August 4, 2009

Jayne Miller ’10 Spends the Summer Investigating Water Relief Programs in Africa

Policy studies major writes about her research with Nicole Crain, visiting professor of economics

Policy studies major Jayne Miller ’10 (Bethel, Pa.) is working with Nicole Crain, visiting professor of economics, on research looking at possible water relief programs for Africa. The researchers hope this will evolve into an aid project allowing Lafayette students and faculty to travel to the continent and implement it.

This summer, more than any other, was pure serendipity. From running into a College employee at Wawa and gaining a position in the Division of Communications, to stumbling upon a new group of friends that spans beyond my fellow policy studies and English majors, much has come my way that has made this both a productive and formative vacation. One especially unanticipated interaction led to summer EXCEL work with Professor Nicole Crain.

It wasn’t even a day after my plans had changed for the summer months, allowing me to stay at Lafayette instead of home, when I was offered a position as a student researcher working on something that I’m both completely fascinated with and passionate about. I was going to spend my summer in Africa – at least in a manner of speaking.

I might not actually be venturing to the continent of Africa this summer to meet my project contacts, such as Col. Shannon Beebe, senior Africa analyst for U.S. Army General Staff, but my work immerses me in research on the water-deprived regions of Africa every day, playing a fact-finding game with both water relief programs and general Africa information.

My project emerged from discussions related to the “Managing Water Conflicts in 21st Century” workshop hosted by the Policy Studies program in April. The goal is to bring this information back to the Lafayette community in hopes of one day developing an aid project accessible to students and faculty. While we are in the very beginning stages of formulating something much bigger, I love knowing that I am contributing to a larger cause, planning and plotting a potential trip for future Lafayette students to explore this region of the world, one I am so very curious about.

Beyond looking at the big picture, possibly one of the best parts of this research experience has been working with Nicole Crain more closely than I have been able to in the past. Between exchanging emails and having catch-up conferences to talk about our progress in the Simon Center, I’ve learned much more about my professor on a personal level, specifically that she has been absolutely everywhere I want to travel in the world.

When we aren’t discussing Africa and potential aid projects, we’re chatting about my deep-set desire to spend an extended amount of time in Thailand – something I recently learned she has already done. Every interaction I have with my professor, it becomes clearer to me that this pairing was just another act of serendipity. Moving into my senior year, there is much that I am looking forward to on the horizon. I have a laundry list of goals, countries I so badly want to visit, and this vague notion of how I’d like to live my life – and out of nowhere I’m paired with this person who has been through many of these life experiences already.

As the summer comes to a close, it is my hope that my work on this project leads to something tangible, and that one day venturing to Africa to perform relief work is something really doable for students. It’s been a pleasure to spend my days researching a topic that interests me, especially regarding a region of the world I’m so keen to see. But more importantly than the hours I log performing Internet searches or creating databases to store our work, I’ve sincerely enjoyed getting to spend time with someone I respect, and one who lives life in a way I would very much like to live my own one day – truly a serendipitous summer for yours truly.

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