University Park, IL,
18:08 PM

Celebrating Scholarship: Research Day 2018

In the ultimate display of inquiry, GSU faculty and students gathered in the Hall of Governors and classrooms to share knowledge culled from projects and studies undertaken during the 2017-18 academic year through poster presentations and breakout sessions.

The third annual Research Day 2018 engaged the entire campus across interests and disciplines, rank and position, to celebrate inquiring minds and the resulting scholarship in a community of life-long learners.

More than 20 projects were discussed throughout the daylong event, during which 76 posters also were presented on topics and issues that ranged from how to remove lead from water to how to turn art into profit.

Math Professor Chris Tweddle wanted to know the impact of aerodynamics on bike speed. In his “Modeling and Simulation of a Bicycle Race,” Tweddle used a modified standardized speed equation to account for and incorporate changes in technological advances over the past 40 years.

Assistant Professors Amy Vujaklija, Jelena Radovic-Fanta, and Jayne R. Goode co-presented “First Ever First Year Student Adjustment to College.” Their interest in the student experience inspired them to lead a GSU grant-funded study exploring GSU's transformation to a four-year institution to learn how to improve the first-year experience.

Their Research Day presentation included student responses to questions centered around what worked and what didn’t during their first year, including what resources were available for struggling students, how the cohorts aided in their integration to the university, and how personal situational factors impacted their success.

“What helped me succeed was my relationship with professors,” one student reported. “We want more mentorship, more juniors and seniors who can connect with us,” another student responded.

Input is what senior Trauvell Crawford was seeking as the sole male student participating in the “Black Girl Magic” presentation of undergraduate research experiences of successful African-American women at GSU. “Our male population isn’t performing as well as the women,” Crawford said. “We want to mimic their success.”

Crawford and his three co-presenters questioned the roles of race and gender in the achievements of GSU students as part of an Equity Grant secured to identify equity-focused, campus-based strategies for student success.

“How do African-American women succeed in their junior year at GSU?’’ asked senior Akya Gossitt who answered her own question during the course of the study. Gossitt discovered a resilience that allowed her to move forward despite losing three family members, including her mother, in less than a 12-month span.

In a separate session for student-veterans, Gossitt also discussed the impact of leaving her infant son when he was deployed and then losing friends in combat.

Before his presentation, student-veteran Victor Garcia wondered, “How can the humanities help war veterans heal?” He and Gossitt co-facilitated facilitated a “War, Trauma, and the Humanities” class sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In the class, students learned how to process deep losses by connecting with stories or poems penned by soldiers of past wars and conflicts. For example, reading “Operation Homecoming” helped Gossitt cope with leaving her son while other works showed her she had something in common with World War I soldiers. “They had PTSD, too. They just called in shell shock.”

Research Day, an extended Q & A session guiding many presenters to discover answers to their questions, while some researchers were left wanting more.

Sean Smith, coordinator of the Male Success Initiative, co-led a student team to Port Arthur, Texas for an Alternative Spring Break mission to clean up following Category 4 Hurricane Harvey, which dumped 50 inches of rain across parts of Texas last August. The Office of Civic Engagement and AmeriCorps sponsored the trip to promote an institutional core value among students and faculty.

In March, a GSU crew of six students opted to spend Spring Break removing moldy and muddy debris Harvey left in its wake. Asked if he was glad he went senior Lester Van Moody did not hesitate. “This gave me a different perspective on life.’’

He and other students report learning more about themselves and the world than they would have during a traditional break.

However, they were left with questions about why certain areas – where people seemed not to have as many resources – were flooded when the city promised they were not in harm’s way. Further, seven months after the storm, many were still without clean water and living in devastated communities while others had moved on. “We can’t prevent it because it’s a natural disaster,’’ said senior Joy Thomas. “But, what can we do to not have so many lives broken?”