Students Report on their ORCA Grant Projects

Five students report on the research and projects they completed through receiving an ORCA grant.

ORCA-2016-8-2PROVO, Utah (Oct. 14, 2016)—Each year the Office of Research and Creative Activities (ORCA) sponsors several students and faculty members to work on projects together to further research in the fields that interest them. This year there were five recipients of ORCA grants who conducted research in different aspects of the humanities under the direction of various humanities faculty members.

The first to report was Tamara Thomson, an English major and creative writing minor. Her project entitled The Intersection of Truth, Memory, and Fiction in State Mental Hospital Patient Experience, is a collection of six short fictional stories based on girls she had come in contact with in state hospitals in the 1990’s. During her time working with these institutions there were several accusations of misconduct and abuse on the part of staff towards patients. None of the staff was ever prosecuted and only a few were fired. For her presentation Thomson read one of the short stories entitled Trudy about a girl who visits her younger sister’s grave on a therapy camping trip. Thomson explained,”My stories explore some of these accusations of abuse. They are fiction, but they can raise empathy.”

Michelle Turner, an art history major, was next to report. For her paper Interpreting Art History from Brazilian Modernist Anita Malfatti Turner explored the legacy of Malfatti who was the first modernist painter in Brazil. Malfatti also taught art history at the University of Sao Paolo and most of her notes are still archived there, though no one before Turner had ever gone through and researched the individual lectures. A common theme throughout Malfatti’s work, Turner explained, was that “she felt that the art itself was the process of making truth free.” Malfatti, through her training by both German expressionists and New York fauves, revolutionized art in Brazil and brought modern painting to Sao Paolo.   

The third presentation focused on the mechanics of translation. In his report Topic Adaptation for Machine Translation Joshua Mathias, a computer science and spanish translation major, discussed his project of training translation machines to recognize common phrases. In this process, however, Mathias found that data selection was important and more resources were not always better. Through his project Mathias also found that a machine trained to recognize common phrases will produce a much higher quality translation than standard translation machines.

In her ORCA project Catie Nuckols, a Latin American studies major and minor in TESOL, investigated the trapeze-and-ray motif that has been found on several stele in Guatemala in Mexico. A stele is an upright piece of stone that is usually inscribed or carved in commemoration of death or achievement. In her presentation From Imposition to Integration: Teotihuacan Influence on Maya as Evidenced by Stela 7 at Piedras Negras, Nuckols linked the Maya legend of invaders to the people of Teotihuacan from Central Mexico who were known for their conquests of other areas. In this first stage of her research, however, Nuckols discovered that there is no sign of the trapeze-and-ray motif in the cities of Teotihuacan’s enemies, suggesting that only allied Maya city-states adopted the motif as a sign of camaraderie. Nuckols plans to continue her research on the subject hoping to discover more about “the relationship of the Maya city states as well as their relationship to other civilizations.”

English major Katie Bowman has a fascination with the American Frontier, especially depictions of western culture in performance. Her project An Annotated Edition of the Reminiscences of Nate Salisbury, focuses on the writings of Nate Salisbury, the founder of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and his relationship with William F. Cody who was also known as Buffalo Bill. “Cody was the show, Salisbury was the business,” Bowman explained. For Salisbury, working with Cody was difficult partially because of the showman’s drinking habits but also because Salisbury could have been jealous of Cody’s notoriety. The original title of his unpublished memoir was Fourteen Years in Hell with Buffalo Bill which Bowman found an interesting window into his feelings. “Salisbury’s personal hell was watching the world adore a man he hated and knowing that not only did he construct the man’s fame, but he was entirely reliant on it,” Bowman closed.

—Hannah Sandorf (Art History and Curatorial Studies ‘17)

Hannah covers events for the Humanities Center for the College of Humanities. She is a junior pursuing a degree in art history with a minor in art.

Image of orca grant recipients and BYU humanities undergraduate fellows.

Image from left to right: Tamara Thomas, Katie Bowman, Carlee Schmidt (Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow), Catie Nuckols, Kristen Blair (Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow), Michelle Turner, Joshua Mathias, Andrew Rees and Ben Jacobs (both Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellows).