"I applied to the University Scholars program to help fund travels and realize my aspirations to conduct ethnographic field research abroad. USP funding has enabled me to live in Nicaragua for two months. Through this experience, I gained ethnographic field skills and invaluable lessons about culture, development, women’s organizations, and renewable energy. I aim to continue my research about alternative energy sources and to publish an analysis of my findings."
Latin American Studies
Sustainable development, appropriate technologies, renewable energy, women’s organization and empowerment, non-profits, cultures of Latin America.
Academic and Other Awards
- University Scholars Program Scholarship (2011-2012)
- Anderson Scholar with the Highest Distinction (2010)
- Florida Bright Futures (2008)
- Dean's List (2008, 2011)
- Lambda Alpha Anthropology Honors Society
- UF Recurso
- Study Abroad Peer Advisor
Florida Museum of Natural History volunteer docent English Language Institute conversation partner.
Hobbies and Interests
- Music, reading, running, traveling, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, basketball, and animals.
Solar Energy, Women’s Organizations and Rural Development in Nicaragua
My project arose out of two months of research in the rural community of Sabana Grande, Nicaragua, working with the non-profit Grupo Fenix, which focuses on solar energy, and the Solar Women, a women’s cooperative associated with Grupo Fenix. Through ethnographic field observation and informal interviews, I investigated the effectiveness of solar energy as an agent for environmental and social change in the community, particularly on the women in the cooperative. Problems posed by traditional wood-burning stoves in the region include deforestation, health issues, and the high cost of wood. In areas dependent on wood for cooking and heating, numerous renewable energy technologies are available to alleviate these problems, and I investigate one alternative which Grupo Fenix promoted in this community, a solar over project. I analyze the extent to which the solar oven project is an “appropriate” solution to these problems, considering factors posited by the International Network on Appropriate Technology (INAT), such as the perceived need in the community, reliance upon local materials, affordability, ease of operation, and sustainability. Furthermore, I examine the role that solar ovens have played as a central force in the formation and sustenance of the women’s cooperative. I find that through organizing, public speaking, and the construction of the solar ovens, women have gained new skills and experiences. By selling the solar ovens and earning some income by bringing in university students to work on projects, the women’s cooperative has made a small profit. However, outside interests desirous of environmental protection conflict with the women’s primary interests of employment and a constant salary. I discuss the complex external forces which have led to the formation of Grupo Fenix and the Solar Women, where their interests coincide and differ, and the degree of empowerment gained by the women through this process.