Hanno ’16, Ashdown Research in Guatemala – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Hanno ’16, Ashdown Research in Guatemala

As a psychology and Spanish double major and Latin American studies minor, Olivia Hanno ’16 will have the opportunity to pursue all of her academic interests later this month when she travels to Guatemala with Assistant Professor of Psychology Brien Ashdown. Hanno and Ashdown will conduct research for two different cross-cultural psychology studies as well as present at the International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP) regional conference.

“The trip will be a huge benefit for my research,” Hanno says. “There are things just inherent to the culture that I am not familiar with, and they’re really important in dealing with the data and explaining the effects. It will definitely be good to get a feel for the culture.”

Hanno and Ashdown will begin their trip in San Cristóbol, Mexico, where they will  present research on religious and gender group identities in U.S. adolescents at the IACCP regional conference from July 28-31. The presentation is based on research Ashdown conducted a few years ago that adds to prior studies that focused on ethnic identity. Ashdown explains that his research expanded on this data by looking at religious and gender group identity.  

After the conference, Hanno and Ashdown will travel to the Lake Atitlán region in Gautemala where Hanno will collect information for her Honors project, which explores the effects of a sex education program run at a vocational school in the local community. The school was established by the non-profit, Amigos de Santa Cruz, which seeks to improve the future lives of the people in the Antigua community. The area suffers from high rates of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual assault and sexual abuse in large part due to lack of education.  

The program, which was launched in 2013, relies on funding from a grant that requires the school to show that the sex education program is having a positive impact on its students in order to continue receiving funds. Last semester, Hanno and Kristin Ressel ’16 researched and presented on data from the first year of the program, which showed a significant increase in knowledge among the students.

“What Olivia and Kristin were able to show with the data from the first year was an almost unbelievably big impact,” says Ashdown. “So it’d be great to show that a relatively cheap and not very time intensive program can make a huge difference. Olivia will be continuing with this research, and we hope it can grow into convincing the ministry of education that the program can be used more widely.”

On the trip, Hanno will have the opportunity sit in on the class and talk with students and teachers, which she hopes will help her gain a better understanding of the culture, the community, and how the program is run. Her ultimate goal, she explains, is to track the progress of the program in order to help the school continue to receive the funding and to start seeing the health improvements that come as a result of the increased knowledge.

“It’s great to see this increase in knowledge,” she says. “But that’s just the beginning. My ultimate goal is to see the health benefits that the program will hopefully cause.”

From Antigua, the research duo will head to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where Ashdown has a collaboration with several universities. Both Hanno and Ashdown will collect data from 100 college students on early parenting practices and how it affects later romantic relationships. The data will then be used in Ashdown’s research methods course in which students collect the same data from college students in the U.S. and compare the findings.

Ashdown is also spending two additional weeks in Guatemala to conduct research with a cohort of five professors from the NY6 Liberal Arts Consortium, including Megan Brown, associate professor of biology. The group will study different aspects of an indigenous community located on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and then compare this data to research conducted in upstate New York. Ashdown will work with the indigenous people to uncover their beliefs about the lake, how they see their role in problems with the lake, and possible solutions to the problems. The research is funded with a grant from the NY6 Consortium.

Hanno’s research is funded by the Cohen Fellowship and the Young Trust Fund. On campus Hanno is a member of the William Smith soccer team, a writing colleague, the president of Psi Chi, and a member of the string ensemble.