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Up Close with Student Award Winners: September 2018

Sign saying Welcome to the 2018 Lunsford Award Ceremony with shield logo

In this issue, we're spotlighting the winners of the Spring 2018 Lunsford Awards. They will be honored in person at our Awards Ceremonies in May 2019. 

Haley Hodge: Lunsford Award Winner (Spring 2018)

Haley Hodge

While in Lisa Swan's PWR 2 (Comics for Social Justice), urban studies major/art minor Haley Hodge decided to focus her research project on an important and often-ignored issue: the plight of the homeless who live in RV communities in Silicon Valley.  Lisa notes how Haley used the opportunities of the class to create a particular powerful multimodal presentation, which is entitled, "EPA Government's Actions Speaking Louder than Their Words: The Neglect of the RV Community on Weeks Street"; Lisa writes: 

Our class theme explores the ways comics combine art and text to create powerful arguments. Haley went a step further in her presentation by adapting her hand-drawn comic to PowerPoint. Her simple yet iconic visuals showed the complexity of the problem, the working homeless living in RVs, while reinforcing her call to action, East Palo Alto can and should do more to protect these residents.

Haley's commitment to the topic extends beyond the PWR classroom.  House inequity is a topic that Haley has been passionate about for many years; as she wrote in an email, "I’m from Woodside, CA only 15 minutes away from campus and have spent my entire life in the Bay Area where I’ve witnessed a lot of the detrimental effects of the housing crisis which has fed into my passion towards the issue."  Haley has had the opportunity to work on issues of housing inequity through SCoPE 2035 (Stanford Coalition for Planning an Equitable 2035) where she serves on the negotiations subgroup and works to communicate with Stanford administrators and Santa Clara County city officials to have conversations to influence Stanford to develop more equitable and sustainably in terms of housing and transportation.  Her work from PWR 2  also provided a natural segue into her summer and fall internships: "Over the summer I’ll be working at Neighborhood Housing Services in Chicago doing policy research and program implementation and in the fall I’ll be working at the NYC Human Rights Commission on law enforcement regarding housing equity and landlord discrimination."  Haley hopes to continue this work after she graduates.  

In reflecting on her PWR 2 experience, Haley has this to say:

Lisa Swan’s PWR class “Social Justice Comics” gave me an amazing opportunity not only to explore a specific issue which I’ve been involved in and interested in for a long time, but it also gave me the very unique and exciting opportunity of using my artistic skills to communicate something I’ve learned about an urban studies related issue. In this way this class managed to bring together all of my interests and gave me a really powerful new skill that I want to continue to develop in the future and use in the workplace and in my academics. More than anything the class taught me the power of the intersection of art and social justice.

You can view Haley's award-winning presentation here.

Vrinda Vasavada: Lunsford Award Winner (Spring 2018)

Vrinda Vasavada

Vrinda Vasavada was awarded the Lunsford Award for her Spring 2018 presentation; "Fighting Tech Addiction," from Norah Fahim's Language Gone Viral: The Rhetoric of Social Media and Digital Communication. 

Vrinda is originally from Cupertino, California and is studying Computer Science with a minor in Economics.   Her interests in CS move beyond jumping into start-up culture to making a real impact on the world;  she writes, "I'm extremely interested in applications of Computer Science, specifically natural language processing and machine learning, in fields with high impact like healthcare and education. As a CS106 Section Leader and the co-director of SHE++, a Stanford-based non-profit working to empower women in tech leadership roles, I enjoy sharing my passion for Computer Science with others and care strongly about increasing diversity in positions of power."  Vrinda brought this interest into her PWR class, choosing a topic that would let her look at technology usage and platform development through a critical lens:

Coming into my PWR 2 class, I wanted to become more informed about current events in the realm of technology. As a person who often mocks friends and family for using their devices during conversations, I became interested in the reasons behind this trend, and its effects on our society. My research changed my view of the technology industry: not only do designers and engineers hold a lot of power, but also they have an immense amount of responsibility to encourage healthy relationships between users and their products. This understanding has and will continue to shape my pursuits in Computer Science, ensuring that we are truly leveraging technology towards making the world happier and more just.  

Norah writes of Vrinda’s project, “Vrinda’s topic selection was one that stemmed from her professional and personal interests. While she very much believed in the merits of what software developers had to offer, she was keenly aware of the impacts of smartphone usage on daily in-person conversations. Vrinda’s topic is certainly a timely one, as many people begin to realize how much time is being lost to these smart devices. Many of scholarly sources Vrinda used in her research claim that the best solution may be to strictly limit screen time; however, Vrinda made her argument much more tangible and solution-based by arguing that there is an ethical imperative on software developers to design platforms that are less addictive, and that still allow us to make use of the multiple benefits smartphones have to offer. Only a few months after Vrinda presenting her talk, Facebook came out with a new feature that would allow users to limit the amount of time spent on the platform, again, showing how timely her call for change was! Vrinda’s research is especially important, as many of her peers here at Stanford intend to also become software developers who are invested in developing ethical products that better help us connect in a meaningful manner.”

To better engage with the full force of Vrinda's powerful research, you can view her award-winning presentation here. 

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