The journal has been edited for its entire 12-year history by Gregory J. Falabella, an associate professor of physics and astronomy.
“This issue of the journal is of special significance. It is the first,” Falabella wrote in the Fall 2002 issue. “The Wagner Forum for Undergraduate Research was formed to fill a void. It was felt by the editors that it is important to have an arena where students can publish their research and have a wider audience that can see what types of areas of academic intellect and expertise are being explored at Wagner College. The journal is devoted to publishing empirical and theoretical papers by undergraduate students in all disciplines.”
The Spring 2014 issue, hot off the presses, continues to fulfill that purpose. Its 11 critical essays were written by students from a wide variety of academic disciplines ranging from physics, business and language to anthropology, government, arts administration and history. Perhaps even more telling is that the topics chosen for five of the 11 essays fall well outside the declared majors of the authors, indicative of the interdisciplinary nature of the Wagner College undergraduate curriculum.
One particularly wide-ranging essay was “Behind the Label: Comparison of Garment Sweatshops in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to New York City and Milan,” written by Christopher DeFilippi of Staten Island, N.Y. His study was performed under the supervision of professors Patricia Moynagh and Abe Unger of the Government & Politics Department in fulfillment of Wagner’s senior thesis requirement.
In his introductory paragraph, DeFilippi described the scope of his study:
For the past ten years, the Bangladesh textile and garment industries have nearly doubled in size. Today, there are over 5,600 textile factories with 4.5 million Bangladeshi employed. As factory conditions worsen for workers, exports continue to soar. Bangladesh’s Ready-Made Garment exports make up 80 percent — or $21.5 billion — of the country’s total exports. Textile factories or “sweatshops” similar to those in Bangladesh are found across the world. … The most underdeveloped parts of [New York City and Milan] contain sweatshops similar to the ones found in Bangladesh. Sweatshop workers, who are mainly women, are underpaid and overworked … in unsafe conditions, and some even die in these unsafe factories. As the global garment industry continues to grow, factories across the world are left unnoticed. This paper will analyze and compare worsening factory conditions in undeveloped Bangladesh to New York City and Milan as the garment industry continues to globalize.
DeFilippi says that one of his formative experiences at Wagner College was when he took “Feminist Political Theory,” a course taught by Professor Moynagh, during his sophomore year.
“The seminar-style, discussion-driven class was so engaging, and the ideas so inspiring, that he has made the women’s equality movement his personal focus,” Laura Barlament wrote in a recent Wagner Magazine profile of DeFilippi.
The outbreak of a disastrous textile plant fire in a Dhaka, Bangladesh in November 2012, followed by DeFilippi’s semester abroad the next spring at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, Italy, another center of the global clothing industry, led to a conversation between DeFilippi and Moynagh about the topic for his required senior thesis. He chose to focus on garment sweatshops in Dhaka, Milan, and his home city of New York.
“I really enjoyed writing it,” DeFilippi says. “I’m still amazed by some of the statistics and the conditions faced by these workers in all three cities, not just in Bangladesh. I wonder if people will change their buying habits once they know about working conditions in these plants?”
“Chris’s study was a great example of what we want to see in the senior thesis at Wagner,” said Professor Moynagh. “We want evidence of a student’s mastery of the discipline, in as scholarly a fashion as possible — the accumulation of research methods and styles that, in the end, is our capstone.”
The “mastery of the discipline” demonstrated in DeFilippi’s paper was sufficient to win him invitations to deliver research presentations at five major scholarly conferences, including one in Shanghai, China, this summer.
“We’re still looking for the funding for that one!” Moynagh said, laughing.
Other essays published in the Spring 2014 issue of the Wagner College Forum for Undergraduate Research were:
- Patrick Bethel (Waterbury, Conn.) — “Those Who Never Retreated before the Clash of Spears: Motivations for Enlistment in the Irish Brigade in the United States Civil War”
- Elizabeth Cohen — “Establishing God: The Effects of Missionization and Colonialism in Vanuatu”
- Ayesha Ghaffar (Staten Island), “Language Learning in ‘Room’ ”
- Gary Giordano (Staten Island), “The ‘Truly American College’: Establishing a Civic and Democratic Mission at Wagner College and Spelman College in the Interwar Era”
- Stephanie Hinkes (Monroeville, Pa.) — “Sin, Shame, and Maidenhead: Analysis of John Donne’s ‘The Flea’ ”
- Vincent Lombardo (Staten Island), “Time of Flight Calculations for Linear and Non-Linear Approximations to the Brachistochrone Problem”
- Julia Loria (Forest, Belgium) — “Helen Keller’s Political and Social Activism”
- Lauren Russell (Abington, Mass.) — “Music as a Unifying Art Form in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ ”
- Carly Schmidt (Royersford, Pa.) — “Inventing Asexuality: Building Visibility for the ‘Fourth Orientation’ ”
- Joey Sergi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) — “Imprisoning Sexuality: Exploring the Fluidity of Sexuality and Sexual Behavior Within the Marginalized Sub-Culture of Women’s Prisons”
Hard copies of the Spring 2014 issue of the Wagner College Forum for Undergraduate Research can be purchased, at cost, from the Wagner College Press online storefront. The complete issue can also be read online, at no charge, below: