Bryley Williams

Student, Columbia University
  • Columbia University
  • People
  • United States of America

About Bryley Williams

Hi! My name is Bryley (she/her), and I am a second-year student at Columbia University. I plan on majoring in History, and I am deeply interested in memory, religion, and the preservation and adaptation of culture. As a Laidlaw Scholar, I am researching Khmer Buddhist revival in post-genocide Cambodia, looking especially at how social, spiritual, and moral orders were and are intertwined in processes of reconstruction.

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Scholar

Area of Expertise

Humanities Social Sciences

Research Topic

History Religion Society & Culture Sociology South East Asian Studies

Laidlaw Cohort Year

2021

University

Columbia University

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English

My hobbies/interests are:

Cooking/Baking Nature & environment Politics & current events Reading Theatre Travelling Volunteering

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes

Yes

Influencer Of

Topics

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

Jun 07, 2021
Replying to Roberta Hannah
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

   I think one new challenge is that the use of archives can add so much to a project, but not keeping them all together can create entirely new issues. The entirety of my interview transcripts were not given to me in the place that we normally share things and it resulted in me thinking I had about 5 hours of work left instead of the actual 12+. This definitely taught me to make sure I create a clear plan for organization because not everything is easily implied.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

   My biggest resource so far has been my advisor, the graduate student that works under her, and my GSM. They have all given me really valuable advice and it's nice to know that some of the aspects I struggle with are not a me problem. 

Hi Roberta!

The archive issue sure sounds frustrating—I feel like it's often the case that the most helpful resources come with the most challenges. Organization is something I'm constantly working on being better at, and it seems like this challenge helped you in that regard, so that's good! I'm also glad to hear that your advisor and grad student mentor have been great resources. Mine have also been wonderful, and I've really learned that even (or especially) in independent/semi-independent research, communicating with others is SO beneficial.

Jun 05, 2021
  • What new ideas, challenges, or other issues have you encountered with regard to your project (this might include data collection, information that contradicts your assumptions or the assertions of others, materials that have enriched your understanding of the topic or led you to change your project, etc.)? How have these ideas or challenges shaped the bigger picture of your research? Has the scope or focus of your topic changed since you began this project? If so, how?

For me, the main challenge during this research process has been the fact that the focus keeps evolving as I read and learn more. New ideas make me so excited, but I've definitely had to adapt more of a go-with-the-flow attitude over the last five weeks because of the challenge that comes with having to shift around my thoughts and plans. As for the scope of my project, I think that I entered the research period with quite a specific aim, had to back up a lot in order to develop foundational knowledge, and am now at the point where I can see avenues to narrow the scope down again that are more viable than my original intentions, which is really exciting moving forward.

  • What research resources have proven particularly useful to you as you continue your research?

The research resources that have been the most useful to me are the bibliographies of books about my topic! I collected my own list of sources by exploring bibliographies of scholars in the field I am studying, and I have appreciated the ability to see clearly how different works interact with each other. In addition, my advisor has been an invaluable resource and guide. I was also able to chat with an anthropologist who works on Cambodian culture and memory studies, which was a wonderful opportunity to get some specific feedback about what I am working on and what the scholarly conversation currently looks like.

May 31, 2021
Replying to Faith Andrews-O'Neal
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper you hope to get published? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

In the immediate time frame, the work that I am doing with Professor Paredez has been mostly helping her with the final phases of her own work. While I may not be working on a paper that will be published, I am keeping in mind the seminars we had early on in the program, and learning that the work I am doing contributes to a larger cultural and historical conversation, one which I am able to help facilitate by providing my perspective as a young woman of color, something that feels especially pertinent when working on a project called the American diva. Seeing the way in which this project incorporates pop culture as well as one's personal life story is something I think about as I imagine my second summer.

Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

This is a question I have to ask myself often as I go about my research sometimes. When surrounded by talented people working on individually-led projects about issues that can help literally save the world, it can feel like the work I'm doing matters less. Then, I am able to remember that the pursuit of knowledge and understanding the world around us, not just scientifically but also culturally and socially, is so important. What drew me to the project is the fact that I have long believed in the importance of giving platform to the people who helped shape the way I view the world today, and divas are a large part of that. The chance to study their impact throughout modern history, as well as analyze the ways in which diva has been made to be a negative thing in spite of their positive impact, is something that touches a formative part of my experience growing up consuming their songs and shows and watching them on talk shows. 

Hi Faith!

I love what you said about the importance of understanding the world through cultural and social lenses; pursuing this kind of knowledge is so worthwhile. The project you are working on sounds fascinating, and I am really excited to learn more about what you've learned. I also think that looking at an intersection between pop culture and personal life sounds like a really meaningful way to spend summer 2!

May 31, 2021
  • While all Laidlaw Scholars will be presenting their research at the Columbia Undergraduate Research Symposium in the fall, what are the more immediate expectations that you have for your research? Are you writing a paper you hope to get published? Will your research be part of a larger scientific study? Is your research now the first phase of a project you’ll continue to work on throughout the year, and/or next summer? Now that we are nearing the one month mark of the program, please write about your expectations for your research.

I am spending this summer building a foundation for research that I would like to continue through the school year and into next summer. Right now, I am working on an annotated bibliography, which will likely end up turning into an historiographical essay, in order to collect sources and have a solid background going into (hopefully!) some field work. My end goal is to produce a paper, but that will likely not happen until next year.

  • Why does your research matter? Explain the significance of the question you are investigating, and why you are interested in it.

Even though I am focusing on a specific place and time, I think that the themes of memory, trauma, and both the endurance and revival of culture are relevant and meaningful beyond my particular subject. Studying these topics allows me to understand humanity better as a whole. In addition, I am reading much about how Western paradigms of memorialization are often imposed upon Cambodia, which often does not serve to facilitate memory-building in a culturally appropriate or natural way. Understanding the damage that international efforts can cause, even under the guise of "helping," has been significant beyond the scope of my project.

May 24, 2021
Replying to Mia Richmond

What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research?

Some of the ethical issues in my work involve research with minors and ensuring human subjects protection. Oftentimes, social and behavioral research can carry serious risks and harms when it comes to psychological health as well as autonomy and privacy. The Belmont Report lays down the foundation for federal regulations and outlines the primary ethical principles when it comes to research with human subjects: respect for persons, justice, and beneficence. More specifically, when using children as research subjects, it is essential to ensure that there are protections in place and that we account for parental permission. I also completed the CITI training modules in which I learned a lot about federal regulations in an adult consent process as well as factors that ought to be considered when developing child assent processes. 

What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

This week, I conducted my first zoom session with a six year old. We ensured that the parent filled out the consent form, but also had to double check with the subject that he wanted to play the games. Furthermore, we do not record the studies unless there is explicit consent and we also take measures to protect the subjects’ privacy by only using subject ID numbers instead of names (we only use names for recruitment and in the database) when entering and checking data.

Hi Mia!

I've also been thinking about how to simultaneously protect research subjects and develop studies in a field, and your post really made me think about how conducting psychological research is obviously so beneficial but also quite complex from an ethics standpoint, especially when children are involved. I had never heard of the Belmont Report, but I want to learn more! I'm excited to hear more about the research you're conducting and what you're finding out.

May 21, 2021
  • What are some of the ethical issues that you are grappling with in your research? What are some of the ways in which you are responding to these questions?

The book I am currently reading is an ethnographic study of a village in the Cardamom Mountains in Cambodia. The village centered in the research is one of the poorest in the country, and the author speaks about changing names of people and locations in order to protect identities. Like some others have stated, I have been thinking a lot about how to research vulnerable communities in a non-exploitative way. I have also been working to be aware of Western biases, especially because so many of the sources I'm reading are by American scholars. The fact that I don't (yet) know Khmer adds to this difficulty, but I am trying to read sources by scholars from a wide range of backgrounds and especially from Cambodia.

  • As you continue your research, have you considered alternative viewpoints in your investigation? If so, how have these alternative viewpoints enriched or changed your project?

I've been working to understand how the sources I'm reading fit with one another, and in doing that, I've been able to see some schools of research that exist in the field I'm studying. Scholars certainly do disagree with each other, so when creating my bibliography, I tried to include these different fields of thought. It's also been interesting for me to read critical book reviews, which have shed light on alternative viewpoints.

May 14, 2021
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

I am very passionate about the humanities, and my research project is already interdisciplinary in that sense. I am exploring art history, philosophy/ethics, and a little bit of law/economics/political science. However, hearing everyone's diverse research projects last week has inspired me to incorporate more STEM into my academic interests. I want to look more deeply at the intersection of science and art history. I have actually read some articles this week that explored how, during the Renaissance, wealthy individuals collected both art and natural science specimens. This long-held conversation between these seemingly disparate fields is definitely something I want to continue considering in my work. 

  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

One of my major concerns working on my research project is being able to tackle the immense amount of resources available during such a short period. There are so many intricate aspects of my project that I can easily get caught up in which, although interesting, would not be ideal for accomplishing my main goals. I am also concerned about my level of expertise (this plays into my anxiety about the abundance of sources). I want to propose a well-informed argument, but I don't have a lot of experience or background knowledge. 

Hey Jacqueline!

I so relate to your answer to the second question. I am also engaging in a really resource-heavy project, and narrowing down how many books/articles I can tackle has been a challenge. I've been feeling similarly worried about my lack of expertise, which has only made me want to read more, too. I'm also fascinated by the intersection between science and art history that you noted—very excited to hear more about your research!!

May 14, 2021
  • Last week the trainings and discussions we had cut across the disciplines. How does the interdisciplinary nature of this program, the fact that students are focusing on such a diverse range of projects, help you think about your project and/or your academic interests more broadly?

The interdisciplinary nature of this program is what drew me to it initially, and I have so enjoyed learning about my peers' topics over the past couple of weeks. This might sound rather cliché, but it has really reminded me how much there is to explore in the world. I also appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of the program because it has pushed me to think about my project beyond the discipline of history: I am studying people, and people are affected by climate, politics, psychology, etc. 

  • As you begin your individual research projects this week, do you anticipate any challenges in getting started? If so, what are they?

The main challenge I have faced this week is narrowing my research question and really figuring out how I want to focus my topic this summer. Another challenge I am still working on is self-directing my research and being confident that I, even as a first-year undergrad, am able to join a conversation about a topic I find interesting.