UO undergraduate to present her research at national conference

University of Oregon student Charlotte Rheingold has been chosen from among thousands of applicants to present a research paper at a national conference that highlights undergraduate research.

Rheingold, a comparative literature major in the Clark Honors College, was selected from more than 3,700 students to take part in the three-day gathering. She will discuss her research into the politics of language translation in climate change research.

The National Conference on Undergraduate Research will be held April 16-18 on the campus of Eastern Washington University. Sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research, NCUR is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity in all fields of study.

Rheingold is interested in how climate change research is translated into the language of indigenous peoples. When researchers work with indigenous populations to learn how their culture connects to their climate, the translation methods they use can affect how English-speaking audiences perceive indigenous peoples.

“Since indigenous groups face some of the most dramatic effects of climate change, they strongly want their voices to be included in discussion for adaptation strategies, but in a way that respects their cultural identity,” Rheingold said. “My research probes the lack of sensitivity to the politics of translation with regard to climate change research and recommends that researchers devote more attention to developing their approaches to translation.”

The idea for her project came during an upper-division honors college course, “Climate and Culture in the Americas,” taught by Rheingold’s faculty mentor on the project, Mark Carey, an associate professor of history and associate dean of the honors college. The course focused on the human dimensions of climate change impacts, particularly for indigenous peoples.

“I noticed during class that many of the studies being examined relied on translation to communicate with indigenous groups, but that they did not discuss the translation techniques that were used,” Rheingold said.

Finding this odd, because translation can be done through a variety of techniques with some more sensitive than others to the values of the original language and its culture, Rheingold developed a line of inquiry that spanned climate change, politics, communication and language translation.

“Charlotte not only did excellent research on the topic of translation and indigenous rights amidst climate change impacts, but she also tackled a new angle of analysis and linked normally disparate fields,” Carey said. “I have not seen these fields linked, nor have I seen this kind of analysis of indigenous information tied together with tight prose and a compelling argument.”

As Rheingold’s faculty mentor, Carey worked with her on every stage of the project. He views the mentoring of undergraduate students in research as mutually beneficial.

“Research is one of the most important aspects of an undergraduate education,” he said. “Conceptualizing, researching, analyzing, organizing, writing, presenting and completing a research project teaches terrific time management skills and empowers students to be independent, confident and productive.”

—From Clark Honors College