Spotlight #2: Brigid Mark: Sustainable Development in Guatemala - Advisor: Dr. Corrie Grosse

Since I am studying abroad in Guatemala this semester, I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to begin a research project which will later inform my thesis. I am interested in the connection between social injustices and environmental degradation. We know that women are often affected first and worst by environmental destruction. In order to further unravel this link between women and nature, I am investigating how the attitudes towards women and nature live in the minds of Guatemalans, as well as the origins of these attitudes. The context of Guatemala is particularly interesting because of the influence of both the indigenous and colonizer cultures. My research will provide further evidence for the necessity of working towards resolving social injustices at the same time as mitigating environmental destruction.

My research project relates directly to the ‘Engage Globally’ learning goal. Guatemala has been ravaged by a recent civil war where oppression and genocide marked the lives of indigenous women. Simultaneously, significant political corruption leads to nefarious ties between the government and mining and hydroelectric industries. These extreme mega-projects face resistance since they degrade the quality of the air, water, and land of indigenous Mayan Guatemalans, particularly indigenous women. Within this context, my project traces the link between machismo (sexism) and exploitation of the earth, working within a culture influenced by both indigenous and colonizer culture. Namely, I am investigating how beliefs about women and nature live in the minds of Guatemalans, the origins of these beliefs, and how attitudes toward women and nature are linked. This case study works to inform attempts to surmount social and environmental injustices not only in Guatemala, but in the rest of the world as well.

Not only is academic research informed by current real-world issues, but it can also inform and influence change. Academic research can be a tool used to surmount social ills. Find an issue of interest to you and apply your curiosity. Academic research should not live in an ivory tower. Too often, we use research to our own benefit, to add prestige to our resumes and to get into grad school. Academic research should be more than this. It should be a tool for changing the world. 

What else are you involved in on campus?

Climate Action Club Co-president
CSB/SJU Orchestra
CSB Sustainability Council Student Representative
Intramural Soccer
The Record