New College Student Claire Comiskey Receives Honor to Present at CUR Posters on the Hill

April 10, 2012 — Claire Comiskey, a fourth-year transfer student at New College of Florida, has received the honor of presenting her research on women’s microfinance groups in Rajasthan, India, at the Council on Undergraduate Research’s (CUR) Posters on the Hill event, April 23–24, in Washington, D.C. Each year, the CUR honors the research achievements of 75 undergraduate students from colleges and universities nationwide at its Posters on the Hill reception on Capitol Hill. Each student presents his or her research, displayed on posters, to the members of Congress, congressional staff members, federal government officials and others in attendance. Comiskey was one of only 74 students selected from a total of 850 applicants. She will be seeking Student Research and Travel Grant funding to support her trip.
Comiskey transferred from the University of Wisconsin–Madison to New College in 2009. Her concentration is in international studies and economics, and her research focuses on social and economic justice, especially as it relates to gender and international development. Her CUR poster is based on her senior thesis project in which she examines the impact of women’s participation in microfinance self-help groups run by nongovernmental organizations (NGO) on their economic status and social empowerment. Focusing on rural Rajasthan, India, Comiskey found that the women’s participation in the groups did not make them more money, but did allow them to accrue savings that they valued. Most of the women she interviewed did not feel a sense of social empowerment. The goal of her research is to indicate broadly how women’s microfinance programs can be better designed and implemented.
Comiskey’s range of experience working on social and economic justice issues in the U.S. and abroad is impressive. In her home state of Wisconsin, Comiskey worked at the Capitol as a social policy intern researching and drafting a bill to replace predatory payday loan institutions with microfinance programs. While at New College, she has conducted independent research on modern leftist populist movements in Latin America, and in 2009, she was a discussant at the 2009 ASA Race, Gender and Class Conference and an American Delegate at Northwestern University’s Global Engagement Summit. In 2010, Comiskey spearheaded a project in Bolivia in partnership with a local NGO to create a work cooperative for the production of reusable bags in a women’s prison. During her time there, she also led political and social leadership workshops in collaboration with local feminist groups. In 2011, she worked with nonprofit Workers Defense Project in Dallas, Texas, researching the adverse conditions that immigrant workers face in the construction industry.
Comiskey plans to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology, focusing on the economic sociology of globalization. Her goal is to understand the ways in which shifts in the global economy change people’s lives and livelihoods—for better or worse.
“I hope to engage the communities I will become a part of — locally and globally — in action research, joining the resources of academia with the knowledge, passion and social capital of communities to do relevant and necessary research for social change,” says Comiskey. “I hope to be an individual who both contributes to our understanding of the myriad forces of globalization and an agent that channels these forces for social justice.”
For more information on the CUR and Posters on the Hill, visit http://cur.org/postersession.html.
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