Students’ research recognized at national conference

Hannah Olson, Nawojka Lesinski, and Melody Kosbab

Hannah Olson ’23, MPH’24 (at left) and Melody Kosbab ’24 (at right) were selected to present at the national Washington, D.C.-based conference Posters on the Hill. Assistant professor of economics and political science Nawojka Lesinski, PhD, (center) was their faculty collaborator. Photo provided.

On April 26, students Hannah Olson ’23, MPH’24 and Melody Kosbab ’24 presented their timely new research to a national audience at the highly competitive 2022 Posters on the Hill symposium. Olson, a women and international development major, and Kosbab, majoring in political science, conducted their collaboration with political science faculty mentor Nawojka Lesinski, PhD. They were selected to apply after their participation in the Summer Scholars undergraduate research program and Assistantship Mentoring Program, as their work explores potential community solutions to ameliorate increasing political polarization.

Posters on the Hill is a yearly student-centered event facilitated by the Council for Undergraduate Research, with a goal of making sure undergraduate student researcher voices are heard by Capitol Hill, and took place virtually on April 26 and 27. Student teams presented on a wide variety of subjects, from gender diversity in environmentalism to diagnosing Alzheimer’s using artificial intelligence. 

With their research, Olson, Kosbab, and Lesinski explored political scientist Robert D. Putnam’s theory of social bridging and bonding in the context of Twin Cities farmers markets. Interviewing attendees and organizers, Olson, Kosbab, and Lesinski analyzed the Mill City Farmers Market’s function as bridging (that is, bringing people from a wider geographic radius together) and the Midtown Farmers Market’s function as bonding (strengthening community ties of a group of people in a smaller area).

The team also investigated the events as community spaces and the various reasons that people engaged with them. They found that the markets were invaluable as a common ground, serving a non-partisan role where people can find belonging and community, while also providing important civic resources such as information on how to register to vote or get vaccinated.

"Farmers markets are important for people to make connections with each other, and between urban and rural," says Olson. "Those interactions are really special, we found. Our research expanded my view on what a farmers market could be, as a center of community."

From their findings, Olson and Kosbab also concluded by emphasizing more structural support of farmers markets.

“If we look at how much heart people in communities are putting into these spaces, it’s time for more academic and legislative focus on these spaces,” Kosbab says. “Our research shows that if people have access to these spaces, they’re more likely to vote and engage in government.”  

In addition to Posters on the Hill, the team was also selected to present their research at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference and the National Conference for Undergraduate Research earlier in April.

“We are proud to have such motivated and talented students represent student-faculty collaborative work at St. Catherine University. Melody and Hannah presented with poise and confidence,” says Cynthia Norton, PhD, director of Collaborative Undergraduate Research“They are shining examples of how undergraduate research experiences prepare students to contribute to understanding complex problems, communicate to broad audiences, and become leaders transforming the world.”

“It was an honor to have been selected and to get to share our research with people who see value and possibility in our work,” Olson says.


About Undergraduate Collaborative Research at St. Kate’s 

Undergraduate Collaborative Research is part of the Office of Scholarly Engagement, the University hub for engaged learning.

Read more about collaborative and paid opportunities to research:

Summer Scholars Program

Assistantship Mentoring Program


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