Undergraduate Research and Creativity Alumni Profiles 

Abbey Spoth, B.S. ’13

Major(s): Music

What research or work have you done since graduating from Buffalo State?

Since graduating, I've earned a master's in social work from the University of Vermont. During graduate school, I was engaged as a research assistant with Dr. Susan Roche on a project titled "Co-Authoring Stories about Social Work as a Human Rights and Social Justice Profession," focused on eliciting practicing social workers' day-to-day enacting of the social work profession's explicit commitment to human rights and social justice in the face of neoliberal systems working counter to that. My own master's thesis ("They said I would say that": Identity and subjectivity in treatment of anorexia nervosa) was a feminist, Foucauldian discourse analysis of the construction of the "anorexic" patient, and how this construction actively undermines effective treatment.

Can you translate your work for the general public?

I work as a counselor and advocate for people who have experienced sexual violence. On the ground, this could look like supporting a survivor shortly after the experience when they go to the hospital for a forensic rape exam, meeting for several weeks or months after the trauma to provide counseling support, and/or supporting through the various legal and campus-based accountability processes available to survivors.

My current non-academic research interest is investigating how mental health providers talk about their clients and their clients' diagnosed conditions; the ways that professional texts and literature (including diagnostic manuals, treatment protocols, etc.) work up 'mental illness'; and the way the treatment environment is physically set up (including details like waiting rooms/reception areas and office spaces) all combine to shape the subject positions available to the client as well as providers' engagement with their client and the resulting therapeutic interventions provided.

Why did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?

I was curious! About undergraduate research in general, of course, but also about music and about what my work could look like if I had the space to do nothing but think about a particular set of pieces for an extended amount of time. The research fellowship was such a luxurious opportunity for which I am still grateful—the work I've done since has undeniably been shaped by that first, incredibly positive experience with independent research.

How did your undergraduate research experience influence your career path?

While my field has shifted since I was doing my undergraduate research, I can't imagine doing the work I do now without those roots. The critical- and creative-thinking skills I developed while doing musicological research at Buffalo State are still central to my work, and I doubt my analysis would be the same if I hadn't started where I did.

Describe the research you did and if you presented it at any professional conference, juried art exhibit, or other off-campus location.

I was working with Bela Bartok's Twenty-Three Choruses for Two- and Three-Part Women's Choruses, a relatively unknown set of pieces by an otherwise well-known composer. My work focused on the interaction between Bartok's faithfulness to traditional Hungarian folk song sources and his introduction of modernist techniques in his composition of the pieces.

Undergraduate Research Mentor: Dr. Carolyn Guzski