Student's comfort zone is quietly pushing her boundaries

Angela M. Rogers
February 16, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.  — State College native Hope Bodenschatz is looking forward to graduating from Penn State this spring with three bachelor’s degrees and one master’s degree, then starting a position as a research assistant for the director of the New England Public Policy Center at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

“Some of my favorite classes in high school were social studies, history and government,” Bodenschatz said, “but before I got to Penn State, I didn’t understand that these interests, plus my desire to study public policy, were all encapsulated in geography.”

Now, Bodenschatz said, geography provides an important lens for her interest in crafting economically and socially just policies.

Bodenschatz is in an integrated undergraduate/graduate program working toward a master of arts and a bachelor of science degree in economics, bachelor of arts in geography, bachelor of arts in political science, and a minor in sustainability leadership.

The Schreyer Scholar and Paterno Fellow has received multiple awards for her academic accomplishments. In 2019, she received the G. D. Richardson and Kathy LaSauce Undergraduate Scholarship in Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and the Balmat Family Fund in Geography for Honors Scholars. In 2018–19 she received the Monroe Newman Award from the Department of Economics. In 2017–18 and 2018–19 she received the Kim Anderson Memorial Scholarship from the Department of Political Science. In 2018, she received the Evan Pugh Scholar Award and in 2017, the President’s Freshman Award.

But she doesn’t spend all her time studying. Bodenschatz said her most rewarding experiences have come from stepping outside her comfort zone.

“The most life-changing experience I had at Penn State was studying abroad with the Parks and People: Mang’ula, Tanzania program in 2018. We studied sustainable community development, and I conducted my own research project,” she said. “I saw incredible wildlife on a safari, hiked in two of Tanzania's national parks, tried new food, camped, explored villages and met wonderful local people.”

Closer to home, Bodenschatz worked with Fritz Kessler, associate teaching professor of geography, to develop the tailgate grid map for Penn State home football games and then gave a presentation about their project at the American Association of Geographers annual meeting in April 2019.

“Hope took initiative in her role by designing and implementing the mapping component and served as a valuable liaison between the various project stakeholders,” Kessler said. “I was especially proud to have her as a co-presenter on this project at the AAG annual meeting.”

“Attending lots of other conference presentations was so fun and allowed me to happily geek out about geography and the pioneering work being done in this field,” Bodenschatz said.

More recently, during the summer of 2020, Bodenschatz assisted Chris Fowler, associate professor of geography and demography, on his Longitudinal School Attendance Zone Boundaries Project.

“I helped to digitize school attendance zone boundaries as part of a novel dataset,” Bodenschatz said. “Besides building new skills, it was rewarding to know I was contributing to a dataset that would open the door for researchers to study new and important questions. I am now able to use some of the shapefiles I digitized for my honors thesis to study the effects of school attendance zones on school composition in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Rockville, Maryland.”

“Hope has been amazing to work with,” Fowler said. “We gave her only the vaguest instructions on a tough project and she has been teaching us about the data and the method ever since. Her work on the Montgomery County Public Schools will be one of the first projects to emerge from our multi-year data collection effort and I am really interested to see what her findings show. MCPS is in the midst of a very public dispute about how to manage educational equity right now and her honors thesis will speak directly to the questions they are grappling with in public meetings and court cases right now.”

Bodenschatz said her most challenging experience so far has been writing her geography honors thesis.

“The difference between independent research and the highly directed research I had previously done in class and summer work caught me by surprise,” she said. “I have definitely been stretched, and I am continuing to grow in self-reliance and confidence as I work through problems. I am concurrently writing my M.A. (master of arts) thesis in economics, and working on these two writing projects has really opened my eyes to how research requires an intuitive insight as well as tenacity and technical skills. I’m glad to have been able to learn from the expertise of my advisers, and I’m excited to have a couple of years to focus on building research intuition at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.”

Based on her own experience, Bodenschatz offers suggestions for other students to get the most out of their education at Penn State.

“Take part in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Connection (UROC) program,” Bodenschatz said. “I had a wonderful experience working with Sara Cavallo, a doctoral student, when I was a second-year. It’s a great way to build skills, learn about what graduate school is like and get to know a geography graduate student.”

Bodenschatz also recommends attending the Department of Geography’s Coffee Hour, joining student organizations and studying abroad.

“I think there’s no better way to practice geography than by experiencing and appreciating the world around you,” she said.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated February 16, 2021