Bulls Notebook: USFSM researcher to visit Bulgaria, refugee camps

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: June 23, 2017

Bulls Notebook: USFSM researcher to visit Bulgaria, refugee camps

Dr. Helene Robinson

SARASOTA, Fla. (June 25, 2017) – Two years after visiting Jerusalem to give a lecture about arts-integrated instruction, Dr. Helene Robinson is packing her bags for another exotic locale. This time, the assistant professor in USF Sarasota-Manatee’s School of Education is heading to Sofia, Bulgaria.

“I’m very excited. It will be the farthest east I’ve traveled to in Europe,” she said.

A specialist in arts-integrated teaching and special education, Dr. Robinson will attend a conference of the Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES) of the Council for Exceptional Children.

The annual roundtable conference shifts to a different nation annually to spotlight the challenges of providing inclusive education around the world. Bordered by Turkey, Bulgaria has become a stop-over for many fleeing war-ravaged areas of the Middle East. Refugee camps have sprung up around the country as in other parts of Europe.

As part of her five-day visit, Dr. Robinson and other conference presenters will visit the camps and meet local educators and others coping with the influx. They’ll also visit a rural area to assist primary and secondary teachers as well as “a Roman Centre” to learn about barriers to learning within this nomadic, ethnic population.

“That’s one of the things I love about these conferences. They have a service component,” she said. “Their mission is to support inclusive education around the world for children who are disabled or gifted by promoting knowledge, exchange, collaboration, human rights and advocacy.”

For most of the conference, the attendees will discuss their research and hold workshops to aid in professional development. Dr. Robinson will present research on factors that influence the effectiveness of arts-integrated instruction and lead a workshop on positive-behavior intervention support for teachers in Teteven, a village 70 miles northeast of Sofia.

Arts-integrated instruction is a teaching method in which art concepts and skills are deeply embedded within academic concepts and skills to build connections, provide engaging context and differentiate the process and product of learning. Studies show multiple positive outcomes in classrooms and schools where rigorous arts-integrated learning is occurring.

Little known 15 years ago, the instructional method has started to gain worldwide attention with an increasing amount of research suggesting positive gains for all students but especially for marginalized populations. However, misunderstanding about arts integration persists in some corners of the world, such as when its confused with “arts enhancement,” Dr. Robinson said.

“Many have heard about arts-integrated instruction, but may have limited knowledge about it. Many people think it’s arts with teaching, but it’s so much more than that,” she said.

Not all of the professor’s time will be spent in academic pursuits. Following the lectures, the group will be offered guided tours to cultural and historical centers around the capital city. They’ll also visit local schools, as well as refugee camps, to assist and discuss teaching techniques.

“That’s what I’m most excited about,” Dr. Robinson said. “We’re not just a bunch of researchers attending a conference. We actually go out into the local community and engage with the community.”

USFSM undergrad to present at math conference

Biology student Katie McClure continues to amaze in mathematics.

The 20-year-old junior has been asked to make a presentation at the annual Mathematical Association of America MathFest 2017 in Chicago this summer. The annual conference is attended by thousands of academics and graduate students.

McClure will give a presentation on “Associated factors that contribute to liver cancer within Florida.” She’ll talk for about 15 minutes then take audience questions.

“I am very surprised and very excited,” she said.

Bulls Notebook: USFSM researcher to visit Bulgaria, refugee camps

Dr. Joy D’Andrea

McClure found out last week she had been accepted to the four-day conference after applying a month ago. Mathematics instructor Dr. Joy D’Andrea, who is also attending, said McClure’s inclusion is surprising for an undergraduate.

“I didn’t present at my first conference until I was a grad student,” she said.

A few days after the conference, Dr. D’Andrea will make her own presentation at the Baltimore JSM 2017. The JSM (Joint Statistical Meetings) is the largest annual gathering of statisticians in North America.

Dr. D’Andrea will discuss her research on predictive analysis for the appearance of hurricanes for the Section on Statistics and the Environment under the heading “Climate and Meteorology — Contributed Papers.”

In addition to presenting her research, she will chair the section.

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