establishing a report card for state health insurance marketplaces (51 to be exact since we included Washington, D.C.). Specifically, we are calculating and developing a report card using four key measures to grade the performance of various marketplaces through the end of the second open enrollment period that concluded in March 2015.

report-cardThe project has been incredibly exciting — I love the fact that I, a student, get to be the one grading others since I am so used to being on the receiving end for schoolwork! My specific role for our research was to serve as data analyst. I really enjoy working with Excel spreadsheets, figuring out calculations by manipulating data with formulas, making graphs and charts, etc.

We submitted our application and grant request for this research project early last summer. Since then, we’ve spent countless hours analyzing data, comparing data, writing drafts, and going through multiple stages of review with our supervisors at The Collaborative. Although the process has been long and arduous, I am happy to say that we have finalized our paper and have submitted it to The Collaborative!

Next on our plates will be to meet with the graphic design group to figure out how we want our graphs, tables, and charts displayed within our work. I am very excited and anxious to see what the graphics will look like — I have a feeling that it will add a lot of visual appeal to our paper and allow readers to better understand our analysis. Most importantly, Dr. Hackey, Sabrina, and I have been getting organized for the public policy speaker series event held on April 1. At this event, our research team, along with two other research teams, will be presenting our work to the executive board at The Collaborative and other prominent Rhode Island public policy figures. I am beyond nervous for this event — I’ve never been the best at public speaking — but I know that it will all go smoothly!

Wish us luck!

Peace, love & health policy,
Erika May ’16

Hello again! Thanks for checking in on my research blog; I’m excited to share everything that I’ve been up to... MORE