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HUM Grant Student Discoveries

Six students shared a sampling of their research projects at the 2022 HUM Grant Symposium.

“Undergrad students don’t do research!”

Although a commonly used phrase, through the BYU Humanities Center, students in the College of Humanities have access to significant research opportunities. Seven students from the October 21 Humanities Undergraduate Mentoring (HUM) Grant Symposium shared their findings in their respective majors, showing that undergraduate students do participate in research and learn valuable and applicable skills on the way.

Race and Safe Spaces

English major Madeline Abbe examined race and safe spaces in Pulitzer Prize–winning author Colson Whitehead’s novel, The Intuitionist. Additionally, she highlighted Whitehead’s message about a lack of spatial privacy for women, even in promised places of refuge.

Animism and Oral Literature in African Storytelling

Inspired by his mission to the Ivory Coast, English major Holden d’Evegnee researched Véronique Tadjo’s Queen Pokou and Toni Morrison’s Beloved. He explored how African oral literature traditions and animism apply in different cultural contexts and time periods.

Discoveries in Leibniz’s Monads

Philosophy student Jackson Hawkins believes he found a solution to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s problem of monads, or a simple, indivisible substance. He argued that the idea cannot be approached metaphysically but from a geometric standpoint and that human nature requires the notion of simplicity to understand the notion of extendedness.

Sexism in Italian Soccer

Rachel McDonald, an Italian student, analyzed derogatory language in Italian media toward women in the soccer community. Although she noted the historically limiting accessibility to Italian women’s soccer, she also noted strides made to change that, including the removal of the salary cap and promised maternity benefits. She emphasized the importance of words, stating that they not only change perception but transform reality.

Phonology in Chinese Naming

Chinese and linguistics student Sean Cameron analyzed the phonological characteristics of Chinese names. He sought to answer two big questions: Why has there been no trade research in Chinese automatics (the study of naming), and do native speakers take semantic value into consideration when choosing names? Through using Python and analyzing the names of Peking University students, Cameron discovered phonological features commonly avoided in Chinese naming, including tonal combinations and consonant arrangements.

After noticing the benefits of BYU’s Research & Writing Center (RWC) for students, English teaching students Quinn Blackley and Braden Slater created a local high school pilot program of the RWC. The overwhelmingly positive response from Provo High School led Blackley and Slater to plan to take the partnership to other schools in Utah County and across the nation.

HUM Grant Presenting Students
Presenting students from left to right: Braden Slater, Madeline Abbe, Quinn Blackley, Rachel McDonald, Jackson Hawkins, Sean Cameron, Holden d'Evegnee.


The yearly HUM Grant symposium provides meaningful opportunities to apply classroom knowledge to real research projects. These projects provide a resume-building experience for students to gain valuable experience. To learn more about events and student opportunities in the College, check out the Humanities Center website.