Scholars shine at research symposium

A proud moment for faculty mentor Nicole Martin, and students Gaius Augustus and DiAngele Augustus

One hundred and sixty-four students presented oral and poster projects at the 19th annual Symposium of Student Scholars & Undergraduate Research Reception and set a new bar of academic excellence. Some students presented multiple projects this year, a growing trend, while others have returned with new research work to showcase.

This year’s symposium attracted projects from Bagwell College of Education, Coles College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Science and Mathematics, College of the Arts and WellStar College of Health and Human Services.

For the more than 300 who gathered at the Convocation Center for the annual event on April 17 and browsed row after row of scholarly presentations, a clear winner was Kennesaw State’s growing undergraduate research portfolio. The participating students and 69 faculty mentors with whom they collaborated shared their pride of accomplishment with administrators, faculty and friends.

Dr. Ken Harmon, provost and vice president of academic affairs, conveyed his enthusiasm to those in attendance. He noted that research on what makes college students successful in their academic careers and in life shows that students who participate in these types of activities are winners. In addition, he said undergraduate research connects students to KSU and to their field of study in ways that will serve them well long into the future.

Geena Washington, a junior majoring in psychology, was among the students who presented a poster at the event. Her psychology team researched factors causing blame-taking behaviors. She said she was both proud and humbled by the research experience. “Looking back at all of the time and hard work spent on this project gives me a sense of accomplishment. I would have never guessed a year ago that I would be here. I credit Dr. (Jennifer) Willard for pushing me to pursue this project, and I appreciate all of her support.”

The symposium, organized and sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), presented a wide range of student research on topics drawn from multiple disciplines. (Click here to view entire program.) Among the submissions were projects that have been or will be presented at other conferences, received awards, and were conducted in collaboration with other universities.

“Undergraduate research has really grown over the years at Kennesaw State,” said Amy Buddie, associate director for graduate student support and undergraduate research/creative activity, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. “Students are doing very sophisticated work that is being presented at regional, national and even international conferences. Many students at the symposium are working with their faculty mentors to publish their research in academic journals.”

Research faculty mentor, Anda Gadidov, reflected positively on the symposium, as well, noting how important research experience is for undergraduate students. “Students presenting their work at conferences and symposia develop communication skills, both written and verbal, and learn about new opportunities and networking. The experience is invaluable.”

Examples of KSU undergraduate scholars who have presented their work in professional venues and/or had their work published:

• Oscar Mendez presented his research at the Southeastern Psychology Association (SEPA) in Nashville, Tenn. (faculty mentor: Gail Scott)

• Zach Carter presented at the 9th annual University of North Carolina at Greensboro Regional Mathematics and Statistics Conference, the Georgia Scientific Computing Symposium, and the 3rd annual Kennesaw Mountain Undergraduate Mathematics Conference (faculty mentor: Anda Gadidov)

• Cristina Migles-Schmitt presented at SEPA in Nashville, Tenn., and a variation of her research will be presented at the National Social Science Association (NSSA) in Las Vegas (faculty mentor: Gail Scott)

• Blake Bottomley presented at the Georgia Academy of Sciences annual meeting (faculty mentor: Teresa Raczek)

• Gaius Augustus presented at the National Conference on LGBT Equality (faculty mentor: Nicole Martin) • Shannon Broome presented at the Agnes Scott “Collage” Art History Colloquium (faculty mentor: Diana McClintock)

• Rebecca Anna Mattord published in Geography of Beer (2014) (faculty mentor: Nancy Hoalst-Pullen)

Student projects earning distinction at this year’s symposium:

Mariah Heilpern's project, “The Mughal Marvel that is the Taj Mahal: Symbolic and Nostalgic Use of Past Tomb Architecture,” won a CETL Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Funding Award to present a paper at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Ga.

Poster Winner:

The Relationship Between Blood Pressure, Cardiovascular Endurance, and Executive Function in Older Adults
Ashlyn Schwartz, Courtenay Hicks, Sara Morris, Jon Garrett, and Elizabeth Thomas
Faculty Mentors: Tiffany Esmat and David Mitchell
Wellstar College of Health and Human Services
Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management

Poster Runner-Up:

Improving Existing Tumor Growth Models
Victoria Awokunle
Faculty Mentor: Philippe Laval
College of Science and Mathematics
Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Oral Presentation Winner:

Atlanta Parks - Online Mapping and Site Suitability Analysis
Matthew Williams
Faculty Mentor: Nancy Hoalst-Pullen
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Department of Geography & Anthropology

Oral Presentation Runner-Up:

Casting Lines and Casting Spells: Southern Mysticism in Lake Horton
Brittany Higginbotham
Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Giddens
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Department of English

Learn more about the symposium

-by Katherine Dorsett Bennett

-photo by David Caselli