Jessica Ashman in the Dominican Republic

Jessica Ashman ‘24 (anthropology/global affairs) was funded through a Kellogg/Kroc Undergraduate Research Grant to travel to the Dominican Republic to work on her project, “Exploring the role of Cultural Capital in Educational Resilience in the Dominican Republic.”

I have at this point interviewed a total of 36 individuals. Some have been together and others individual. I decided to work on another research question while I'm here that has to deal with the relation of history and identity which is more for my anthropology thesis. About half of these interviews are more anthro-focused than development-focused. However, I've found that both types of interviews have been heavily informing each other. 

It's hard to sum up in a few words what I've learned from the education-focused interviews. What has most stuck out to me is the adamant resiliency of Haitian students or students of Haitian-descent. It has become pretty clear to me that there is definitely a difference in the way students who are black Dominican and students who are of a similar color, yet Haitian, are treated. This is not to say black Dominicans do not confront discrimination at all. However, when they do, this "discrimination" I have been told is in the form of being called Haitian or someone assuming that their language is Creole over Spanish. I've also found that a notable number of young adults have taken some sort of action or are in some form involved in an education-development or youth-development sort of project such as Spanish classes or community work. The other side of my research, the one that asks a question about history and identity, has served heavily to provide context as to why Haitians in particular continue to particularly suffer from a specific type of discrimination and obviously this has huge relevance for the education sector. It's also been really interesting to me to see the understanding of what "good hair" and "bad hair" is and how this connects to educational experiences. I won't go into this right now but I think it's something I'll mention in my capstone.

As for how I'm doing, I'm doing just fine. The biggest challenge has been dealing with being on my own for the majority of the time. What has helped is that I am surrounded by some of the warmest people in the world. I've found Dominicans to be very kind and welcoming. It also has helped a lot to do some tour activities or working on some readings and books. I guess another challenge is the process of finding people to interview. This process has worked out well for me as I have 36 under my belt. However, I've come to realize that the process of finding people to interview can be as energy-demanding as doing the actual interviews if not more.