Mary Buck ’17 unintentionally discovered the seeds of her Honors project in a Reader’s College class on Guatemala. She was studying “the gruesome decades-long civil war Guatemala endured” as well as “their language, their values and beliefs, and their culture,” she says.
After she visited Guatemala as part of a short-term study abroad experience, the Honors project followed, then a graduate school acceptance and now a publication in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology exploring the value of cultural sensitivity in international aid.
Buck says the Reader’s College course “prepared me for what to expect while there and how to behave as a respectful visitor” when she embarked on the life-changing study abroad trip. She realized how important it is to learn about a country before visiting, especially for volunteers traveling to do aid work.
“Being mindful of the values of the country helps short-term volunteers be cognizant so as to not impart their own beliefs and values on the people they are trying to help, because this is where the help becomes problematic,” she says.
On her return, Buck began working with Associate Professor of Psychology Ashdown on a paper that argued that cross-country psychologists (who focus on comparing different cultures) and indigenous psychologists (who are from the country they are studying) should work with aid organizations to ensure the ethical and cultural appropriateness of organizations’ efforts to interact with recipient communities.
“I had started the idea of the project on my own,” says Ashdown. “But after completing the Guatemalan interviews I realized it was going to be a bigger project than I had assumed and wanted to turn it into a honor’s project to get a really great student to help me with it. My first and only choice was Mary.”
Using interviews conducted by Ashdown, who c0-led the study abroad trip to Guatemala along with Associate Professor of Biology Meghan Brown, Buck began transcribing and analyzing the interviews for the project, which would become the article published this spring, “International Aid as Modern Imperialism — What Does Cross-Cultural Psychology Really Have to Offer?”
This fall, Buck will enter the graduate program in speech pathology at Nazareth College, brimming with confidence after the success of her Honors project, which helped her see that not only did she have the skills and knowledge to pursue her graduate degree but, as she says, “that I enjoy challenging myself.”