2001 Student-Faculty Fellows: Viterbo University

India: Individual Projects

Mentor: Pamela S. Maykut, Psychology
Students: Jennifer Jene Holtz ’02; Ryan John Nelson ’01; Stacey Beth Scott ’03

Ryan “Spike” Nelson, Stacey Scott, Jennifer Holtz, and Pam Maykut pose for a photo wearing traditional Tibetan chubas for the birthday celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Abstracts of Reflections and/or Research

In her room in Mussoorie, India, Stacey Scott transcribes her interviews with Tibetan children concerning their understanding of death.

Pamela Maykut

India proved to be the challenge that many people speak of, but we succeeded in making positive adjustments, completing our data collection, and developing good friendships with Tibetans and Indians. The close contact with adolescents and young adults has informed my understanding of developmental psychology and given me new information and examples to bring to the classroom. The three different student research projects have contributed to the emerging picture of development of Tibetan children in exile, and is a compliment to my own research with this group. Implementing the research projects has also furthered my understanding of important elements of cross-cultural research projects, information that will now be included in the research courses I teach.

Tibetan refugee children learn the “chicken dance” from the Jen Holtz and Stacey Scott, who spent time with them in class.

Jennifer Holtz
The Study of Ethnic and Bicultural Identity

My trip to India was a wonderfully enriching experience that helped me to learn so much about the world and about myself as well. I gained a new outlook on life and the experience made me appreciate all the things I have. The trip also encouraged me to really enjoy life. My experience of conducting research has also had a significant impact on my schooling. The research and the trip gave me a good opportunity to try something I never thought I would enjoy, yet it has opened so many new avenues that I want to explore.

Stacey Scott and her Tibetan interpreter, senior student Dolma Tsering.

Ryan Nelson
The Study of Young Children’s Reasoning about Social Conventions and Physical Laws

When we began working on this project I never expected what has happened in the past few months. I believe I have become more aware of my culture, my role in that culture, and how actions in the world affect everyone, not just one’s own community. I was very happy to make many friends and plan to do my best to keep in contact with them. The experience itself was truly enriching. Overall, the impact of this cross-cultural research for me was not only academic but much more personal. I learned quite a bit about myself in terms of who I was before the trip and who I hope to be now that I have returned home.

Stacey Scott and Jennifer Holtz with their Tibetan student interpreters, Dolma Tsering and Pema Yangchen.

Stacey Scott
The Study of Children’s Understanding of Death

My experience in India at the Tibetan Homes School has given me a broader understanding of myself, of research, and of the world. It has provided me with my first real experience as a minority and glimpses of other peoples’ ideas about and understanding of Americans. I more fully understand and appreciate the work that goes into any kind of research, especially cross-cultural research. My emerging global awareness may move me into more of a world focus in my studies. This awareness has encouraged me to study my foreign language, Spanish, more seriously, to pay more attention to international events and the U.S.’s role in them, and to definitely travel abroad as much as I can.

Research Findings

The three student projects funded by the Freeman Foundation add three more pieces to an emerging picture of development among Tibetan children in exile, for which there is very little research. Cross-cultural data from comparable U. S. samples are beginning to reveal similarities and differences in children from these two cultures. Ryan Nelson’s preliminary results suggest that cross-culturally, preschoolers’ early scientific thinking is established by 5 years of age. These data also suggest cross-cultural differences in Tibetan and U. S. preschoolers’ responses to critical thinking questions. Stacey Scott’s preliminary analysis of children’s understanding of death suggests that American and Tibetan children seemed to understand the natural process of aging. Scott’s analysis indicates that despite their dangerous flight from Tibet, the Tibetan children’s answers to “Of what reasons or causes do people die?” seemed to be mostly diseases, old age, and accidents and not the more violent causes of death that some of the American children suggested. Jennifer Holt’s preliminary analysis of the interviews and questionnaires about bicultural identity indicate that this sample of Tibetan children have developed and maintained a strong Tibetan identity. Even after five years or more in India, there is little evidence of the development of also an Indian identity. Bicultural identity does not appear to be a characteristic of the Tibetan children in my sample.

Ryan “Spike” Nelson and guide Divya Sinha share a monsoon moment after a wet ride in a motor rickshaw.

Venues for Sharing

  • Presentation in sections of Lifespan Developmental Psychology.
  • Presentation at Viterbo University’s noon forum called, “Seventh Day.”
  • Slide and panel presentation as part of the Global Education Program on campus.
  • Prepare a segment for the Psychology Department web site “Special Topics” link and begin writing articles to be submitted for publication in relevant journals.
  • Reports for the La Crosse School District and Blessed Sacrament School, both of which participated in providing students for the U. S. sample for two of our cross-cultural research projects.
Ryan “Spike” Nelson admires a few of the many beautiful sculptures of Buddhist deities see throughout northern India.