The College House Research Program is an interdisciplinary research support program that encourages undergraduates living at Penn to pursue research at all levels and in every field. Under the auspices of this program, which is co-sponsored by College Houses & Academic Services and the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF), eachd College House selects a Research Fellow who is given academic and monetary support to pursue an 18-month research project of their own design. In conjunction with House faculty and staff, the Research Fellows also present informal research events in their Houses and apply to present their findings at Penn’s Annual Undergraduate Research Conference during Quaker Days.
College Junior Ivana Kohut is Harrison College House's Research Fellow for 2016-17. Ivana's Cuban heritage piqued her curiosity about the island nation even before she came to Penn. "I was born and raised in New Jersey, but identify very strongly with my Cuban heritage seeing as most of my family was born and raised on the island and continues to live there to this day," she says. After doing a year-long independent study in high school, she chose to major in Medical Anthropology at Penn and is also pursuing a minor in Chemistry and Hispanic Studies. Her research is centered around healthcare in Cuba, particularly maternity and women's primary health care.
"I thoroughly enjoy studying Cuban women's healthcare, considering that Cuba's maternal healthcare is one of the most renowned, especially in Latin America," says Kohut. "Specifically, Cuba has one of the lowest global infant and mother mortality rates in childbirth, which is absolutely amazing. By studying women's healthcare—especially in the reproductive sphere̦—I hope that Cuba can become a global model for how women receive maternal and feminine care." Ms. Kohut sees an opportunity for Cuba to contribute its knowledge to the global community as US-Cuban relations improve. "I hope that Cuba can become a global model for how women receive maternal and feminine care, especially since Cuba has indeed shown that in the reproductive sphere, 'sí se puede'."
The assistance of the College House Research Program has enabled Ms. Kohut to make two research trips to Cuba, performing policy analysis and using ethnographic interviewing, yes/no surveys, and other research methodologies. "My research trips have been not only informative but community-based which has allowed me to co-create knowledge with participants as a team," she says. "As a side study, I was also very fortunate to conduct a cultural study on the evolution of Cuban lullabies, in which I recorded and analyzed the lullabies women in Cuba sing to their kids and grandkids today."
Ms. Kohut is extremely grateful for the work that the College House Research Program has made possible. "The resources and people in the College Houses and at Penn have definitely been helpful to me in my research. If it were not for Penn I would not have been able to visit Cuba." She finds benefit in more than just monetary support as well: "In addition to the financial support, Penn has also given me a lot of intellectual support and has truly helped me learn how to not only devise successful projects but also how to analyze data, how to conduct ethical research in the field, and how to tell stories in such a way that the telling gives justice to the interviewees and their realities."
Who can benefit from the College House Research Program? Ms. Kohut is clear in her response. "Everyone should be involved in research at Penn! There is literally something here for everyone, and the relationships that you will establish through research, both in the classroom and in the field, will be some of the most powerful you can forge as an undergrad."