2017 Sentinels Fellows

2017 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.

  • This report explores the characteristics and effects of the Wilson-Fish alternative program of refugee resettlement in the U.S. Twelve states currently have Wilson-Fish programs, which bypass state governments by allowing the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to fund and organize directly with local voluntary agencies. Through a literature review, interview with the director of a voluntary agency in Kentucky, and analysis of FY 2014 data provided by the ORR, I conclude that Wilson-Fish programs are superior to state-run programs in several ways: (1) Wilson-Fish programs are more flexible and allow for local innovation; (2) are more accessible to clients; (3) foster intimate personal connections between clients, staff, and bureaucrats; and (4) have a heightened focus on early employment and self-sufficiency. These advantages have a significant effect on employment rates and progress toward self-sufficiency, as shown in the FY 2014 data. A noted downfall of Wilson-Fish programs is their lack of attention to long-term integration achievable through education, professional training, entrepreneurial endeavors, or other efforts that allow refugees to move beyond entry-level employment opportunities. I recommend that the ORR change its statement of purpose, application requirements, and program guidelines to include attention to clients’ success beyond simply reaching self-sufficiency. Due to the understood benefits of Wilson-Fish, I recommend that more states move toward adopting category one or two Wilson-Fish programs.

  • What effect do Berkshire County arts organizations have on the communities they reside in and on the artists who live and work nearby? My Sentinels research — done with Professor Sheppard as part of an initiative by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation (BTCF)  addressed the nuances of this question. BTCF will be drawing upon our research in their application for a grant from the Barr Foundation in Boston, which they hope to use to support local arts organizations in initiatives that have been found to be meaningful and effective. My work included serving on the advisory committee for the project, doing literature reviews about the effects of arts organizations nationally, analyzing data about culture and life Berkshire County, and helping Professor Sheppard write a final report on our findings for BTCF. In the course of this work, I not only learned about what’s going on in the Berkshire County arts scene but also about what could be going on that would improve artists’ and community members’ experiences. As a rising senior interested in pursuing a future in community arts organizations, access to this information helped me to plan an arts project of my own, inspired in part by BTCF’s initiative, as an additional element of my Sentinels work. Next April, this project will culminate in a pop-up “community gallery” in downtown North Adams, with art created by diverse groups from across Williamstown and NA.

  • Lack of accessibility—the ability to make a trip for a given purpose—has long been recognized as an urgent problem in Berkshire County. In a geographical area where it is difficult for conventional public transit to provide extensive service, those who lack access to a personal automobile often lack independent mobility. This is especially true of the senior population, who are less likely to be able to drive, walk, or use public transportation. This report analyzes the state of transportation in the Berkshires, and argues that as the Berkshire population continues to age a growing cohort of seniors will face severely limited mobility. This will likely result in increased social isolation, reduced access to health services, and added financial strain on this group, especially among the "old old" (those 80 years or older). This report argues that volunteer driver programs present the best solution to this growing problem. These programs are inexpensive, scalable, and simple to operate, and can supplement existing public transport services by filling in gaps and providing service to Berkshire County's most underserved groups. Specifically, this report recommends the TRIP program, a low-cost, voucher-based model. With minimal startup costs, the flexibility to serve a broad service area, and an approach based on empowering elderly clients, the TRIP model can reach a large number of underserved residents at very low cost.

  • Forty-four years after Roe v. Wade, federal and state policies continue to undermine the right to an abortion. Legal provisions target providers, institutions, and patients by creating restrictions on who may perform an abortion, imposing costly, unnecessary operating room standards, and limiting the conditions for pregnancy terminations. Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont are far less restrictive than other states in the country. However, the three states treat abortion in different ways. Vermont, for example, does not impose any restrictions at all, but New York and Massachusetts do not allow abortions after twenty-four weeks gestation. This project examines how policies relating to reproductive health, abortion access, and healthcare affect people seeking abortions in the tri-state area. Specifically, I studied access in northern Berkshire County, MA, Troy, NY, and Bennington, VT.  This project provides insight into how rural communities in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York face barriers that come from geographic isolation, expenses, and challenges in finding providers. I examined the statewide provisions that pertain to the relevant topics, visited clinics in the area, and spoke with healthcare providers and staff.  In summary, the region has outstanding healthcare providers, but it is not enough, at the state level, to offer reproductive choices without also ensuring access.

  • Berkshire County is home to three arts-based juvenile alternative sentencing programs run via public-private partnerships: the Clark’s Responding to Art Involves Self-Expression Program (RAISE), Shakespeare and Company’s Shakespeare in the Courts, and Barrington Stage Company’s Playwright Mentoring Project (PMP). The programs have enjoyed considerable longevity and success, and my research examines what structural factors regarding the private institutions themselves help these programs be sustainable. This research has the particular intent of identifying factors that would be reproducible by private institutions elsewhere in starting
    similar programming. The programs’ success can largely be tied to the pre-existing arts and educational missions of these institutions, which lend tremendous advantages to starting a juvenile alternative sentencing program there. These include:

    • the availability of existing educational programming models for youth
    • experienced educational staff and well-developed education departments
    • considerable private and public sector funding and grant opportunities
    • program curricula in line with current best practice in positive youth development- and arts-based treatment models

    Additional structural factors contributing to program success include the scheduling, location, curriculum, and evaluation of the programs. My research also touches on unique local factors in these programs’ development, such as the region’s creative economy and the work of individuals within the organizations and the juvenile court; however, I do not emphasize these factors since their reproducibility elsewhere is limited.

  • I worked as a Sentinels Fellow doing benchmarking research to explore the possibility of local town collaboration in the Berkshires to increase tourism. I examined effective strategies both within and out of the Berkshires and how they could be adapted to fit into the model of these local towns. 

  • By the end of 3rd grade, only 36% of American students can read proficiently (2015 NAEP data) and among low-income students, the rate is 17% (Hernandez 8). This statistic is alarming in and of itself, but particularly so given a recent study revealing that students who are not able to read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely than their proficiently reading peers to drop out of high school (Hernandez 4). Such data indicates that much work needs to be done to promote literacy in elementary school. However, it is also increasingly clear that lagging educational achievement is only one of the critical shortcomings in American public schools. Perhaps equally important is what is now being further deprioritized in the quest to increase academic performance. In the face of the wrenching social divisions and hatred emerging in our country, I have become convinced that education cannot just be about academic achievement; we also need to consider who we want students to become as individuals, community members, and citizens.

    The question I therefore set out to explore with this project was how public schools can incorporate character-building and social and emotional learning into the school day in low-cost, easily implementable programs that are both personally meaningful and academically enriching. I hypothesized that an emphasis on stories and storytelling in elementary school could represent a viable solution by addressing both such character building and academics. After a two-part research process consisting of fieldwork and literature searches, I developed a program model called “StoryBridge.” Designed to bring engaging stories to the classroom and to create a bridge between students’ academic and personal experiences, the StoryBridge model is a simple but powerful way of structuring lessons in the library through storytelling, hands-on activities, and personal reflection. Using multi-cultural animal folktales, I then created a prototype of this model with the mission of building character and community in the classroom.

  • In the past century, the livestock and dairy industry in the United States have undergone a major transformation. Currently, they are heavily reliant on intensive animal farming practices. This trend of consolidation and concentration has allowed for an increase in productivity and efficiency but has brought environmental issues, such as air pollution, soil depletion, and waste management, to the forefront of public policy regarding the U.S. livestock industry. There are also public health concerns such as spread of disease and an increasing use of antibiotics and animal welfare concerns as the number of animals per unit of land area increases.

    In this report, I discuss this transformation and several of the concerns. I provide several federal policies related to livestock and dairy production, such as the 28 Hour Law, Federal Meat Inspection Act, and Whole Meat Act, and specific policies that attempt to address several of the concerns. I then address legislative state trends and highlight policies pending, passed, or failed to pass in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, State of New York, and State of Vermont.

    Moreover, I explore the idea of transparency in farms and slaughterhouses and the history and status of ag-gag laws. I then give a brief overview of the rise of alternative food systems and local foods in response to a discontent with industrial agriculture. In addition, I discuss how there are far too few slaughterhouses to meet the growing demand for locally raised meat, creating bottlenecks of small producers, particularly in the Northeast states and how the number of dairy farms and cooperatives have also declined. Finally, I examine current policies, rulings, and regulations and suggest changes in public policy to address the rise of CAFOs; concerns of the environment, public health, and animal welfare; ag-gag laws and bottlenecks. My research required reading state bills, federal laws, books, newspaper articles, USDA/NASS statistical findings, as well as interviewing with local farmers and a former state legislator/agricultural commissioner.

  • This Sentinels project focused on two objectives: understanding the business development challenges of the Town of Lanesborough and founding the Alhambra Consulting Group, Williams College’s first-ever student-run consulting group. This fellowship, while diverging from its initial premise, allowed me to not only examine the economic environment of Lanesborough but also determine potential avenues for new business growth in Lanesborough and its surrounding towns, understand the political interactions between Lanesborough and its neighboring towns, examine the role Williams College students (more so than the institution itself) play in the Berkshires, and utilize this information to found and shape the Alhambra Consulting Group, a group that will hopefully continue leveraging the resources at Williams to support long-term economic growth in Berkshire County. Altogether, my work with the Sentinels Fellowship allowed me to gain a broader understanding of the mechanics of the Berkshires, which when coupled with my understanding of student life and its challenges at Williams, has informed how I determined the structure and management of the Alhambra Consulting Group.