Name: Kate Lewis-Lakin ’14
Major/Minor: Politics and Government/English
Hometown: Royal Oak, Michigan
Experience: Theory-to-Practice Grant, “From Jane Roe to Savita Halappanavar: Examining Reproductive Rights Policy in the U.S. and Ireland” June 2-17, 2013: Belfast (Northern Ireland), Dublin, Galway, Cork (Republic of Ireland)
“Our project sought to investigate the debate over abortion policies in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Katalyn and I are both politics and government majors, and this is an issue that is very important to us. …
“We became interested in studying the issue in Ireland when I spent last fall semester at University College Cork, during which time the highly publicized death of a woman in a Galway hospital brought the abortion issue into the public debate with significant force. By the time we traveled back to Ireland in June, new legislation on abortion was being considered in the Irish parliament, the Oireachtas.
“We conducted multiple planned and spontaneous interviews with individuals of various perspectives and involvement in the issue. These included a women’s studies professor, a government professor, multiple pro-choice and pro-life activists, the Executive Director of the Irish Family Planning Association, others involved in crisis pregnancy care or counseling, and a member of the Irish Senate.
“Conducting these interviews taught us so much about the issue, and with each one we also grew in our interviewing skills, better able to tailor our questions to the individual and build off of their unique perspective.
“Nearly as important to our interviews were our observations. We took note of the advertising and propaganda used on both sides of the issue, as well as how different clinics, service providers, and activist groups branded themselves, and their issues.
“We were able to attend a pro-life rally in Dublin and frequently encountered other pro-life displays on the streets. Through all of these we gained a much deeper understanding of the issue of abortion in the context of Irish culture and society.
“Being able to travel to a place, to meet real people, hear about their experiences, and observe the context in which their stories were created, was so incredible. I learned so much about this issue and about the process of research and investigation, which will be highly beneficial to me as I move forward in my education and career.”
Name: Katalyn Kuivila ’15
Majors/Minor: English and Politics and Government/Management Economics
Hometown: Mentor, Ohio
Experience: Theory-to-Practice Grant, “From Jane Roe to Savita Halappanavar: Examining Reproductive Rights Policy in the US and Ireland” June 2-17, 2013: Belfast (Northern Ireland), Dublin, Galway, Cork (Republic of Ireland)
“The whole process of planning and writing a grant, and then making travel plans once you receive funding, is really valuable, and I’m so grateful that OWU has a program like Theory-To-Practice Grants that lets people do this. … I sometimes forget how unique this is to OWU, and there were plenty of times when we were traveling when we had to explain to people why and how we were in Ireland, and I sort of went, ‘Oh yeah, that’s right, other schools don’t just hand out grants to students to do independent research, especially at the undergraduate level.’
“Besides learning a lot of factual knowledge about reproductive rights in Ireland, I was able to apply some of the things I’ve learned in my [politics and government] classes. We learned so much about interviewing, just practical skills that you need to do that – like how to approach a topic, especially one that’s so sensitive.
“The experience offered a lot of chances to compare the U.S. and Ireland, and this really made me think critically about the things that we take for granted as ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ … We also had people contacting us directly that I never would have expected – the Senator we spoke with emailed us back herself!
“This experience really made me think about the way that activists work, how social change is made, and how politics can play a role in all of this. That’s really one of my favorite things about traveling – any time you’re in a place or situation that’s unfamiliar to you, you’re forced to question the things that you take for granted, and I think you always learn something when you do that.”