Aleena Garrison (She/Her)

Student, Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Leadership & Research Scholar


Columbia University

Laidlaw Cohort Year


Research Topic

Education History Society & Culture

Area of Expertise

Computer Science Social Sciences

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:


My hobbies/interests are:

Cooking/Baking Hiking/walking Music Nature & environment Volleyball Volunteering

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes


Influencer Of


Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jun 21, 2023
Replying to Kira Ratan

1. A large portion of my research involves searching through extensive databases and trying to pinpoint specific materials that will help move my research question forward. However, because I am looking for niche topics, oftentimes it becomes hard to know where to start from and how to lead the database in the right direction towards what I'm actually looking for. Under-researched fields, especially when doing historical research, make it hard to know where to begin from and who to look to for expertise, and oftentimes researchers have to find subjects with several degrees of separation in order to begin parsing their own analyses and arguments together. 

2. When I do find an essay or an article pertaining to the topics I'm studying, I have found that using the "Cited By" feature has led me to a swath of information that relates to my research, but my database searches might not have directed me to the first time around. I also have found that pictures/visuals are super valuable pieces of research, and sometime even say more as primary sources than written documents themselves. 

Hi Kira! I really resonated with your first response. I have also found it hard to pinpoint research materials that are useful to my particular topic on databases. In regards to your second response, thank you for sharing this tip! I hadn't thought of using the Cited By feature, and I'm sure it will help me progress in my research as well. If you ever feel stuck even after using the Cited By feature, I have found that you can also search for materials outside of databases and pinpoint the sources they use in their pieces to determine if they are reliable/trustworthy or not. This has been useful for my research project because my topic is particularly niche, but it does take a lot of time and rabbit-hole digging. I usually use this method if I have a lot of time or feel stuck. Good luck!

Jun 21, 2023

1. A challenge that I’ve encountered is defining the word diva. Part of my research is finding toys and products from the 2010s that embody or promote diva-ness. This has allowed me to reexamine what being a diva means, and investigate what “type” of diva has been pushed towards certain generations versus others. Initially, this portion of the project was challenging for me because I was only searching for toys, ads, and other media and products for things that explicitly stated diva. There wasn’t much to go off of, so I had to redefine what diva actually meant. In the 2010s, being a diva was about being sassy and chasing fame, which is a stark difference from the definition in the 90s where being a diva meant owning your individuality, being outspoken, and embracing diversity. Using this, I was able to find more products and media that related to diva-ness, but didn’t explicitly state diva in them. Instead, they had many qualities of being a diva, as their products and ads boasted buzz words like “stardom”, “sassy”, and “fashionista”. This has shaped the larger picture of my research because not only am I getting to relive my childhood by examining girlhood in the 21st century, but I am really exploring the deeper meanings behind the shift in the word and nature of divas, and how that has shaped an entire generation of young women. Being a diva has become something negative when it used to be empowering. 

2. I have found Google Scholar to be particularly useful.

Jun 17, 2023
Replying to Daniela Palacios

1. My immediate expectations that I have more of my research are that I will be able to provide background information and the relevance of the idea of “emerging adults” as created by the Columbia Justice Lab. I also want to provide examples of the lack of educational access to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals and the nuances in providing prison education. I hope to have a compilation of interview questions that can be used to further understand the experience of emerging adults in prison postsecondary education programs.

2. My research matters because emerging adults are still not a heavily research age group within the incarcerated population. It is important to recognize how incarcerated individuals have long been denied access to education and specifically higher education. Focusing on the college and prison partnerships and the value of education in connection to recidivism and sense of identity is a way to work towards criminal justice reform.

Daniela, your work is so interesting! I definitely would have thought that the age group you're researching would already have a lot of data, so it's surprising that they are so often overlooked, especially within the context of policing and incarceration. 

Jun 15, 2023

I don’t have any immediate expectations of my research, but I know that my research will be a part of a book. The research gives my faculty member context to add to new and old chapters of her forthcoming book. It also serves as a reference guide for when she ultimately begins to promote the book, so she is more informed about the kinds of things to say about the continued relevance of divas past and present. I am excited that I’ve been able to be a part of the writing process of my faculty member because she lays out exactly how my research will help her.

I can’t believe it’s already been a month. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot done, but also not nearly as much as I thought I would’ve completed. I’m really enjoying my research though. My faculty member lets me continue researching things that I find interesting that are still relevant to her project, even if I was only supposed to work on the research for a week. I really appreciate that my perspective matters even though I am helping with someone else’s project. My research matters because it is about a topic often overlooked in academia. I’ve experienced this first-hand as a lot of my research comes from modern media instead of traditional books and article archives. My research is a part of my faculty member’s larger project of writing a book about her life in relation to divas. It is both personal and informative, I feel that she really captures the spirit of the divas she writes about in relation to an aspect of her life as a woman of color. This will open up a space in academia for something that some wouldn’t consider “scholarly”, but my faculty member aims to show that it is and that it rightfully deserves a spot in academia. The overarching questions that I am researching this summer are about the impact of divas on girlhood and the legacies they leave after their prime. I find this super interesting because I get to learn more about divas and their lives as well as see what they think of their own legacies because some are still alive today.

Jun 15, 2023
Replying to Krishan

1. One ethical issue I have in my research is always a possible issue in Humanities research, but I find especially when studying modern artists, musicians, etc., it is difficult to not overanalyze them and over-assume their intentions because we have so much information about the context they lived in. It is important as a scholar that I don't mix up what I think their work means to me with what they think about it, so I don't misrepresent them. Especially with still-living artists, you don't want to box them in and be aware of your own biases and background. 

2. It's been really interesting at least in the field of music to consider alternative critiques from beyond the Western world of the subjects and concepts that standard Western classical music theory takes for granted. Considering these other thoughts really allows me to realize the complexities of what I am studying, and how it might be more widely relevant. 

Krishan, I totally agree with your first response about an ethical concern you've been having. I'm also doing research on modern and influential artists and it has also been hard to not overanalyze them. For instance, I've been researching Tina Turner this past week and I find that a lot of articles want to place her in a box of simply being a domestic abuse survivor who managed to make a comeback. Although this is true, Tina's life was so much more than that, and based on what she's said about her own past, she doesn't like talking about it and would rather move on and focus on her individual success as an independent artist. 

Jun 15, 2023

My research involves a lot of looking at a lot of news articles and magazines, social media, as well as film. It becomes harder, especially with magazines, to figure out how to distinguish the real truth from clickbait essentially. The different kinds of media I’m looking at tend to want the most interactions with their content and will blow small instances out of proportion, not give context to certain quotes, and use other clever methods to get the most clicks. Ethical concerns arise because I’m never sure when I’m reading something factual or fictional. For example, last week I was assigned to research Tina Turner tributes, and during my research, a lot of articles mentioned a feud between Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. Upon doing my own research, I think the feud was made bigger than it actually was because of a few mean-spirited comments from both women directed toward each other. The two had never even met in person! To respond to these ethical concerns, I do as much research as possible after reading an article to verify their claims. I wouldn’t want to spread more gossip and give my faculty member false information, so it’s very important for me to sort through what is actually true and what is misinformation. However, it can sometimes become overwhelming, simply because sometimes I have to verify a source with another “sketchy” source, and finding a credible source often involves a lot of searching down rabbit holes and takes a lot of time.

I definitely have considered alternative viewpoints. I was fortunate enough to be able to read portions of my faculty member’s forthcoming book, and after reading it I had a better understanding of what I should research and how I could make my research most useful for my faculty member. My research is about divas and their impact on girlhood, queer people, and society as a whole. Before researching what I have done so far, I thought that I would be looking at the broader impact of these divas.  Instead, I have been looking at the lives of specific divas and their impact on specific aspects of life, which I enjoy much more than the broader idea I had going into this. I get to learn more about influential women I otherwise wouldn’t have been curious enough to deep dive into their lives in the ways that I have. My research has overall been a real joy so far.

Jun 02, 2023
Replying to Manan Vij

1. The interdisciplinary nature of this program is incredibly useful to help me think about my project and research goals. As someone whose research primarily deals with STEM topics, I found it incredibly interesting to learn about others' projects, which helped me gain a more comprehensive understanding of various research topics and active research areas. By having the change to learn about different approaches, methodologies, and ways of thinking, the interdisciplinary nature of this program can help broaden my knowledge base and inspire new ideas for my own research.

2. I think one of the many important research strategies and lessons that has resonated with me is our discussions with the librarians. I found that the various resources they presented and walked us through were very helpful to incorporate into our research project. For example, I am finding Zotero a very useful tool to keep track of developments in the project in an organized fashion. I hope to continue to make use of these resources as my project garners more complexity in the following weeks. 

I also found the session with the librarians to be helpful. They showed me a lot of “hidden” resources that I didn’t know about throughout the year like Zotero. I’m also using it for my research, and it’s already saved me so much time! I usually use a Google Doc to keep track of my sources but the links can get confusing and hard to search through. I’m hopeful that Zotero won’t give me this issue. 

Jun 02, 2023

I enjoy hearing about the range of projects that everyone is working on in this cohort. During the school year, my studies were primarily STEM centered (apart from Lit Hum), and that’s what encouraged me to try something different and take on a humanities based research project this summer. The range of projects that people are taking on this summer inspire my research methods and academic interests. During our discussions, we talked a lot about how to begin research and what methods to take based on if we had humanities or STEM projects, and I found a lot of overlap between the disciplines that I could use in my own research that I hadn’t thought about before. Additionally, the range of projects make me curious to learn more about subjects I hadn’t thought much about before, such as linguistics and the overlap of music, which I found really interesting.

One thing that I have kept in mind is the fact that 6 weeks is not a long time at all. I can’t believe we’re almost 2 full weeks into this program. Time has always been difficult for me to manage, and I definitely felt it this week. I wanted to get so many things done for my research, but I only managed to complete about half of what I originally set out to do. Instead of beating myself up about not finishing everything on time, I remembered what was told to our cohort during our first meetings, which was that research is a process that is different for everyone. Every week will look different from the last, and just because I didn’t complete what I initially set out to do doesn’t mean I will have similar problems next week. Now I know that I have to adjust my goals for the week.