UO Student Awarded the Inaugural Jane Higdon Senior Thesis Scholarship
Senior AlexAnn Westlake is the first-ever winner of the $1,000 Jane Higdon Senior Thesis Scholarship. Following an open competition among UO undergraduates working on a senior thesis on issues related to women and/or gender, the Center for the Study of Women in Society selected Westlake for her research on “Birth Experiences of Women Receiving Care in Private and Public Health Sectors in Valdivia, Chile.” A 4th-year senior majoring in Spanish, Westlake will graduate in June from the UO Robert D. Clark Honors College. She is a native Oregonian who grew up in the Pleasant Hill area.
Westlake completed her fieldwork in summer 2009, doing research in a public hospital and private clinic in Chile. She interviewed midwives and mothers of newborns and observed women, midwives and doctors during admissions, labor, delivery, cesarean section surgery and postpartum care. Westlake will use four focus areas—privacy, care provider, prenatal education, and medical intervention—as a lens though which to examine the differences between public and private obstetric care and will highlight the pros and cons of each. She plans to show how those aspects affect the experiences of the women, the availability of choices for the women and the decisions the women make, and hopes to provide Chilean women with information that will “help them decide where to receive care if they have a choice.”
Thesis adviser Melissa Cheyney said that Westlake “has worked very hard to acquire the skills and background needed to carry out her project.” An anthropology professor at Oregon State University and a certified professional midwife, Cheyney noted in her recommendation letter: “I am both impressed and proud of the richness of ethnographic data she was able to collect in such a short time period and with no previous field experience.” Westlake’s UO academic adviser is Priscilla Southwell, associate dean for Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences. After her graduation from UO, Westlake plans to attend Oregon Health & Science University to study nurse-midwifery.
CSWS awarded honorable mention to Jennifer Bradshaw for her thesis project, “Investigating the Gendered Experiences of Refugees in South Africa.” A sociology student, Jennifer will receive a $250 award jointly funded by CSWS and the Sociology Department. Her academic adviser is Yvonne Braun.
The Higdon Scholarship honors the life and work of Jane Higdon, a faculty researcher at the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU and an avid cyclist who was killed while bicycling on a rural road outside Eugene in May 2006. The financial support for the scholarship is provided by the Jane Higdon Foundation (www.JaneHigdonFoundation.com), which is dedicated to encouraging and empowering young people to pursue healthy and active lifestyles and academic excellence.