On February 4, the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) announced that recent alumna Halle Young ’20, who studied anthropology at Barnard, won the 2021 Peter K. New Student Research Competition’s first-place prize for her spring 2020 senior thesis paper, “Painful Worlds: Coming of Age with Chronic Pelvic Pain.”
Awarded annually, the prize recognizes student researchers who have written a paper on the applied social and behavioral sciences, with a focus on healthcare or human services. The award includes a $3,000 cash prize, which Young said she’ll put towards her graduate studies, and an engraved Baccarat crystal trophy. On March 23, at SfAA’s virtual annual meeting, Young will be officially honored and will present a 20-minute talk on her research.
Under the supervision of Lesley A. Sharp, the Barbara Chamberlain & Helen Chamberlain Josefsberg ’30 Professor of Anthropology, Young interviewed cisgender women, ages 18-30, who have experiences with chronic pelvic pain; she also queried pelvic healthcare providers, reproductive health advocates, and various reproductive companies to produce an ethnographic review of how women manage their pain.
“Working under Professor Sharp was an incredible experience, as she pushed me to step out of my comfort zone into fieldwork when I was tempted to just work in the archives, and then guided me through often extremely emotional conversations with my informants,” said Young. “Professor Sharp also encouraged me to let my research lead me to unexpected places. I went into my research expecting to write about chronic pain and emerged with a critique of penetration supremacy in heterosexual sex relationships.”
As Young’s mentor, Sharp couldn’t be prouder. “Halle is a gifted ethnographer, and she soon won the trust and respect of many women who then taught her about their experiences with chronic pelvic pain and their ongoing searches for diagnoses and treatments,” said Sharp. “I am in awe of what Halle accomplished and thankful for all that she has taught me, too. It wasn’t an easy year to write, either — everything shut down in the middle of spring 2020, and finding a quiet place to write was a challenge. When I learned that she had won this prestigious award, I literally danced around the room in celebration!”
In addition to receiving support from her faculty mentor, Young — who transferred to Barnard in 2018 as a junior from Reed College — also relied on Jenilee (Jenna) Jacquez ’20, from her medical anthropology thesis seminar, for feedback and friendship throughout the thesis process. “This award was a huge surprise; I submitted my paper on a whim,” Young said. “But I wouldn’t have had a draft without Jenna.”
As Young prepares for her presentation on March 23, the native New Yorker, who now lives in New Orleans, will continue her work as the Institutional Memory project manager for Ashé Cultural Arts Center in the New Orleans office. Young also plans to continue exploring sociomedical sciences to help people live better lives in their bodies. “If anything,” Young said, “this award has taught me to keep putting my work out there.”