Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Meet the 2020 LACA Honors Thesis Prize Recipients!

May 15, 2020

CLACS is thrilled to announce that we have selected two honors thesis students to receive the prize this year.

They are Ella Satish and Elisabeth Schifrin. Please join us in congratulating them!!!

Ella Satish (Class ‘20)

Bio: Ella Satish is a first-generation student concentrating in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She is a member of the Engaged Scholars Program and of Brown’s Program in Liberal Medical Education. Ella spent Fall 2018 in Cuba for a semester abroad and returned in January 2020 with a research grant to conduct ethnographic fieldwork for this thesis. Outside of academics, Ella has been a member of the Women’s Club Basketball team since freshman year. She is a freshman peer advisor with the Meiklejohn Program and is also involved with the Brown Center for Students of Color. Ella enjoys working within the Providence community: She participates in the Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring (BEAM) program with the Swearer Center as an after school teacher at William D’abate Elementary School in Olneyville and also teaches K-12 with the Aerie Program at the Wheeler School. Ella works as a teaching assistant in an English-Language Learning classroom at Lillian Feinstein Elementary School in Elmwood. Apart from teaching, Ella is a cervical cancer educator at Clínica Esperanza in Olneyville, a free clinic for the uninsured, and also provides medical interpretation for the women’s clinic. She is very passionate about practicing reciprocal relationships within community engagement and making academic knowledge accessible to community members to work to uplift marginalized groups. Ella was recently accepted for a Fulbright teaching award in Colombia for next year and as an Exceptional Student for the Brown Alumni Magazine (June publication).

Thesis title: Black Isn’t the Risk Factor, Racism Is: The Cuban Maternal Health System as a Model for Improving Care of Black Mothers in the United States

Primary advisor: Prof. Daniel Rodriguez

Second Reader: Prof. Benjamin Brown

Abstract: This thesis examines the structure and implementation of the Cuban Maternal and Childcare Program as a model for improving outcomes and reducing disparities in healthcare for Black mothers in the U.S. It explores three central aspects of the Program—primary care, the collaboration between medical providers, and holistic support of patients—as essential to decreasing maternal mortality and morbidity. Ethnographic fieldwork supports this project’s inquiry in these three elements and their connection to a successful decrease in cesarean rates across the country. Through interdisciplinary analysis, the thesis aims to evaluate the capacity and potential impact that the Cuban healthcare model may have on U.S. Black mothers’ standards of care. The thesis ultimately advances the hypothesis that the Cuban model can significantly contribute to decreasing high rates of Black maternal deaths if systemically applied across the U.S. 

Elisabeth Schifrin (Class ‘20)

Latin American & Caribbean Studies and Modern Culture and Media

Bio: Elisabeth Schifrin is a graduating senior at Brown from Montclair, New Jersey. She is double concentrating in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Modern Culture and Media. These two areas of focus converge in her honors thesis film, a self-critiquing documentary that aims to expose the narrative conventions that shape Western audiences’ understanding of indigenous people of the Amazon. Elisabeth’s early passion for learning languages as well as her connection to her late Peruvian grandmother, who was a middle school Spanish teacher, motivated her studies of Spanish throughout high school. When she got to Brown, classes like The Art of Revolution in Latin America, Pop Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Introducción a la lingüística hispánica expanded her curiosity from Spanish language to social, cultural, and political issues in the Spanish-speaking world. In the summer after her sophomore year, Elisabeth interned in the Peruvian Amazon as the videographer of Alianza Arkana, a grassroots organization that supports indigenous Shipibo people and their efforts to conserve their environment. In the spring of her junior year, Elisabeth studied at Casa de las Americas and La Universidad de la Habana in Havana, Cuba with Brown’s CASA program. Through art and cinema classes both in Cuba and at Brown, she has studied the ways in which culture functions to spread ideas that further revolutions and socio-political change. Outside of class, Elisabeth was the Director of Photography for Brown Motion Pictures’s first bilingual film “Siempre sale el tren”, and has worked as an English conversation partner for international students. Elisabeth also loves dance, singing, writing, animation, dream psychoanalysis, and fashion.

Thesis title: “Proof of Life”: Creative Thesis Project Reflection

Primary advisor: Prof. RaMell Ross

Second Reader: Prof. Erica Durante

Abstract: This project consists of an experimental documentary entitled “Proof of Life” that asks the two following primary questions: Why do we trust documentaries to tell us the truth about people far away? and What kind of representations do we expect to see of indigenous people? Through an intimate and fragmented portrait of the Shipibo indigenous community of Santa Clara, located outside of the city of Pucallpa in the Peruvian Amazon, this pseudo-ethnographic film critiques its own form in order to reveal the blind faith viewers normally place in documentaries. While it earnestly broadcasts messages from community members about climate change, economic hardship, and concerns about the future of their culture, it also continually undermines itself and its maker by revealing how its own narrative has been constructed.