Barrett students awarded funds research on sex trafficking and conservation

Kinley Ragan and Lauren Barnes were awarded a total of $15,000 in travel funds

A pair of Barrett students were awarded a combined amount of $15,000 to travel the world this summer in pursuit of specialized academic research through the Barrett Global Explorers Grant.

The carefully selected duo, juniors Kinley Ragan and Lauren Barnes, said they cried happy tears upon receiving the news in an email in November. 

Ragan, awarded $10,000, will spend her break researching wildlife conservation in the United States, Australia, Thailand, Nepal, Colombia and South Africa. Barnes, awarded $5,000, will research sex trafficking in France, Spain and Ghana. 

“It still doesn’t feel real,” said Ragan, who has decorated her laptop with in stickers from various animal rights and conservation groups. 

The conservation biology and ecology major said the process to get the grant was grueling. The rounds of applications included a 10-page-long research proposal, letters of recommendation, an interview and a 10 minute presentation to a committee of mostly Barrett faculty. 

The sense of accomplishment she felt just finishing the application, Ragan said, was enough to leave her satisfied even if she wasn't selected for the grant.

Ragan will spend the summer in national parks all over the globe conducting research on human wildlife conflict management.

“I’m looking at the conflicts that arise on the borders and how those are best managed and if (the management efforts) are effective,” she said. “What this research is doing is integrating ecology with the social perspective.”

Ragan said it’s impossible to look at wildlife conservation without taking into account the human perspective, and she hopes to let the community voice lead the change in management of national parks.

Barnes, a social work junior, works in the School of Social Work on research surrounding sex trafficking, which led her to plan her summer trip around how global communities are able to support trafficking survivors. She hopes to take a completely new approach to providing easy access to sex trafficking research to the public.

“I really appreciate how a lot of typical research is done. I just don't think it's very attainable for the everyday person,” Barnes said. “And, unfortunately, trafficking is something that can happen to the everyday person.”

In an effort to help organizations, communities and individuals that don’t know how best to help fight trafficking, she plans on consolidating her research into easy-to-understand graphics.

“Whatever they tell me, I want to put into very simple, palatable and clear messaging,” Barnes said.

Both students hope their work can have a positive impact on the communities they are researching.

Kyle Mox, associate dean of national scholarship advisement at ASU, said the goal of this program is “to give a student that has big ambitions and big research goals an opportunity that they might have otherwise not had.”

The usual funding limit was $10,000, but this year, with the help of a $5,000 donation by benefactor Charles Bivenour, Barrett is able to send both Ragan and Barnes. Mox said this extra funding gives Barrett more flexibility in future years to perhaps split the money between two or three students however it might see fit. 

While the first round of applications generally sees 12 to 20 applicants, Mox said what set Ragan and Barnes apart was their knowledge and passion for their topics. 

“Both of them had really prepared for this, they really knew their material,” he said. “They were the experts in the room when they were presenting, and we felt like we were sitting in a lecture.”

Mox said it is also important to choose students capable of representing Barrett, ASU and the U.S. while abroad. 

“We thought that their projects both very much exemplified the type of commitment to service and social embeddedness and global engagement that we want to see from our students,” Mox said.

Reach the reporter at or follow @mackinleyjade on Twitter. 

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