College of Saint Elizabeth (CSE) elementary and special education major Lauren Smith, ’12, was presented the CSE Heritage Award in April 2011, and has since spent one year exploring and researching the effect the media has on the self-image of Catholic adolescent girls. The CSE Heritage Award is a $1,000 grant that funds the recipient’s research of a topic relating to Catholic women’s history in New Jersey. The research is then contributed to the CSE Catholic Women’s History Center upon completion.
Smith presented her project, Catholicism and Its Impact on Adolescent Girls: Connecting Co-Education and Single-Sex Religious Education to Female Perception of Image and Worth, at the CSE Heritage Award Luncheon on April 16, 2012.
Her study centered on the effect the media has on self-image and self-esteem of adolescent girls, in both a co-educational and single-sex educational environment. Smith interviewed high school religion department heads and teachers of both institutions in order to pinpoint the message given to girls. Smith created a survey for the Catholic girls in both types of schools to see what they felt was the most important aspect in the development of their self-image. Both types of schools voted self-esteem, instead of body image, as the most important factor. Smith also found that both school types instilled values of integrity, generosity, and honesty as important components of self-esteem, rather than physical attributes.
Carole G. Rogers, a CSE alumna and an advisory committee member for the CSE Center and author of Habits of Change: An Oral History of American Nuns, was the second presenter. She received her Master of Arts degree in Theology from CSE in 2001. When writing her book, Rogers looked at women’s lives that have dramatically changed. “And whose lives have undergone more drastic transformation than women religious?” she asked as she began her lecture. Her book chronicles the oral histories of American nuns, capturing the experiences of women whose lives throughout the past 50 years have been marked by dramatic transformation -- perhaps more so than any other group of contemporary women.
The mission of the Center for Catholic Women’s History at CSE is to foster the scholarship and enrich the lives of the College community and broader society by deepening awareness of the contributions New Jersey Catholic women have made to our shared past. Smith is the fifth honoree of this CSE award. The first four were Pauline Alger, '06, who received a Master Arts in Theology, of Bloomfield, N.J..; Su Mon, ’09, an economics major from Burma, who received her Master of Science degree in foreign service from Georgetown University in 2011; Nicole Tipton, ’11, a biology major from Woodbridge, Va., who is currently in medical school; and Ha Pham, ’11, a communication major from Vietnam, who has been recently accepted into a Master of Science in economics program at Texas A & M University.