Dissertation Completion Grants are awarded to doctoral students on a competitive basis. The grant is to help support students enrolled in a doctoral program at Illinois State to complete their dissertation and graduate from their program within two years.
Mennonite College of Nursing
Dissertation Committee Chair: Cindy Kerber, Ph.D, APN, CNS
Department of Psychology
Dissertation Committee Chair: Steve Croker, Ph.D.
Coordination Dynamics and Intervention Outcomes in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Successful social interactions typically include mental and bodily coordination with other people. Several recent studies have explored interpersonal motor coordination in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Individuals with ASD perform similarly to typically developing (TD) children on goal-directed imitation tasks (Eigsti, 2013). However Isenhower et al. (2012) and Fitzpatrick et al. (2013) found that children with ASD display greater intrapersonal coordination and interpersonal synchrony deficits, which in turn have an effect on overall social coordination. Deficits in social interaction may also affect learning, behavior, and the success of interventions. The aim of the study is to examine the temporal motor dynamics of imitation and coordination in children with ASD and TD children. By recording hand movements during goal-directed and non-goal-directed imitation tasks, and single and joint drumming tasks, we can examine differences in movement patterns between ASD and TD children. This study will examine the relationships between imitation, coordination, and performance on Discrete Trial Training interventions for ASD children. Furthermore, this study will explore whether imitation and coordination improve with practice, and whether this improvement leads to better treatment outcomes for children with ASD.
Mennonite College of Nursing
Dissertation Committee Chair: Shelly Malin
Pedometer use with BMI >85% in a pediatric primary care office
Childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic in the United States, which can have long term physical and psychosocial implications. Children are more sedentary today, as technology makes sitting versus active the norm. Pediatric group programs for children have primarily been offered through the school system or community with little research within a pediatric primary care office. This scholarly project is a systematic program evaluation of the Step by Step Program to determine the feasibility of providing pedometers and evidence based educational intervention in a group format to children, aged 10-18 in a primary care practice. Individual goals will be set and activity will be monitored through the use of pedometers and nutritional intake by a 24 hour food recall. This study uses pedometers with step increase in goals, and evidence based activity and nutrition education to reinforce changing behaviors to promote a healthier lifestyle, increase physical activity, and nutritional goals with the intent of normalizing BMI overtime. The study will be a convenience sampling of a single group with educational sessions at day 1 and day 30, and a survey on diet and exercise at day 1, day 30 and end of study at day 60, along with a 24 hour food recall. The group will receive weekly phone calls, texting or emails of increasing pedometer goals. Height, weight, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI) will be measured on enrollment in the study and at day 30 and day 60. SMART goals developed by each child/guardian will be made after the 2 education sessions related to healthy diet changes and/or increase in physical activity. Descriptive statistics will be calculated and compared. This program evaluation study will look to see if using pedometers, along with nutritional and exercise education as a group intervention within a primary pediatric practice will be feasible.
Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Craig Blum
A Parent-Implemented Intervention with Mobile Technology to Foster Joint Media Engagement that Addresses Expressive Language Concerns in Young Children with Disabilities
Early childhood special educators face many challenges teaching young children with expressive language delays. One of those challenges is teaching parents effective strategies to address the expressive language delays in the home setting. The purpose of this study is to provide a systematic approach that includes the use of mobile technology for parents to promote their child’s expressive language development. To accomplish this goal, a four-week intervention implementing the Joint Attention Mediated Learning-Focus on Verbal Expression with Technology (JAML-FVET) strategy is proposed. The researcher provides the intervention while training the parent. Specifically, the parents learn how to capture their child's attention, so the child is focusing on the language-based activity with an app (Make a Scene) with the goal of the child acquiring and independently using the targeted words with intent in the home environment. The study is to determine a hypothesized causal relationship of the parent-implemented Joint Attention Mediated Learning-Focus on Verbal Expression with Technology (JAML-FVET) intervention in order to promote the acquisition and use of targeted words.
Publications & Presentations:
Blum, C., & Evans, Y. (2015, November). Universal Design for Learning and dual language learners: Scaffolding, apps, and emergent literacy. Presentation delivered at the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Orlando, FL.
Blum, C., & Evans, Y. (2015, April). Connecting Universal Design for Learning, apps, and emergent literacy in the early education classroom. Presentation delivered at the annual conference of the Council for Exceptional Children, San Diego, CA.
Blum, C., & Evans, Y. (2015, April). Connecting Universal Design for Learning, apps, and STEM in the early education classroom . Presentation delivered at the annual conference of the Council for Exceptional Children, San Diego, CA.
Evans, Y. (2013, June). Creating connections using visual mediation strategies to promote communication. Poster presentation at the annual conference of the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Pittsburgh, PA.
Evans, Y. (2013, November). Making early connections brain-based strategies, bringing neuroscience to practice. Training session delivered at the Child and Family Connections Conference, Decatur, IL.
Evans, Y. (2013, February). Making connections: Brain-based learning strategies for executive functioning for differentiated instruction. Presentation delivered at the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children Fall Convention, Lisle, IL
Department of English
Dissertation Committee Chair: Susan Kim
Entangled Bodies in the Medieval World: Anglo-Saxon Life Writing in Prefaces, Hagiography, and Letters
This dissertation will argue that there are a variety of texts, including prefaces and letters, written during the Medieval period in England that can productively be studied as life writing, alongside hagiography, despite their non-traditional forms. Further, I argue that reading these texts together as life writing and through feminist new materialism can highlight connections among various beings in, and surrounding, texts. In particular, I show the ways in which unauthorized subjects (women, animals, and others) can, at least sometimes, be read as circumventing the approved narrative sanctioned by formidable patriarchal structures like the (Catholic) Church. And, additionally, how these subjects can bypass traditional readings and categorization of medieval texts, since examining less traditional forms of life narrative like prefaces, letters, and fictional letters along with hagiography highlights intra-actions among beings often overlooked and overshadowed in these long studied texts. Texts under examination include Latin and Old English prefaces and letters written by late 10th century Benedictine reformer, Ælfric, alongside the fictional “Alexander’s Letter to Aristotle” and two well-know hagiographical texts, the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and the Life of St. Margaret of Antioch.
Mennonite College of Nursing
Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Mary Dyck, Ph.D., RN, LNHA
The Effect First Clinical Assignments Have on Prelicensure Nursing Students' Attitudes toward Persons Who Are Aged
Americans over the age of 65, the fastest growing group in the United States, are putting an increased demand on the healthcare system. Despite the increased need for nurses to care for this population, nursing students do not choose to specialize in geriatric nursing after graduation. A review of the literature links this lack of interest to student nurses' negative attitudes toward persons who are aged. This study is designed to determine the effects that first clinical learning experiences have on nursing students’ attitudes toward persons who are aged and whether there is a difference in student attitudes based on the sequencing of the clinical experiences. This is a quasi-experimental design study. Consenting prelicensure nursing students will receive the Refined Aging Semantic Differential survey fall semester 2015 before, during, and after completing their first clinical learning experiences. Based upon the academic achievements of the doctoral student and the research accomplishments by members of the dissertation committee, the research environment is conducive to successful completion of this study. The expected outcome is three manuscripts, two publications, and a presentation. The results of this study will add to the existing literature and can be applied to educational decision making by nursing programs.
Department of English
Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Cynthia Huff
Life Writing the Civil War in Sierra Leone
Life Writing the Civil War in Sierra Leone focuses on post-civil-war memoirs which were published about the eleven year civil war (1991-2002) of that country. Between 1991 and 2002, Sierra Leone fought one of the most destructive civil wars of the twentieth century. This, in turn, attracted a lot of writers, both nationally and internationally, to publish memoirs that reflected the wide range of human rights abuses that took place before, during, and after the war. Therefore, this project entails a theoretical engagement with these memoirs (fifteen in number) in order to see how they represent the Sierra Leonean civil war, especially in regards the causes of the war. Life Writing the Civil War in Sierra Leone also seeks to highlight and trouble the canonical and pedagogical gaps of life writing texts in the Sierra Leonean field of literary studies and high school and college syllabi.
Department of Mathematics
Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Ken Clements
Effects of Two Instructional Approaches on Seventh-Grade Students’ Algebraic Reasoning
This algebra-readiness study was based on exploring the effects of different teaching interventions with three seventh-grade classes in a mid-West middle-school. Two approaches to beginning algebra—a “Modeling approach and a “Structural” approach—will be employed, with just one approach being taught to a particular class. The same teacher (Ms. X), will teach all three classes (one control class), each for a period of seven weeks. Pre-teaching and post-teaching data will be collected, the instruments being an Algebra Readiness test (ART), a Modeling test, and a Structure test. In addition to data from these pencil-and-paper instruments, data from 36 one-one interviews with students (18 pre-teaching and 18 post-teaching) will be collected. Initial plotting study’s findings indicated that whereas the Modeling class’s mean gain score was significantly different from zero, the mean gain scores for the other two groups increased only slightly.
Mennonite College of Nursing
Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Wendy Woith
Understanding the End of Life Knowledge, Beliefs, and Preferences of Alaska Native/American Indian People
A focus of Healthy People 2020 is to reduce or eliminate health disparities. An area of concern is end-of-life care, especially for Alaska Natives/American Indians (AN/AI). Little is known about AN/AI peoples’ knowledge, beliefs, and preferences when approaching end of life (EOL). When examining palliative care or hospice, few studies reveal experiences by AN/AI. There is a disproportionate use of hospice, a form of palliative care at EOL, among AN/AI people when compared to their white counterparts. This represents a health disparity.
The purpose of this study is to explore understanding about EOL knowledge, beliefs, and preferences of AN/AI people. The three research questions are: 1) What is the knowledge of hospice/palliative care services among AN/AI people? 2) What are the beliefs surrounding EOL care among AN/AI people? 3) What are the preferences surrounding EOL care among AN/AI? The specific aims of this study are: to describe AN/AI people’s knowledge of hospice/palliative care services, and their beliefs and preferences surrounding EOL care.
The findings of this study will contribute to future EOL care, contributing to a peaceful death experience for Alaska Native and American Indian people.
Department of Psychology
Dissertation Committee Chair Dr. Steven Landau
Middle-School Girls’ Behavioral Responses to Ostracism: How Much Does Inclusion Cost?
Child and adolescent peer relationships are essential to healthy development, and disturbed peer relations have been linked to a variety of negative outcomes. Research indicates that relational aggression, which involves the threat or removal of friendships to cause harm to the victim most often occurs among girls (Crick & Grotpeter, 1995), with consequences as serious as those associated with physical bullying. Ostracism, the excluding or ignoring of others by individuals or groups (Williams, 2009), is a specialized form of relational aggression leading to adult psychopathology; however, it has been relatively under researched in children and adolescents. This study aims to investigate middle-school girls’ behavioral responses to varying levels of ostracism during a computerized ball-toss game. Particular attention will be given to the moderating effects of individual differences on girls’ ingratiating responses to their ostracizers.
Publications & Presentations:
Leja, A. M., & Wesselmann, E. D. (2013). Invisible youth: Understanding ostracism in our schools. NASP Communiqué, 42(4).
Lovett, B. J., & Leja, A. M. (2013). ADHD symptoms and benefit from extended time testing accommodations. Journal of Attention Disorders, 19(2), 167-172.
Lovett, B. J., & Leja, A. M. (2013). Students’ perceptions of testing accommodations: What we know, what we need to know, and why it matters. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 29(1), 72-89.
Department of Educational Administration and Foundations
Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Dianne Renn
Conflict Resolution and Practitioner Self-Confidence
This research is intended to qualitatively understand how practitioners in higher education student conduct administration develop self-efficacy in their ability to practice conflict resolution skills. While conflict resolution skills are required for people working in these positions, very few of these practitioners have an extensive background in conflict resolution, raising a question as to how prepared practitioners are to manage conflicts between students, between students and faculty/staff, and between students and an institution.
In order to answer this question, the plan of the co-principal investigator (hereafter referred to as investigator) is to interview between seven and ten experienced full-time first professionals in this field to understand how their self-confidence in conflict resolution has been constructed. Have their views been formed based on environmental factors and critical incidents from their youth? Have these practitioners had education that contributes to their self-confidence, or have they engaged in formal training programs? By asking a broad range of questions about previous experiences, The investigator wants to allow student conduct practitioners to begin telling their stories on how prepared they were to enter their professional roles, and what they have done to increase their self-confidence. Note that student conduct practitioners are generally Masters-degree level professionals, while some have juris doctorates or other terminal degrees. Interviewees will be selected first to ensure a variety of institutional types, including public, private, large, small, two-year, four-year, and geographical location. Once diversity of institution is provided for, the investigator will then seek to select participants that provide demographic (sex, age, race) diversity. Participants will be identified via an email from the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA) sending an email to its individual members directing them to a brief screening survey.
Detection of Parathyroid hormone type-2 receptor (Pth2r) splice variants in early vertebrate development
The regulated system of gene expression to assemble numerous proteins from a single gene results in multiple “splice variants”. This alternative splicing of DNA is estimated to be involved in 95% of genes in the human genome which makes it a prime target of research in multiple areas of molecular biology. Aberrantly spliced genes (and subsequent proteins products) are associated with various cancers, diabetes, neurodegenerative and skeletal diseases. Alternative splicing also plays a major role for proper development, where it regulates critical morphological (tissue patterning) events. Parathyroid hormone type-2 receptor (Pth2r) binds its ligand, parathyroid hormone type-2 (Pth2), contributing to cartilage and bone development, inflammatory pain perception, and behavior response to nociception. Pth2r is observed in the developing heart, retina, and ear in vertebrates. However, only one of seven splice variants of the Pth2r has been studied and characterized in either embryonic or adult vertebrates. The proposed approach combines the utilization of transparent zebrafish embryos with a new molecular beacon tool, fluorescent DNA nano-tweezers (DNA-NTs), to detect different splice variants of Pth2r. This research seeks to identify where these uncharacterized splice variants of Pth2r are expressed during early development and lay the groundwork for future research into their specific functionalities.
School of Biological Sciences
Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brian J. Wilkinson
Regulation of autolysins in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
Multiple antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a leading worldwide cause of infections causing significant morbidity and mortality. Biosynthesis of the S. aureus major cell wall polymer peptidoglycan has been a target for several successful anti-staphylococcal drugs including methicillin (a β-lactam), vancomycin, and daptomycin. However, S. aureus has developed resistance against all these antibiotics in the form of methicillin-resistant (MRSA), vancomycin-intermediate resistant (VISA), and reduced daptomycin-susceptible (DRSA) isolates. S. aureus possesses various autolysin enzymes that are involved in peptidoglycan remodeling and splitting of daughter cells. In antibiotic susceptible strains these enzymes are deregulated and participate in staphylococcal killing and lysis upon challenge with the antimicrobial agents. VISA and DRSA often show decreased autolytic activity, which helps them tolerate vancomycin and daptomycin. The mechanism underlying the dramatic shut down in S. aureus autolysis will be investigated using a novel wall teichoic acid synthesis inhibitor, targocil. Growth of DRSA that are also MRSA in the presence of β-lactams renders them susceptible to low concentration of daptomycin. The mechanism of this phenomenon will be studied using the membrane-active agent daptomycin. Understanding the regulation of autolysins will help us shape strategies to mitigate antibiotic resistance in S. aureus.