Student Achievements in Research Celebrated at 2017 SCHOLAR Day

April 26, 2017

ALLIANCE – On Tuesday, the tenth annual Students Celebration Honoring Our Latest Academic Research (SCHOLAR) Day was held on the campus of the University of Mount Union. Presentations represented 33 departments and programs, including Mount Union’s Master of Arts in Educational Leadership (MAEL) and Physician Assistant Studies graduate programs. 

Recaps of six of the 39 formal presentations throughout the day can be found below:

PA Student Presents on Relationship Between Social Media and Mental Health
ALLIANCE – With the rise of mental health issues in younger populations, physicians and counselors have searched for answers as to why. Stephanie Gross, a graduate student in the Physician Assistant Studies Program, presented her research on the connection between social media and mental health in teenagers during this year’s SCHOLAR Day. 

Gross detailed the pressure that young adults feel to present themselves in a way that will gain likes and build their self-esteem. With this pressure comes the added effects of increased anxiety and depression. Research has shown that teens who use social media for more than two hours a day have a much higher chance of suffering from mental issues, especially when this usage begins to interrupt daily living.

During her research, Gross found that parents are the most important factor affecting how often teens use social media. To address this concern, she suggested that parents monitor and limit their children’s social media usage and set an example by limiting their own usage.

While the exact relationship between mental health issues and social media is unknown, Gross’s research showed that there is a connection, and being aware of this connection can provide the opportunity for early intervention. 

Honors Students Present Research on Campus Diversity

ALLIANCE – Five students from the Honors Program presented research on diversity from their Themes course during this year’s SCHOLAR Day. The presenters included sophomore Thomas Wines ‘19, junior Emily McConnell ‘18, junior Gaston Marian ‘18, junior Pete Young ‘18 and junior Ian Paxton ‘18.

The group conducted a survey on campus to analyze how diversity and a student’s background affects what educational fields students enter and what professional career paths they choose. They focused specifically on gender disparities in STEM fields and racial disparities in the United States.

The students found that most survey participants, especially those in minority groups, are dissatisfied with diverse representation on college campuses. Only 17 percent of faculty in colleges across the United States are of color. Corresponding with this, most African-American survey respondents said they did not have a faculty member of their race within their department.

The Honors group concluded that role models are important in determining what field students choose to pursue because representation helps eliminate social stigmas and perceptions that limit minorities. Diversity is not yet properly represented in higher education, but continued research and efforts of awareness will help to close the gap.

Mechanical Engineering Group Present “Hops Harvester” at SCHOLAR Day

ALLIANCE – Three senior mechanical engineering majors at the University of Mount Union presented their machine in an attempt to make life better for both farmers and beer aficionados alike.

Jon Stingel ‘17, Jacob Lawhorn ’17 and Matt Furda ‘17 presented their “Hops Harvester” at Mount Union’s tenth annual SCHOLAR Day on Tuesday. Their project was brought to them by Dr. Andrew Wereszczak, a member of Mount Union’s engineering advisory board, who is also a hops farmer.

The problem at hand was the amount of time it takes for owners of small farms to separate the hops from their bines; a process that consumes nearly an hour per bine for some farmers. In an industry that processed more than 27 million pounds of hops in 2014, time is something many small farm owners cannot afford to waste. 

The group focused on the first phase of the project, which was designing the harvester, while they also began phase two, which is the implementation and testing that a group of engineering students will finish next year.

Based on initial projections, the group intends the machine to harvest hops nearly ten times faster than those currently doing it by hand; all the while making a machine that is more compact and affordable than those used by larger farms for corporations. 

Psychology Group Discusses Research in Minority Student Stress, Retention

ALLIANCE - Seniors Caitlin Shimp ‘17, Tae’Lor Windham ‘17, Taylor Lundy ‘17, Alyssa Chuckalovchak ‘17 and Taylor Bates ‘17 discussed their research titled “Effect of Minority Status on Stress, Attitudes Toward First-Year Programming and Retention” at the University of Mount Union’s tenth annual SCHOLAR Day.

During their initial background research into the topic, the group found that studies show most departures from college happen prior to the student’s second year; thus leading to their focus on first-year students at the University.

They conducted a survey of 131 first-year students, 13 of whom were of minority status. The survey asked the participant group questions about potential socioeconomic and academic stressors from sourced stress inventories; participants also assessed the Exceptional Beginnings program at Mount Union for an in-depth look at retention perceptions.

The group was pleasantly surprised to note that most the participants would return for their sophomore year at the University regardless of stressors or minority status. They collected their data using one-way ANOVA testing.

Education Majors Focus on Professional Development Mount Union’s 10th annual SCHOLAR Day 

ALLIANCE – University of Mount Union seniors Alexis Parsons ‘17, Kayla Ashdown ‘17, Kate Baker ‘17, Annisa Coley ‘17, Katie Goedecke ‘18, and Kristen Reihl ’18 presented on their professional learning community (PCL) “IT’S Math” (“I Teach Students Math!”), which they created in collaboration with Professor Stacey Cederbloom, at the tenth annual SCHOLAR Day.

“IT’S MATH” aims to assist future educators in their understanding and ability to effectively and creatively teach mathematics concepts to their students.

The concept of “IT’S Math” stemmed from the seniors’ understanding that education professionals are always in need of professional development opportunities to better serve their students, no matter what grade level or learning style. They wanted to cultivate a culture of collaboration and results here at Mount Union to help polish classroom activities, develop better questioning skills, and expanding their lesson plans beyond simple pen and paper “grind it out” type learning. 

“We as math educators need to be confident in what we are teaching, and the fact that we can help build this confidence in future educators is incredibly powerful,” said Baker, a Middle Childhood Education major. She explained that because her peers were voluntarily coming to these evening PCL sessions, they were better able grow and collaborate.

The group presented the set-up of their sessions, noting that they modeled their meetings from actual lessons plans and classroom activities to get real-time feedback from their peers. They shared an activity with the audience to exemplify this, asking everyone to play a few rounds of a modified game of “War” with a deck of cards.

Parsons, a Mathematics major, covered the surveys they conducted following both years of “IT’S Math” and how helpful the participants have found the sessions. 

“People are really enjoying the sessions,” she said. “It’s gotten more popular in its second year, and I hope its popularity and helpfulness continues to grow.”

The group noted that future educators feeling confident about their teaching abilities was crucial to their effectiveness, and this was something they focused heavily on when designing and discussing classroom activities.

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