Victor Jandres Rivera

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

I am a/an:

Undergraduate Scholar

Area of Expertise

Humanities

Research Topic

Education Urban Planning

Laidlaw Cohort Year

2020

University

Columbia University

I am from:

United States of America

I speak:

English Spanish

My hobbies/interests are:

Nature & environment Reading Volunteering

I am open to participating in mentoring/buddy programmes

Yes

Influencer Of

Topics

Rooms participated in:

Columbia University

Recent Comments

  • 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?

Throughout the past four weeks, I have definitely encountered many sources that have subtly or monumentally changed the way I look at my topic. My project has changed from how museums deal with unethically acquired early 20th century Chinese art to a comparative study of repatriation qualifications and, finally, to a look at complications for the nationalist rhetoric China uses regarding repatriation. My scope has narrowed and shifted slightly from my original intentions, but I believe my bigger picture is still trying to figure out the complex machinations of Chinese art repatriation. 

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

I predominantly read scholarly articles and books that I find on CLIO, but I have recently found news media to be particularly important. Lesser-known incidents of repatriation to China are rarely discussed in scholarly articles, but news media, particularly sites devoted to China, are overflowing with this information. Although they are relatively untrustworthy, many articles can also give me a jumping-off point to do further research. Older news media is also a major asset, especially when analyzing western reception and justifications of looting. 

I definitely want to look into more newsarticles just to get a better understanding of the topics I am researching. I definitely think that it's a good idea to look into them for a jumping off point or simply to have a more comprehensive understanding of the topic. Honestly, I think i've been tunnel-visioned just looking into scholarly article, but what you're doing sounds like something I should implement in my own research.  

  • 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?

An issue I encountered is that I had to realize that qualitative research is not as cut and dry as quantitative research. I would  struggle coding the transcripts using qualitative data programs because I kept wanting all of the specific codes and quotes to fit perfectly under a certain category. However, I quickly realized that there has to be a balance between creating  an amount of categories that would represent the data in a meaningful and presentable way. Creating too many categories and subcategories for coding would muddy the data and make it difficult to understand. However, I also wanted to make sure that each quote accurately represented the category I was putting it under. We wanted to make the data as objective as we could, but inevitably some such subjectivity would be needed in order to decide how to categorize certain quotes and codes. I found this frustrating because all of the data I had done before were in research labs within institutions such as a medical school. This made it obvious and very easy to find measurements and create categories for data. For example, if I had to measure neurons or microglial cells, as long as I was following the correct  procedures I was confident that my measurement in my data were correct. With qualitative research, I don't have the same level of confidence. There's almost more pressure to be very tedious end cautious when using my own discretion

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

I have found using Columbia's database for research papers, articles, and other forms of media very helpful.  I was faced with the task of finding many sources that analyzed how immigrants develop a sense of belonging, how migration patterns have been altered due to the pandemic, and other topics that were difficult to Google and find relevant answers for. However, Columbia's database was very useful in creating a conglomeration of related documents that all aided in giving me a lot of content to report to my primary investigator. I love how there were filters to play with and other mechanisms that allowed me to narrow my search or widen it in order to fit my own needs. It has become my go-to website any time I need to do further research or any more literature reviews.

  • 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.

The research I am conducting is part of a larger project that has been going on for years. Professor Miranda has been collecting data on measures NYC Internationals Schools Network is taking to help English learners succeed. They have always been a vulnerable population because many are refugees, victims of human trafficking, came to the United States without their parents, or have some other complicated legal background. However, none of them are proficient in speaking, writing, and reading in English. The COVID-19 pandemic offered another complication for students that have already dealt with so much to continue their education. We are looking at exactly how this pandemic is affecting them, and the hope is to publish policy recommendations the schools and even the government could utilize in order to change xenophobic education practices still in place in New York City. I am actually going to continue doing research throughout the school year in the fall, so any presentation would be a summary of where I am in the research process instead of a final and conclusive list of findings. 

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

The research is important because current education policies in New York City systematically harm vulnerable populations. New York City does not make exemptions for students with complicated legal and linguistic barriers to their education. For example, an Internationals School in Flushing took in many students that were unaccompanied minors detained at the border. These students come to the US and many have to find and pay for their own housing while also trying to attend a school in a language they do not speak. However, New York City only provides funding for students graduating within four years of arriving at their high school. This means that many schools intentionally turn away these students because a drop in their graduation rate harms their prestige and possibly their funding. This enforces education inequality in the city because the poorest and least educated students are being denied an education. There are many other policies that motivate schools to turn away students. The Internationals school in Flushing takes in these students because they know that they are their last hope, but this also means that they will lose funding and possibly be relegated to the status of being a “focus school”. Other factors such as sub-type comparisons promote racist and classist ideologies, but I’ll leave it at that for now because I feel like I am writing too much for people to read for a single discussion post, and I am rambling. In conclusion, the team I am working with has the goal of getting this information released in order to change school and even government policies. We even did extra research on the sense of belonging and immigration patterns during the pandemic for NYU and the Internationals Schools Network for an educational rights report presented at a seminar. The data and research is being applied to many different areas because the hope is that these stories and the data from them can be applied to presentations, publications, and forums across different areas of human rights, ethnicity and race studies, education and urban studies, and other areas.

Also I know I posted this is late because I keep forgetting to transfer them from my google doc but honestly if anyone wants to know more feel free to contact me.

Replying to Jeffrey Xiong
  • 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?

Since I'm conducting research on a vulnerable community, one key ethical issue is the exploitative relationship between academia and the population. In particular, one of the more prominent fears is the use of a community as a tool of personal professional advancement, a sort of study from a privileged position without fundamentally relating to or identifying with the community. A way I try to avoid this exploitation is by contacting people within my own community and reaching out to personal networks so there is less of an external academic study and more of a resource for uplifting within an in-group.

  • 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?

Unfortunately, the literature base is quite small to the point where the capacity for "alternative viewpoints" is quite limited -- there's very limited space for alternative viewpoints if the original viewpoint is not well established. Still, I try to keep an open mind during oral history interviews, especially since some go in a different way than I expect.

I feel like I can relate to how this research can feel like an exploitative relationship. We interview such vunerable students to essentially extract their trauma, and they are not necessarily compensated. Although the research has benevolent intentions, these students are not recieving any benefits from it. Any meaning change that happens as a result of the findings may not even have an impact until the kids interviewed are already done with schooling. Whether it be dropping out, graduating, or some other way out of highschool, these kids may very well be long gone by the time they can get anything out of the research. It just seems unilateral. 

  • 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?

In our research we have to deal with balancing wanting to help and ensure the safety of our subjects while also respecting their wants and boundaries. The subjects of the study are all immigrants from other countries that have dealt with extraordinary conditions to result in them attending one of the Internationals School Network. Students reveal being human trafficked, dealing with abuse, being paid under minimum wage, and other horrific crimes committed against them. Since many students are undocumented or even have active deportation orders, many students decide that they do not want any assistance or authority involvement. This leaves researchers with a dilemma. Them respecting the desire of the immigrant origin students means that they may possibly be doing more harm than good.

  • 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?

The alternative viewpoints generally paint the Internationals schools network as subpar and underperforming compared to other schools. We take those stereotypes and misconceptions and find out how the school system is flawed and stacked against English Learner Students. Those other viewpoints proved vital information needed to prove how harmful state practices have been on an already vulnerable population. 

Replying to Jeffrey Xiong
  • 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 the discussions and the diverse range of projects has been really useful in allowing me to direct my project into a more nuanced, complex endeavor. In particular, the combination of different methods and goals from the different projects has given me inspiration on how to conduct my project in more interesting ways and has helped me solidfy my methodology much more quickly.

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

I think one of the primary challenges for me in getting started is data collection. Since I'm doing sociological work, the pandemic has made it challenging to conduct field research. The first step (getting people to respond to my email requests) will likely be the most difficult, so I plan on writing the framework of my paper up in the meantime.

I relate so much to the struggles you have in fieldwork because of the pandemic. It is difficult to track down students that are not in school and do not have a stable home environment. It is nearly impossible to find them outside of school when they are possibly bouncing from home to home. 

  • 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 the program allows me to think more broadly about how my interests could be more compatible with certain research topics I never would have considered. Such as the research considering how to win an election in Brazil. I would have never considered how this intersected with the research I am doing on immigrant students in New York. However, after attending classes and analyzing the interviews I realized how these students and their families were heavily influenced by the political climate of their countries. After hearing testimonials from families claiming they escaped by the shifting political climate of the nations, I realized how analyzing the mechanisms behind political campaigns and their influence can impact families and migration. Not only that but, I have realized that so many different factors impact migration and that research in this area is expanding everyday. 

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

I am doing research analyzing how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting English Learner students in NYC Internationals Network schools. My main fear is that it will be difficult consolidating such a heterogeneous variety of interviews and literature into a cohesive set of data. It is hard to find similarities in texts that are from people of varying backgrounds and mindsets.