USFSM Recognizes Research Symposium Winners

SARASOTA, Fla. (November 3, 2014) – University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM) recently hosted its annual Student Research Symposium, a program offering students an opportunity to present research, learn from peers and be mentored by faculty. Graduate and undergraduate students from all USFSM Colleges (Arts & Sciences, Business, Education and Hospitality & Tourism Leadership) were encouraged to participate.

The Student Government Association (SGA) sponsors up to four undergraduate students whose work is judged to be the best of the symposium to attend the prestigious National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR), to be held at Eastern Washington University in April 2015.

“The Student Research Symposium is a great way for students to network with peers and USFSM faculty members,” said Kimberly Badanich, psychology instructor and research symposium mentor. “Our event provides an opportunity to foster good critical thinking and communication skills.”

Awards are split into two categories: oral and poster presentations. For the oral presentation category, the first place winner was Psychology major Jennifer Huck, who is now eligible for the National Conference for Undergraduate Research travel award. Her research topic was “The Role of a Gay Straight Alliance in the Lives of LGBTQ Youth”, in which she used interviews and focus groups to share Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) youth perspectives on the role Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) have in their lives, and what these youth gain personally from participating in GSA. Her mentor was Dr. Melissa Sloan from the College of Arts & Sciences.

The second place winner for oral presentation was Interdisciplinary Social Sciences major Ashley Metelus, who is also eligible for the NCUR travel award. She conducted her research on “Haitian-American College Students’ Motivations for Pursuing Postsecondary Education: The Role of Parents’ Low-Wage Occupation”, studying motivations behind Haitian-Americans’ drive to achieve higher education.  Her mentor was Dr. Melissa Sloan from the College of Arts & Sciences.

The third place recipient was Psychology major Mackinzie Fakih. Her presentation was entitled “Reversal Learning Following Alcohol Exposure is Impaired by Deficits in Discrimination Learning”, in which she performed a study with rats to show how alcohol impairs performance on reversal learning tasks. With the help of her mentor Dr. Kimberly Badanich from the College of Arts & Sciences, Fakih hopes her findings will improve methodologies for treating cognitive impairments and alcohol dependency.

For the poster presentation winners, first place was awarded to Interdisciplinary Social Sciences major Kathryn Sandland, who is also eligible for the NCUR travel award. Her mentor was Dr. Melissa Sloan from the College of Arts & Sciences. The title of her research project was “Social and Emotional Distress Among Humanitarian Aid Workers Operating in Armed Conflict Situations”.  Sandland identified the prevalent need for emotional and social support for humanitarian aid workers who experience the trauma of armed conflict.

Also eligible for the NCUR travel award, Psychology major Cassandra LaBounty won second place for her poster presentation: “Acquisition of 21st Century Skills Through Small Group Learning in an Arts Integrated Context.” LaBounty’s presentation explored the efficacy of small group learning in a cognitive arts integrated context. Preliminary results demonstrate arts integration offers a more effective learning environment than a non-arts integrated, small group learning context. Her mentor was Dr. A. Helene Robinson from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Finally, History major William Kittinger tied for third place with Speech Language Pathology major Jessica Ploss in the poster presentation category. Kittinger’s project was titled “Evangelizing the Eucharist: 21st Century Grace for Millennials of the ELCA” where he used research to identify ritual practices of the Eucharist that potentially provide a method of spiritual evangelization and reinvigoration for Milennials of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). His mentor was Dr. Jonathan Scott Perry from the College of Arts & Sciences.

Ploss’s poster presentation “Accommodations within Education for Students with Hearing Loss” examined how students with hearing loss are accommodated in classrooms and standardized tests as well as how teachers employ these accommodations in the classroom. This study identified a need for more time to be dedicated to students with learning disabilities as compared to the need for interpreters in a classroom. Ploss’ mentor was Dr. Susan Fulton from the College of Arts & Sciences