Major: American Ethnic Studies
Mentor: Dr. LaTaSha Levy, American Ethnic Studies; Prof. Brukab Sisay, American Ethnic Studies
Current research project: The School Desegregation Struggle in Seattle: Effects of Colorblind Legal Discourse
Abigail Heath is a senior at the University of Washington, where she is majoring in American Ethnic Studies with a concentration in African American Studies, Social and Political Analysis. She is interested in studying how race and power intersect within law. As both a Ronald McNair and Mary Gates Scholar, her research discusses the manifestation of segregated education through law.
Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
My study centers on the question, “How does the ‘colorblind’ approach in legal discourse exacerbate the issue of segregation of public schools?” Seattle has a notable history of racial segregation concerning residential discrimination that persists in its neighborhoods and schools. Segregation is often narrated as a result of private discrimination and demographic development. However, this story implies that modern segregation is not a product of government actions and unconstitutional policies, which removes the responsibility of the law to provide legal remedy for the continued existence of segregation. My research sheds light on why Seattle’s public schools remain racially divided, and how the law contributes to this legacy of segregation.
When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I got involved in undergraduate research my sophomore year. Research was pretty unfamiliar to me, but I had the support of my mentors to help me navigate and identify research opportunities. I was able to gain mentors by establishing relationships with my professors and joining programs such as the Ronald McNair program, which help underrepresented students engage in research. I wanted to get involved in research so I could explore subjects I was interested in outside of the classroom. Getting involved with research improved my self-confidence and leadership skills, broadened my view of society/communities not relegated to campus, and provided me opportunities to collaborate with different organizations.
What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Think of research as a way to explore your interests! I think it is important that students take the opportunity to engage in research because they can benefit by gaining new insight into their own interests, skills, and values.