2016 Sentinels Fellows

2016 Sentinels Fellows’ names and report titles are listed below.  To read the abstract of each report, please click on the “+” to expand the content areas.

  • a-griffinThe working class and labor history of North Adams is an important part of understanding both the city’s present injustices and its revitalization efforts today. The industrial and capital flight from North Adams throughout the 20th century, particularly with the departure of Sprague Electric, contributed to the city’s economic and population decline, and the city’s working class communities have been hit hardest. Through archival research and conducting oral histories with longtime residents, I explore different beliefs about what constitutes meaningful work in the city today, how these views have changed over time, and how North Adams workers and unions organized for more just work. I begin by situating the worker organizing and the deindustrialization of North Adams in a global context; throughout the 20th century, corporations moved financial and infrastructural capital from New England to the American South and then overseas in pursuit of lower regulations and cheaper labor. Several worker organizing efforts throughout the 20th century sought to better wages and working conditions despite the imminent threat of factories moving overseas. In particular, I discuss worker organizing efforts around the fly-by-night military defense contractors in North Adams in the 1970s and 1980s. Defense contracts were a large but often invisible part of the state’s economy at the time, fueled in part by massive increases in military spending. These factories, similar to those in other deindustrializing American cities during the 1970s and 1980s, suddenly left or went bankrupt in succession, with little accountability to their workers. Former North Adams workers and residents organized to demand just compensation, bring visibility to corrupt corporate practices, and pushed proposals for the reindustrialization of the city which also sought to increase industry’s accountability to local communities and workers. I also discuss some of the recent impacts of Mass MoCa and other arts initiatives on the city and on available work, and the problems and promise of a ‘creative economy’ in North Adams. 

  • There is abundant research that comprehensive, medically accurate sex education has a positive impact on youth health outcomes. In recent years, analysts have expanded on this, highlighting the importance of sexuality education, an inclusive concept that includes not only information on human development and contraceptive techniques but also instruction in topics like consent, communication, and identity. This project will explore the characteristics of effective, inclusive sexuality education programming, while examining the potential of more general wellness programming to help students develop the social and emotional skills they need to build healthy relationships and think critically about their sexual health. I will also explore how local schools and community organizations currently approach student wellness, offering suggestions for expanding on these programs and creating a culture of rights, respect, and responsibility in the local community.

  • During my time as a Sentinels fellow, I worked on two separate projects. The first was an interview project with North County residents eligible for a new program called the Neighborhood for Health (NFH) located at BMC North in North Adams. Through observation and interviews, I sought to understand the experiences of those patients who chose to use NFH, as well as shed light on why 80% of the North County residents eligible for the NFH were declining services. In order to do this study, I obtained approval from the IRB (Institutional Review Board) of Berkshire Medical Center. I enrolled 56 patients in my study, 25% of whom consented to follow-up interviews. I also conducted approximately 100 hours of participant observation. I compiled a report detailing my findings and gave a presentation of the results to the NFH team.

    The second project I worked on was updating a mental health resource guide put out by North Adams Regional Hospital in 2005 (and therefore ten years out-of- date). I did this on behalf of the Northern Berkshire Rural Health Planning Network (NBRHPN). The mental health resource guide I produced was submitted to HRSA Federal Office of Rural Health Policy as one of the NBRHPN’s deliverables for the grant they were awarded through the Rural Health Network Development Planning Program (HRSA-15- 036).

  • V-OyakhilomeThe water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan headlined in April 2014 and many were quick to dismiss it as a classic case of environmental racism. However, the crisis in Flint is no anomaly for poor communities across the U.S. This report compares the most recent, widely publicized, and controversial water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan to one of the most infamous environmental contamination crises in US History located in the neighborhood of Love Canal Niagara Falls, NY.

    Both crises signified a lack of government responsiveness to poorer communities who lack sufficient political voice and representation. The report extends the argument further by connecting in both cases, the ways in which mismanagement by government agencies that have a duty to act exacerbated the issue, attempts at political cover-up, and the reluctance by government officials to provide adequate aid/compensation. My analysis of the two case studies attempts to draw on apparent connections, but also discover more nuanced dimensions that don’t simply discount the water crisis in Flint as only environmental racism.

    Unfortunately it is yet to be determined how race further complicates the speed or likelihood for compensatory redress in Flint. That being said, it is now 2017 and the issue has not yet be rectified.

  • The River Herring fishing industry is one of the oldest fisheries in New England and has played a critical role in the economy and environment of the surrounding region for hundreds of years. River Herring spend their adult life offshore in higher salinity waters and spend their spawning and juvenile development stages in freshwater. Due to their ability to move fluidly between ecosystems, they play a key role in the structure and composition of marine, estuarine, riverine, and lacustrine environments. Recently, there has been a marked decline in River Herring populations, which can be attributed to a variety of factors, including offshore overfishing and being caught as bycatch, degradation and destruction of freshwater habitats, and changing environmental factors within these ecosystems. Fisheries management policies encompass aspects of both economic and social policy because fisheries account for a major source of the world’s protein, sustaining the livelihood of people both nationally and internationally. Policy management practices, both economic and environmental regarding fisheries management efforts, have not improved the low River Herring population stock and are beginning to turn towards protecting river and lake environments through dam removal and improving water and ecosystem quality.

    My project focused on integrating science and policy to analyze and develop further conservations policies implemented in New England. The science portion of my project utilized a three-pronged approach: First, I conducted fieldwork in both developed and undeveloped field sites that were differentially affected by management and conservation policies. Second, I conducted analysis on water quality data through Excel and programming in R. Third, I conducted lab work where I examined the growth rate of River Herring samples from each field site through extracting and reading River Herring otoliths. I researched current fisheries management policies, read reports of watershed ecosystem conservation projects, spoke with policy experts to learn more about current River Herring management. I compared the data I collected to an analysis of current management policies and found that policies that advocate for the removal of dams and restoring the ecosystem to its natural state have proven to be extremely effective for rebuilding River Herring along the eastern seaboard.