Psychology major Katlyn Bark has made the most of her college experience. She’s been named one of 12 valedictorians with a perfect 4.0 GPA, and now she has her sights set on her next goal—a career in disability advocacy.
Her life experiences and her sociology minor prepared her for this profession.
“We learned about social injustices,” said Bark, who is from Eatonton. “We also became aware of how marginalized groups are different from other groups. Sociology allows you to look at things differently.”
As a result of Bark’s and Sarah Herring’s, fellow psychology major, research titled “Radical Colleagues: A Case Study of Art and Social Justice Using a Participatory Approach,” a Georgia College class has been redesigned.
The project began when the two students interviewed classmates about the course taught by Dr. Sandra Godwin, associate professor of sociology and Valerie Aranda, professor of art.
“We asked what they liked and what they didn’t like about the course and compared this against the 2014 version and saw what themes arose,” said Bark. “One of the biggest ones was there was not enough communication with the community. That responsibility fell more on the shoulders of the professors.”
In contrast, Bark mentions that with the 2016 version, students went into the community, and had contact with its members. Their findings led the professors to redesign the course.
“Local farmers came into the classroom, and we talked to them about the types of farming they did, the hardships of farming and what their daily schedules were,” she said. “The students also went to the farms and took field notes. Some of the farmers were women, so we wanted to know if there were any gender biases in farming.”
The best part for her, this research let her have contact with the community.
“There was no barrier there, we were just talking. Everyone was equal, and we learned from each other, so it was nice.”
Bark and Herring submitted their abstract to the 2017 Gulf-South Summit on Service Learning & Civic Engagement through Higher Education, then they were approved for a poster presentation. This summer they will work toward getting their research published in a journal.
She appreciates the experience she got from dedicated professors like Godwin.
“I’ve never done any community-based work,” said Bark. “She really opened my eyes to it. I came into Georgia College with a Spanish minor until I took one of her classes, ‘Gender and Society’ class. I had to learn more, so I changed my minor to sociology.”
Bark enjoyed her research project and the overall liberal arts experience.
“If I have the knowledge and ability to help people, then I’m going to do it, specifically, with the research we did,” she said. “To know that we made an impact, that is amazing.”