2020 SHS Prize awarded to two student teams

The winning projects focused on the economic policy of Chile, and the integration of migrants to Denmark. © Nataliya Hora_Shutterstock/MicroStockHub_iStock

The winning projects focused on the economic policy of Chile, and the integration of migrants to Denmark. © Nataliya Hora_Shutterstock/MicroStockHub_iStock

The annual Social and Human Sciences (SHS) Prize has been awarded jointly to two teams of three master’s students in recognition of their exceptional term projects on sustainable economic policy in Chile, and on the impact of language requirements on migrant integration.

The students were selected for the award for their excellent projects, which were completed as part of two courses in the College of Humanities Social and Human Sciences (SHS) program. All six will receive the joint prize, although the formal award ceremony at the Rolex Learning Center unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Do strict language requirements aid migrant integration?

Léandre Tarpin-Pitre, Rachel Lee and Nikolina Tomic were honored for their project, “Danish Language Requirements’ Role on the Socio-economic Integration of Migrants”, which they completed as part of the course “Governing Global Migration II”, taught by Madeleine Dungy. In this second-semester course, students examine contemporary migration policies on issues like refugee protection, border security, and regional integration from a historical perspective.

For their project, which required them to complete a scientific report tracing the evolution of a global migration policy over at least five years, Léandre, Rachel and Nikolina decided to focus on language requirements for migrants to Denmark. The students wanted to know if data suggest that Denmark’s strict language policies (all migrants must attain the equivalent of a B1 language level in Danish for permanent residency, and a B2 for citizenship) are indeed helpful for their socioeconomic integration into Danish society.

But following a comprehensive analysis of statistical data from Danish and European sources between 2001-2010, the students found that the socioeconomic integration of migrants did not comprehensively improve, based on “negative trends of the EU’s social indicators, employment and salary gaps between migrants and native-born, and the manifestation of the locking-in effect [which occurs when migrants’ participation in the labor market decreases due to their commitment to language training].” The students proposed therefore that “slightly less strict language requirements for naturalization” could help improve migrants’ socioeconomic integration.

Balancing economic and environmental health in Chile

Meanwhile, Nora Joos, Stanislas Jouven, and Balz Marty were recognized for their project, “A trade-off between growth and sustainability – an inquiry into the role of trade in Chile’s development,” which they did as part of Philippe Thalmann’s course, “Economic growth and sustainability II". In this course, students study different types of growth – and limits to sustainable growth – relating to populations, economies, resource use, and inequality.

For their term project, the team chose to study Chile as an especially interesting example of the interplay between the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainability. They performed a detailed analysis of Chile’s economy, notably its dependence on volatilely priced copper exports, as well as of the urgent social and environmental challenges it faces on top of the specter of climate change. In addition to diversifying the Chilean economy, they argued that linking global climate policy to social and environmental minimum standards, as well as to price-stabilizing measures, could help the nation overcome some of these challenges.

The students noted that they were assigned to their project group based not only on their shared interest in trade, but also on their differing opinions on the subject, which led to an especially fruitful discussion.

The SHS Prize

The SHS Prize has been awarded since 2012 to master’s projects conducted by individual students or groups of students within the framework of a master’s-level course in the CDH’s SHS program.

The honor comes with a prize of CHF 1,200, following a vote by the SHS teaching committee. The prize rewards exceptionally high-quality, original projects that illustrate the contribution of social and human sciences in technical education and training.

Author: Celia Luterbacher