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Presidential Research Fellow Studies American Dream While Pursuing Her Own

December 02, 2019
Sophie Barnes

Sophie Barnes is researching a unique topic over her time in college: the evolution of the American dream and how it can be tracked through literature.

She has her own dream of one day becoming an English professor and, thanks to a scholarship through York College of Pennsylvania’s Presidential Research Fellowship Program, she’s one step closer. Through the program, Sophie is contributing new knowledge to a field of study while participating in interdisciplinary, high-impact learning opportunities with the program’s other fellows.

“The American dream is moving toward happiness and being less tangible—being happy in our lives rather than getting the big house and fancy car,” Sophie says. She is now looking to see if literature is following this trend and will soon start interviewing people in the York area for their thoughts on this topic.


Of course, that’s not all the sophomore has on her plate. Her major is English (Literary and Textual Studies), and she’s earning minors in French and Marketing. She’s also Secretary of the Student Senate, taking minutes at Senate meetings, and runs social media for the Senate and student government.

Her mentor in the Presidential Research Fellowship Program, Dominic Dellicarpini, PhD, Dean, Center for Community Engagement, is supportive of her goals for a broad educational background, she says.

It all builds on something Sophie did before coming to York College. “I was in the Future Leaders of York Program, which includes two representatives from each York County high school,” she says. “We met monthly to discuss aspects of leadership. It’s where I first learned about networking and becoming comfortable in leadership.”

All of this experience, Sophie says, encouraged her to get out of her comfort zone. “Networking was a huge aspect. I learned to go up to business leaders and judges when we visited the York County Courthouse and just talk with them.”


Before graduating from Dover Area High School in Dover, Pennsylvania, Sophie thought she wanted to get farther away from home. A campus visit to York College changed that. “I feel everything offered to resident students is also offered to commuters,” she says, “and I don’t know if that is true at all schools.”

She also likes the smaller class sizes offered at York College and getting to know her professors. “Professor Peggy Herr, my French professor, is always willing to help,” she says. “Languages are hard for me, but she was willing to help me at my level.”

She still has two-and-a-half years to go as an undergrad, but, Sophie thinks the diverse experience and being able to get out of her comfort zone will open up possibilities for her long-term career. “I’m excited for what’s next,” she says.