Undergraduate Research

Ava Lausch ’23

OUR Featured Researcher: Ava Lausch ’23

Ava Lausch
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Ava Lausch (she/they) is majoring in Hispanic studies and neuroscience. She conducts research under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies Ana Diaz Burgos. Her project is titled “Indigenous and State Justice Systems in Ecuador and Overlap with Restorative Justice Theory and Practice.”

Please describe your project:

For my research project in the Hispanic Studies Honors program, I sought to analyze the practices of the two justice systems, the Ecuadorian state’s system and the indigenous system. I focused on the strategies they use to resolve conflicts in their respective contexts. In the first section, I analyze the practices and functioning of the state justice system, with a focus on both the historical context and the present day situation. The second section focuses on Kichwa communities, primarily those of the Saraguro people, and includes a comparative analysis of the state justice system. In the third section, I compare these two systems to the theories of restorative justice and penal abolitionism, with the ultimate goal of imagining justice practices that are more focused on strategies for offenders to take responsibility for offenses committed, restore the damage done to the victim and reintegrate the offender into the social fabric after serving their sentence.

A brief summary (the elevator speech) of your research project:

My research project consisted primarily of a comparative analysis of the state and indigenous justice systems in Ecuador. I also explored how these systems do or do not converge with restorative justice theory and practice.

Why is your research important?

While my paper does not discuss in depth the different justice systems, there is little existing scholarship that combines all three of the frameworks included in my paper. By bringing together the discussion of state, indigenous, and restorative justice in Ecuador, my research will help to evaluate.

Ava Lausch working on her computer in front of a view of mountainsWhat does the process of doing your research look like?

My research primarily relied on secondary sources and interviews to obtain information. While I was abroad in Ecuador, I was able to conduct interviews in person; I have also conducted interviews virtually since returning to the United States. Much of the information used in my paper also came from bibliographic sources, written primarily by Latin American authors.

In what ways have you showcased your research thus far?

My research has culminated in a research paper, which summarizes my findings from interviews and bibliographic materials. I will also be participating in the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

What is your favorite aspect of the research process?

My favorite part of the research process is having the opportunity to design and execute my own project, which is centered around my personal interests and goals. It has been very rewarding to feel that I am contributing to my field of interest.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?

My mentor has given me the support I need to develop my research question and design my project. With the help of my mentor, I feel more comfortable taking risks and making my research my own.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development?

I have always been interested in learning about justice systems, and this project has given me the opportunity to investigate these systems in depth. Moving forward, I hope to use the knowledge I have gained from this project in my career.