Six BB&N upperclassmen participated in the world’s largest online student conference on April 26 by sharing personal research projects they produced as part of semester-long Global Online Academy (GOA) courses.
Among the over 430 students virtually attending the third annual Catalyst Conference this year were Luis Mendoza, Rebecca Mironko (both ’19), Ben Morris, Owen Hakim, Jeremy Tang, and Trevor Donovan (all ’18)—all of whom chose a GOA course that culminated in a graded project that they then uploaded to the event website. There, other students and teachers offered them feedback by posting questions and comments. Luis took the Medical Problem Solving II course, which examined medical case studies, according to the program planning guide. He originally researched education inequality in science for his project but them changed to a project he called “Am I Racist? Confronting Our Racial Biases.”
He said he thought of BB&N while creating the project.
“BB&N prides itself on being inclusive and an extremely accepting community, but as a student of color, I have been in, seen, and heard of situations that were racially motivated,” he said.
He added that his project included data from Project Implicit, an organization that evaluates people’s biases through a series of visual tests, as well as an area for comments and conversation about racial bias. The project aimed to confront these biases and help fix them, rather than call anybody out or send a message that BB&N is not inclusive.
“I wanted to raise awareness that even in the most accepting parts of the world, racial bias still exists. I have it, you have it, we all have it,” he said. “Pretending it doesn’t exist won’t help anyone.”
Trevor and Ben both took Climate Change and Global Inequality, a course that examined how climate change affects different groups of people. They also both created projects relating to natural gas. Prompted by his experience with natural gas leaks on his street in Arlington, Trevor’s project, “Natural Gas: An Economic and Environmental Disaster in Greater Boston,” researched the pervasiveness of such leaks in Massachusetts.
Trevor said he discovered the impact his project had on the people he interviewed.
“I learned that people are actually quite willing to listen to your research and try to make changes in their lives based on the things you suggest,” he said.
Ben said Gasland, a documentary that focuses on the dangers of fracking, inspired his conference project, “A Natural Gas Energy Future: Promise or Peril?” While he originally planned on making a podcast for his project, he ended up creating a more accessible visual report explaining the benefits and drawbacks of natural gas. He also included data collected from students at the school about their opinion of natural gas and conducted interviews with students, environmental studies teacher Matt Turnbull, and Jen Snyder, a consultant at North American Natural Gas.
“It was nice to have an open-ended assignment like this one where everyone in the class could research something that actually interested them, as opposed to being assigned a topic,” Ben said.
For her course called Advocacy, which taught students how to persuade others and spur them to action, Rebecca researched how prisoners at MCI Norfolk currently don’t have access to clean water due to contamination of the supply. She said her interest in environmental issues that disproportionately affect low-income people and people of color motivated her project, “Deeper than Water: Amplifying the Voices of the Incarcerated,” which used the water crisis to highlight the dehumanization of incarcerated people.
“I wanted to show that these are real people who are affected by real issues of public health and human rights, and not just criminals with subpar living conditions,” Rebecca said.
Lizanne Moynihan, the faculty liaison for the GOA, praised the wide range of interests represented in this year’s GOA projects, which she called well researched and action-oriented.
“They showed the dedication that our students have to social justice, environmental, and political matters,” she said.
Luis recommended GOA courses to other students with one caveat: don’t underestimate the workload.
“I remember some people acting as if you had to do almost no work to complete a GOA course,” Luis said. “That is false. It might not be as difficult as a regular BB&N class, but it isn’t a walk in the park.”
Created from and comprised of 76 schools from around the world, GOA is an online platform that promotes students’ global awareness through rigorous courses and excellent teaching, according to the GOA website. To that end, GOA offers 49 electives that deal with topics not always taught in classrooms. As a member school, BB&N allows students to choose from 22 GOA classes covering art, science, history, and interdisciplinary courses. Each semester lasts around four months, and students receive half a credit on their transcript in the field of their class. This year, 22 students took GOA courses.