Academics and Research

Students collaborate on international research effort

Two University of Denver students have combined their talents and academic interests to develop a research project that has allowed them to study different cultures on multiple continents. Sam Estenson, a junior majoring in intercultural communications and foreign languages, and Hannah Parkes, a junior studying international business with minors in art and leadership, have been conducting their research for more than a year.

Their collaboration is supported by a Partners in Scholarship (PinS) grant offered through the Undergraduate Research Center.

“Our study, ‘Cultural Identity Through Geography and Language,’ is a research project focusing on the effects of geography and language on youth culture in our world today,” Parkes says. “It has been influenced by our experiences and interests with international languages and cultures.”

“We were excited with the concept of combining these interests into a project that would greatly expand our experience at the University of Denver and benefit other students with similar interests,” Estenson adds. Their quest was supported by their faculty advisers, Professor Kathy Mahnke and Associate Professor Gabi Kathöfer, both of the Department of Languages and Literatures.

The first part of their project — an examination of contemporary German and Danish youth cultures — was completed in those two countries in summer 2011 through interviews and surveys with youth ages 18–28. Estenson and Parkes looked into how the countries’ shared borders but different languages impacted the cultures of the individuals, their families and their communities.

The following summer, the two traveled to Central America and interviewed people from Costa Rica and Nicaragua. These findings will be compared to additional data from Spain, allowing a comparison of two geographically different locations with the same official language.

The study will continue with research in Japan in summer 2013.
 With their completed cultural research, Estenson and Parkes hope to further their knowledge and experience of cultural identification, sharing their results with the Center for World Languages and Cultures and the Division of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences.

“The research we have completed so far has given me deeper insights into the global atmosphere through the lenses of languages and the cultures of these countries, which are fascinating,” Parkes says. “The research will enable greater relationships abroad and more experience in the global interactions of cultures. I see this as an invaluable addition to my degree from the University of Denver, considering I aim to engage in such connections abroad in my future career.”

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