Peterson Prize celebrates student endeavors

Peterson Prize winner and nomineesInvestigating rural Peru’s medical system. Studying black holes through a telescope in Mexico. Creating a library for remote schools in Kenya. These projects are a sampling of those accomplished or planned by this year’s nominees for the Lorna Peterson Prize.

Each nominee embodies the commitment to collaboration that characterizes Peterson, who worked at Five Colleges for 29 years, 19 of them as executive director. In all, this year 10 students were nominated from Five College programs, and UMass Commonwealth Honors College senior Samya Stumo was named the winner. Stumo’s work, and that of other nominees, is described below.

(Featured above, from left to right: Imani Marshall, Nate Therien, Eric Poehler, Lorna Peterson, Tom Leatherman, Samya Stumo, Juliana van Roggen, Sara Stoudt, Neal Abraham. Photo: Paul Schnaittacher.)

Samya Stumo in PeruSamya Stumo, UMass Commonwealth Honors College
Anthropology and Spanish; Culture, Health, and Science Program
Project location: Nuñoa, Peru
Program assistant for the Culture, Health, and Science Program
Nominated by: Tom Leatherman, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“Samya demonstrated a level of character, integrity and maturity that matched the very best students at any level I’ve worked with over the course of my career.” — Tom Leatherman

“My fieldwork quickly shifted to examining real people’s experiences when they get sick and go to the health center for their care, as well as their experiences and their efforts to fulfill the intensive requirements placed upon them by these state-supported social assistance programs. My participation in the monthly Culture, Health, and Science steering committee meetings and relationships with faculty and staff members from each of the five colleges have broadened my understanding of how it’s possible to approach a similar topic from so many different angles.” — Samya Stumo


Jemimah Kamau in KenyaJemimah Kamau, Mount Holyoke College
Politics and French; African Studies Program
Project location: Ting’ang’a, Kenya
Nominated by: Kim Yi Dionne, Smith College

“In Ting’ang’a village . . . lack of quality education has negatively affected the performance of Ting’ang’a children on national exams. As a result, students’ educational and career choices diminish and competition for local resources increases, thus breeding conflict. . . . In this project, I will provide access to learning materials by creating the first library in Ting’ang’a village, and the first in the country, to serve a four–primary school consortium.” — Jemimah Kamau

To support the project, visit Kamau's crowdfunding page.


Jessica Owens, Smith College
Dance, FC Dance Department
Project location: Burlington, Vermont
Nominated by: Chris Aiken, Smith College

“For me, making dances and performances is about community: not just the community of people who participate in the making of the work itself, but also the community in which the performance takes place. . . . In the past I’ve done this by engaging local businesses and artists and featuring their products, art and designs in the performance or the production process. My goal is to continue this practice as I move forward as an artist.” — Jessica Owens


Juliana van Roggen in PompeiiJuliana van Roggen, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Classics and Anthropology; Five College Digital Humanities Project
Project location: Pompeii, Italy
Nominated by: Eric Poehler, University of Massachusetts Amherst

 “Using the data Juliana collected, we wrote a paper with another colleague and presented our findings at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. Our paper was successful on its own merits but drew even more attention and discussion because it also challenged the long-held belief that Romans lacked the technology to melt iron, let alone use it in a productive way.” — Eric Poehler

“We’re continuing to interpret the material, and are working on making it publishable in the coming months. As a Five College Digital Humanities Undergraduate fellow, I’m creating an online interactive map that represents our data and research and supports our conclusions. The map will also serve as a companion to a journal article that Professor Poehler, Ben Crowther and I are writing.” — Juliana van Roggen


Erica Keller in MexicoErica Keller, Mount Holyoke College
Astronomy, Five College Astronomy Department
Project location: Cerro La Negra, Mexico
Nominated by: Alexandra Pope, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“The LMT is a UMass-owned telescope with priority access for the FCAD [Five College Astronomy Department] community; Erica’s research project is making an important contribution to the science that we’ll do with the LMT in the future. She has been working with some of the first data from the telescope and her results will be included in a paper to be submitted to a top astronomical journal.” — Alexandra Pope

“As my main research project during the fall semester, I utilized existing data to uncover the effect of an active black hole on the gas and dust measured in distant galaxies. Looking at galaxies far away from Earth enables me to look back in time to see how galaxies evolve and use their gas to form stars.” — Erica Keller


Claudia Mazur, Mount Holyoke College
Geology, Coastal & Marine Sciences
Project location: South Pacific, aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans
Nominated by: Renae Brodie, Mount Holyoke College

“Claudia is one of the strongest students currently participating in the FCCMS program. She has already been selected for several highly competitive science internships, including two at the National Museum of Natural History, in Washington, D.C.” — Renae Brodie

“I will explore the oceans’ buffering capacity and mitigation strategies due to anthropogenic effects on the carbon cycle. Aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, I’ll be a full working member of the scientific team and sailing crew, and will be able to study the South Pacific Ocean through a directed research project. My project will focus on the oceans in the global carbon cycle and their fluctuation patterns of carbon storage.” — Claudia Mazur


Imani MarshallImani Marshall, Amherst College
Political Science; Five College Digital Humanities Project
Project location: Amherst College
Nominated by: Javier Corrales, Amherst College

“Imani has played a decisive role in our LGBT Timeline in the Americas project. . . . Her aim is to figure out whether trends in ‘text sentiment’ help us understand trends in the evolution of LGBT rights in the Americas. This project is very experimental and exciting, and if successful will demonstrate one of the research benefits of our Timeline project.”
—Javier Corrales

“In addition to capturing and preserving data about LGBT activism in the Americas, in its final form the timeline will enable users to analyze data to better understand the LGBT rights movement and political landscape of North America, Central America, Latin America and the Caribbean. . . . The LGBT Timeline in the Americas project is the result of collaboration among faculty members, staff members and students from several Five College Consortium institutions. — Imani Marshall


Richard Carter, University of Massachusetts Amherst
History, Journalism and Middle East Studies; Five College Arabic Language Initiative
Proposed project location: Jordan
Nominated by: Anne Broadbridge, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“Richie hopes to be a journalist and live and work in the Middle East, for which he unquestionably needs good language skills. The Five College programs and the summer study are both part of his plan to acquire the tools he needs to prepare himself to achieve his goals.” — Anne Broadbridge

“My personal interest comes from a desire to bear witness to the full of spectrum of life that exists in the world and share what I see. Part of the job is to get people interested in subjects they would otherwise remain ignorant of.” — Richard Carter


Sara StoudtSara Stoudt, Smith College
Mathematics; Five College Statistics Program
Project location: Smith College, based on work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Maryland
Nominated by: Ben Baumer, Smith College

“Last spring, Sara and a team of five Smith students competed in the inaugural Five College DataFest. Sara’s team, the P-Valuables, won the Best in Show/Best Visualization prize. In their final remarks, the three-judge panel made it clear that the winning team had impressed them with their ability to tell a coherent and meaningful story through the data.” — Ben Baumer

“I’m grateful for the wide variety of classes made available to me through the Five Colleges, as I’m often recognizing concepts and finding connections between my coursework and my current research. The foundations of statistics that I learned at both Smith and in the Five Colleges, from the more theoretical Mathematical Statistics at Mount Holyoke, to the more specialized Bayesian Statistics at UMass, have been crucial in helping me successfully work on my thesis.” — Sara Stoudt


Noemi Linares-Ramirez, Smith College
Sociology; Five College Native American and Indigenous Studies
Project location: Amherst College
Nominated by: Lisa Brooks, Amherst College

“Noemi has helped to reinvigorate the Indigenous student group at Smith, organized campus events and engaged in outreach across the campuses. She has also been a participant in the Five College Native American and Indigenous Studies community, collaborating with other student groups and making herself well known to our faculty members with her energetic academic and community presence.” — Lisa Brooks

“Using an indigenous lens to understand personal history, emotional ties, and social and cultural capital on collective identity, I hope to better understand how these factors affect the collective identity of Indigenous women.” — Noemi Linares-Ramirez