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Past DCG Award Winners

2023 Award Winners

  • Sarah Clark

    Mennonite College of Nursing
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Theresa Adelman-Mullally

    Faculty Incivility and Student Shame Behaviors in Undergraduate Nursing Education

    Creating civil and healthy academic work environments has become a priority focus of national nursing organizations. The prevalence and detrimental effects of faculty to student incivility has been documented in the literature. One of the detrimental effects identified by researchers has been the strong emotional response of students following acts of incivility by faculty. The emotional responses as described by participants and researchers closely align with definitions of shame behaviors. However, a gap in the literature exists related to incivility and shame. The purpose of this study is to explore the intersection of faculty incivility and shame behaviors in undergraduate nursing students. A concurrent embedded model for mixed methods, cross-sectional survey design will be employed to examine the relationship between specific uncivil behaviors, frequency, and shame behaviors in senior undergraduate baccalaureate nursing student cohorts at two Midwestern universities.

  • Arielle Flint

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brea Banks

    Impact of Race and Income-driven Microaggressions on Adolescents' Perception of School Connectedness and Self-Esteem

    Racial microaggressions are a form of everyday racism that harms individuals holding minoritized racial identities. Microaggressions are verbal or nonverbal attacks and communicate hostile messages toward People of Color (Sue et al., 2008). Researchers have also described microaggressions based on the intersections of an individual's socioeconomic status (SES), as these transgressions can impact individuals’ whose income is below the federal poverty line (Scarcedo et al., 2015). Previous research has shown that school personnel and peers view children who come from a low SES background as inferior and not capable of success (Speybroeck et al., 2012). Using survey-based methods, I will examine the impact of racial and income-driven microaggressions on adolescents. I that exposure to microaggressions will be associated with negative outcomes including perceptions of school connectedness and self-esteem. I also hypothesize that the significance of these relations will depend on participants’ race and family income.

  • Jessica McKinley

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Adena Meyers

    “Trust Us To Teach It”: Examining The Associations Among Leadership, Organizational Trust, And Well-Being In Educational Settings

    Today’s educators are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is evidence of the protective influence of positive climate, effective leadership, and support for educator autonomy in promoting educator well-being. There is also evidence to suggest that these protective factors are lacking in educational settings, significantly contributing to educator stress. This proposal outlines a study that will investigate the relations among educator well-being, transformational and autonomy-supportive leadership styles, and organizational trust through the lens of the educator. This cross-sectional survey-based study will examine the relations among these variables, as well as the relative contributions of leadership and trust in predicting educator well-being and the potential mediating effects of organizational trust on the relation between leadership and well-being in educational settings. Multilevel modeling will be used to account for school-level differences in these variables.

  • Logan Sauers

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Ben Sadd

    Creating An Ecosystem, Does Colonization Order Matter in Host Guts Communities?

    Microbes colonize many host organisms from mammals, including humans, to invertebrates such as bees and coral. These microbial communities provide their hosts with many beneficial functions, including nutrition, defense from pathogens, and even developmental cues. Despite knowing the benefits of these communities, only recently has there been appreciation for how ecology and evolution shape the microbial communities and the beneficial outcomes hosts receive. Addressing the role of evolution and ecology in host associated microbial communities is crucial to understanding and predicting the benefits that hosts receive from these communities, and this is the central question of my dissertation work. One such ecological property that may influence these communities is that of priority effects, and I plan to use the DCG funds to advance the experiments from the final chapter of my dissertation to test for these properties in bumble bee gut microbial communities. Priority effects occur when the first microbial species within a host’s gut can shape the resulting community and these effects remain an understudied component of host associated microbial communities. The aim of my work is to test whether priority effects occur within host microbial communities, and what the outcome of these effects might be for host health.

  • Sadia Sultana

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Jan-Ulrik Dahl

    Deciphering Rcrb-Mediated Uropathogenic Escherichia Coli’s Hypochlorous Acid Resistance

    Neutrophils are cells of our innate immune response, and represent the first line of defense to fight off invading pathogens. Activated neutrophils generate potent antimicrobials such as hypochlorous acid (HOCl), which kills pathogens through widespread oxidative damage. Recently, we discovered that uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), the common culprit of urinary tract infections, show much higher resistance towards neutrophil-mediated killing and HOCl-stress than intestinal E. coli. However, how UPEC defend the HOCl-stress was unknown. In my PhD work, I identified the defense system responsible for these phenotypes: RcrB, a putative membrane protein with unknown function. We found that UPEC strains that lack RcrB are substantially more sensitive to HOCl-stress and phagocytosis, respectively, likely due to the increased level of oxidative damage they experience. My goal is now to decipher the precise mechanism by which RcrB contributes to UPEC’s increased HOCl resistance. I propose that RcrB expression controls the HOCl influx into the cell, which increases UPEC’s cellular integrity in a highly oxidizing environment. Using biochemical and phenotypic approaches, I will analyze RcrB expression and its impact on cellular integrity in the presence and absence of HOCl. The proposed study will help us understand how pathogens cause disease in highly inflammatory environments.

  • Nitza Torres-Gonzalez

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brea Banks

    Impact of Ableist Microaggressions on Dis/abled High School Students: Perceptions of School Climate and Academic Motivation

    Dis/abled youth must often navigate negative attitudes and discrimination based on their disability status (Hehir, 2002). Such biases are communicated everyday through subtle, unconscious, and automatic forms of communication, otherwise known as microaggressions (Pérez Huber & Solórzano, 2015). Researchers have found that ableist microaggressions are linked to negative mental health outcomes, isolation, and low academic performance (Conover et al., 2021; Kattari, 2020; Storey, 2007). Microaggressions have also been associated with negative perceptions of school climate (Solórzano et al., 2001), which can impact student wellbeing at school and academic functioning (Ellis et al., 2019; Suldo et al., 2012). Additionally, biases centering students’ ability diminishes academic self-concept that may cause them to feel that they cannot succeed academically (Lett et al., 2019). The aim of this study is to examine the impact of ableist microaggressions on students’ overall perception of school climate and academic motivation. I hypothesize that exposure to ableist microaggressions will significantly predict negative perceptions of school climate and diminished academic motivation. I also predict that these relations will be exacerbated for Participants of Color.

  • Jazsmine Towner

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brea Banks

    The Impact of Microaggressions, Racial Identity and Perceptions of Colorblindness on Black Women’s Cognitive Functioning

    Racial microaggressions are brief, everyday derogatory interactions in the form of subtle insults, gestures, or slights (Sue et al., 2007). Microaggressions often are intentional or unintentional interactions that communicate denigrating messages to individuals holding marginalized identities. Previous research suggests that exposure to microaggressions directly results in cognitive depletion. Specifically, participants have displayed diminished functioning from pre- to post-test on the Stroop (1935) color-naming task after experimental exposure to microaggression as compared to those not exposed (Banks & Landau, 2021). The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of exposure to racial microaggressions on Black women’s cognitive functioning. Using an experimental design, I will examine the impact of racial microaggressions on cognitive depletion. I hypothesize that condition assignment will predict changes in cognitive functioning for Black women. Also, racial centrality and age will moderate the relation between condition assignment and cognitive depletion. Last, I hypothesize that perceptions of colorblindness will mediate the relation between condition assignment and cognitive depletion.


  • Chelsea Boyer

    Educational Administration & Foundations
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Lydia Kyei-Blankson

    The Effect of Institutionalized Barriers On Students Underrepresented In Athletic Training

    According to the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE), 81.9% of athletic training students (ATS) in professional programs are White (CAATE, 2016), which is an overrepresentation when compared to the 58.3% of higher education students who identify as White (Digest of Education Statistics, 2015). After a database search for articles examining this topic, it was concluded that no research had been published on the factors that have created and sustained this inequality. This dissertation seeks to identify the barriers that unrepresented ATS face during their professional programs and to understand their effects on the student's progress towards graduation and certification. This will be accomplished through a mixed-methods investigation. Data collection will include the distribution of an original survey to identify the frequency with which current ATS experience barriers that are common among students across health care education programs. Additionally, qualitative data will be collected as current ATS log and describe their experiences through digital journaling. The findings of this dissertation will help us understand what barriers exist in higher education that prevent underrepresented students from pursuing or completing a degree in athletic training.

  • Tyra Jackson

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brea Banks

    The Impact of Microaggressions and Racial Identity on Adolescents’ Cognitive Functioning

    Racial microaggressions communicate hostile and derogatory messages towards people of color (Sue et al., 2008). These microaggressions are a common and negative facet of everyday lives for individuals holding racially marginalized identities and often result in detrimental consequences (Smith et al., 2007; Nadal et al., 2014; Keefe et al., 2014). For example, previous research has shown that exposure to racial microaggressions is linked to the depletion of cognitive resources in adults (Banks & Landau, 2021; Murphy et al., 2012). While this relationship hasn’t been studied in adolescents, we know that high school students holding marginalized identities experience microaggressions and find them offensive (Banks et al., 2020; Kohli et al, 2018). Using experimental methods, I will examine the impact of microaggressions and racial identity on adolescents’ cognitive responses. I hypothesize that (1) participants exposed to microaggressions will experience a depletion of cognitive resources from pre- to post-test, (2) the relationship between exposure to microaggressions and diminished cognitive functioning will only be relevant for participants of color, and (3) participants of color who report a strong racial identity will experience greater cognitive depletion than participants of color reporting a weaker racial identity.

  • Radhika Pathak Kharel

    Department of Mathematics
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. David Barker

    Factors that Influence Preservice Middle School Teachers’ Response to Students’ Mathematical Thinking About Data Analysis

    The goal of this qualitative case study is to examine how preservice middle school mathematics teachers’ (PSTs) respond to their students’ mathematical thinking of data analysis and the influential factors of those responses. Many mathematics educators had pointed out the importance of teachers’ practices of responding to students’ mathematical thinking as needing consideration (Leatham et al., 2015; Milewski & Strickland, 2016). Teachers’ responses to their students are crucial to control the students’ discussions and to evaluate students’ verbal and written mathematical thinking (Ball, 2003). I will examine four PSTs’ responses to their students in their classroom teaching in clinical experiences of methods course. I will collect the data from lesson plans, lesson plan reflections, videotaped, pre and post lesson interviews, fieldnotes. This study is benefitted to the prospective teachers and mathematics educators who are teaching preservice teachers, to understand how preservice teachers learn to respond to their students and what things need to consider while teaching the preservice teachers so that they can do informative in-the-moment responses to their students.

  • Sayanti Mondal

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Paul Ugor

    Illustrating Postcolonial Margins: Locating Experimental, Collaborative, Indian Graphic Narratives in the Twenty-First Century

    This dissertation investigates the importance of experimental, collaborative postcolonial graphic narrative publications in the twenty-first century, using Tara Books as a case study. Tara Books experiments with the graphic narrative form by incorporating local techniques of Indigenous folk-art illustrations into their style of storytelling and markets them internationally. Through select texts published by Tara Books, this interdisciplinary research project reassesses the genre of postcolonial Indian graphic narratives as it experiments with its mode of storytelling, representation, and presentation of the book form. These experimental texts can be argued as objects of cultural resistance, both on a local and global scale, and every chapter of this dissertation presents a counter-narrative, of some sort, that challenges a dominant ideology. It reassesses the potential of this narrative genre as a ‘textual museum’ in the twenty-first century, especially in a post-pandemic setting. The study also shows how the Indigenous art forms are trans-mediated to the genre of graphic narratives, thereby acknowledging the publication process as an activity system, and how a global lens of analysis helps in understanding the aesthetic and discursive shift(s) they inaugurate.

  • Caroline Signa

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair:

    Getting Straight to The Point: A Bystander Training for Pre-Service Students to Address Sexuality-based Microaggressions in the School Setting

    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth face discrimination that puts them at risk for mental health difficulties (APA, 2016). The occurrence of microaggressions (i.e., every day, often unintentional slights) in schools are a type of discrimination experienced by these students (McCabe et al., 2013). These microaggressions occur as a result of indoctrinated normalization of heterosexuality (Kitzinger, 2005). School professionals who might advocate for LGBTQ students by addressing microaggressions when they occur are instead ignorant to harassment faced by LGBTQ youth and are poorly trained to address these issues (Aurora et al., 2016; McCabe et al., 2013). Using experimental methods, I will explore the effects of a workshop aimed at addressing sexuality-based microaggressions in schools on preservice teachers’ attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge about microaggressions targeting LGBTQ youth. I hypothesize that participants who are exposed to the workshop (1) will become more aware of the occurrence and impact of microaggressions, (2) demonstrate an increase in positive attitudes towards LGBTQ youth, and (3) will report higher levels of intention to intervene when witnessing microaggressions as compared to participants in the control condition.


  • Ansumana Darboe

    Educational Administration and Foundations
    Committee Chair: Dr. Mohamed Nur-Awaleh & Dr. Lydia Kyei-Blankso

    A Study of African Students in Community Colleges

    This dissertation is a study of African students in community colleges. In particular, the research examines the motivations as well as the experiences of African students in the two-year institutions in the United States. Through a qualitative study and using semi-structured interviews, the research sought the perspectives of 8-12 African international students in two community colleges in Illinois. Additional data sources for this research include university documents such as international admission brochures as well as documents from African student associations. Theoretically, this research utilizes two conceptual frameworks: The Bohman international student community college decision model and the Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory. The two theories complement each other as one helps in exploring the journey of African students while the other helps examine their experiences. Specifically, the Bohman international student community college decision model useful in understanding the factors that motivate African international students to study in community colleges, while Hofstede’s cultural theory will be useful in exploring how cultural dimensions influence the experiences of African students in the colleges. The findings of this study will help institutions and student affairs professionals in addressing the unique needs of the African international student population in community colleges.

  • Anthony Breitenbach

    School of Biological Sciences
    Committee Chair: Dr. Rachel Bowden & Dr. Ryan Paitz

    Effects of Heat Wave Timing, Continuity, and Fluctuating Temperatures on Sexual Development and Underlying Gene Expression in a Turtle with Temperature-dependent Sex Determination

    The thermal environment can have complex effects on an organism, but most of what we know about how temperature influences organisms comes from studies that utilized constant temperatures. Because almost all organisms live in environments where temperatures fluctuate, using constant conditions can produce spurious results. With the rapidly changing climate, there is an increased urgency to understand how organisms respond to more variable temperatures. If heat waves increase in frequency and duration as predicted, it is necessary to understand how heat waves could affect thermally sensitive species, such as reptiles with temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD), in which sex is determined by temperatures experienced during embryonic development. The red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta) exhibits a type of TSD in which cool temperatures produce males and warm temperatures produce females. The development of the bipotential gonads into ovaries or testes is regulated by gene networks induced at warmer or cooler temperatures, respectively. In the proposed research, we use ecologically relevant temperatures to determine how heat wave timing and continuity affects sex ratios and underlying gene expression in T. scripta. The proposed research utilizes fluctuating temperatures and heat waves to more accurately reflect natural conditions.

  • Kate Neally

    School of Teaching and Learning
    Committee Chair: Dr. Allison Antink Meyer

    An Analysis of the Underrepresentation of Minorities in STEM Education

    The purpose of this study is (1) to better understand URMs’ positive educational experiences that led to majoring in STEM or education; (2) to examine the experiences that have challenged URMs’ success in STEM or education; and (3) to investigate the reasons why URMs are not interested in pursuing STEM education. The urgency of this research is based on the statistics indicating the low representation of URMs in STEM fields, teaching fields, and specifically STEM teachers. It will highlight the positive experiences of URMs that support an interest in STEM and education; but also, analyze how systemic racism in schools affects URM students’ interest and academic success in STEM education. In this study, original surveys and individual interviews will be used to collect data. The participants will be URM STEM and education majors. Critical Race Theory framework will focus this research on how race and racism in schools causes unequal educational opportunities for minority students. This phenomenological study can add rich information to areas in education that are still experiencing racism and better understand the influence of educational experiences on URMs’ pursuit of STEM, education, and STEM education.

  • Kerri Langdon-Fisher

    Educational Administration and Foundations
    Committee Chair: Dr. Phyllis McCluskey-Titus

    Understanding Female Millennial Administrators and their Perceptions and Experiences of Leadership in the Community College

    This research is intended to qualitatively explore and examine the perceptions and experiences of female community college administrators, who were born in the Millennial generation, as it relates to leadership. For the purposes of this study, the Millennial generation refers to individuals born between 1981 – 1996. It is important to note that the stories and lived experiences of females who identify as part of the Millennial generation, working within community college administration, are neglected. Because of this neglect, research is needed to explore and gain an understanding of how leadership is perceived and experienced. More specifically, this study proposes to better understand how gender may impact Millennial women’s perceptions of leadership overall, as well as their perceived ability to move into senior-level leadership roles within the community college. What differentiates this study from other studies on leadership, specifically within the community college, is its focus on women and the female perspective through which leadership is perceived, while also taking into consideration generation identification. By utilizing a feminist lens to conduct this research, an opportunity to add to the growing expanse of leadership literature is presented.

  • Margaret DeMaegd

    School of Biological Sciences
    Committee Chair: Dr. Wolfgang Stein

    Neuromodulators rescue neuronal activity from heat stress

    Changes in body temperature pose a challenge to the nervous system and can lead to disruptions of motor control and vital behaviors. Neuronal activity requires the spread of electrical signals throughout the neuron to initiate action potentials required for those vital behaviors. Acute temperature changes disrupt these processes. It has recently been suggested that neuromodulators – paracrine chemicals released within the brain - may help to restore neuronal activity. It is currently unknown how these neuromodulators achieve temperature compensation. I hypothesize that elevated temperatures prevent neuronal activity by hindering the intraneuronal spread of electrical signals, however neuromodulation re-establishes signal spread and with it, neuronal activity. I test this hypothesis by measuring signal spread in an identified motor neuron at varying temperatures, and separately in the presence of a neuropeptide modulator known to rescue that neuron's activity at high temperatures. To determine whether the cellular actions elicited by the neuropeptide enable temperature compensation, I use a computer-brain interface to manipulate the ionic current elicited by the neuropeptide. Because ionic currents are ubiquitous across species, this will provide broad insight into the role of neuromodulators for temperature compensation and the mechanisms by which they act.

  • Rachael DiSciullo

    School of Biological Sciences
    Committee Chair: Dr. Scott Sakaluk & Dr. Charles Thompson

    Multivariate sexual selection on male song in northern house wrens

    Beautiful and abundant, bird song as a sexually selected trait has long captured the attention of biologists. Although previous studies have examined single facets of bird song in relation to male competition and female choice, selection typically acts on multiple components that collectively influence male mating success. By studying how multiple components of song simultaneously play a role in male competition and female choice, we can better understand how sexual selection has directly and indirectly shaped this elaborate and complex trait. I aim to identify which potentially correlated components of male song are sexually selected in northern house wrens (Troglodytes aedon), small songbirds with highly complex, multi-component songs. Male song in this species appears important in male competition and female choice, yet the particular components that elicit the most intense aggression in males, or are most attractive to females, remain unknown. My research will address how sexual selection has shaped male song by testing the hypotheses that (1) male reproductive success is influenced by different song components, and (2) males and females respond differently to synthesized songs differing in putative quality of components.

  • Rachel Smith

    School of Teaching and Learning
    Committee Chair: Dr. Erin Mikulec

    Non-Tenure Track Faculty Perceptions of Preparedness to Teach and Pedagogical Support in Postsecondary Education

    U.S. universities rely heavily on a workforce to educate undergraduate students without intimate knowledge of the supports needed for those employees to fulfill the expectations of their positions. With estimates ranging from 50% to 70% of faculty in U.S. higher education being categorized as Non-Tenure Track (NTT), post-secondary education has moved from a model of predominately Tenure Track (TT) faculty to one of NTT being the new faculty majority (Bergman, 2011; Holler, 2014; Kezar, 2014; Hensely, 2016). Much of the literature pertaining to NTT focuses on pay equity, working conditions, job protection, and the exploration of how the inversion of the professoriate occurred with little focus on the experiences of the NTT faculty (Feldman & Turnley, 2001; Fuller et al., 2017). This qualitative study explores NTT faculty’s perceptions of pedagogical preparedness when they began teaching at the postsecondary level as well as how these individuals describe pedagogical support they receive. Pedagogical supports evaluated include professional development, evaluations, orientations, and sociopolitical factors impacting the NTT experience. Interviews with NTT faculty, administrators, faculty developers and labor union representatives as well as document review inform the study.

  • Rachel Sparks

    School of Biological Sciences
    Committee Chair: Dr. Rebekka Darner

    Enabling students' transformative experiences and conceptual change regarding evolution through culturally relevant instruction

    My dissertation strives to identify pedagogical methods that enable students’ understanding of evolution, such that they use it outside of class to inform their experiences and decisions. While biologists view evolutionary theory as biology’s unifying principle, this view is not emphasized to nonscientists and pre-service elementary teachers (PSETs), which is problematic given that many PSETs are expected to teach evolutionary ideas. Evolution is widely recognized as a culturally laden topic, yet the science education community lacks a curricular resource to teach evolution inclusively and equitably. I have developed an introductory biology course utilizing the Teaching for Transformative Experiences in Science model to make evolution relevant to students’ everyday lives to encourage conceptual change. Through four iterations, quantitative data have been collected through a conceptual knowledge assessment and a survey assessing how students perceive evolution as relevant to their lives. Preliminary data show significant gains in evolution knowledge and evidence of students applying evolution to their lives. All course work was collected as qualitative data, including written and video reflections designed to elicit students' perceptions of how evolution relates to their lives, which are currently being analyzed. This research may reframe how biology is taught, inclusively and equitably, to nonscientists.

  • Rosario Marroquin-Flores

    School of Biological Sciences
    Committee Chair: Dr. Rachel Bowden & Dr. Ryan Paitz

    Thermal fluctuations produce ecologically relevant profiles for hormone signaling and gene expression in a species with temperature-dependent sex determination

    Sex determination refers to the process by which cues from genes (genotypic sex determination) or environmental conditions (environmental sex determination) trigger bipotential gonads to develop into either ovaries or testes. Temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) is a well-studied form of environmental sex determination in reptiles. The red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) exhibits a form of TSD where cool incubation temperatures produce males and warm incubation temperatures produce females. In species with TSD, gonadal differentiation is regulated by network of genes and hormones that induce male or female development. TSD is most frequently studied using constant male and female incubation temperatures, which fail to capture the variability that organisms experience in the wild. In the proposed research, we use ecologically relevant laboratory incubations to understand the underlying mechanisms organizing the sex-determining process in T. scripta. Fluctuating incubations are used to produce ecologically relevant expression profiles for sex-determining genes and to decouple the effects of temperature and hormone environment on gonadal differentiation. This study represents the first time that fluctuating temperatures and hormones have been used in concert to characterize the the molecular mechanisms underlying TSD.

  • Tara Davis-Augspurger

    Educational Administration and Foundations
    Committee Chair: Dr. Lydia Kyei-Blankson

    Faculty Voices in Faculty-Led Programs Abroad

    My research study explores the experiences of faculty members who develop and lead study abroad programs for students enrolled in higher education institutions. The principal research questions are: What motivates faculty members to become involved in the development and implementation of short-term study abroad programs? What was involved in creating and leading the short-term, faculty-led program? What obstacles did they encounter and how did they overcome them? What did students gain from their participation in the program? What could institutions do to better support them in the development and facilitation of short-term study abroad? Using qualitative methodology, I will interview 10-15 faculty members to understand their perceptions and experiences engaging in this work. The results of this study will give voice to faculty members to inform institutions on how to use policy and practice to further support faculty in developing educational exchanges for students.


  • Stephanie AuBuchon

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brea Banks

    Identities, Experiences, Perceptions, and Wanted Changes in the School: LGBTQ+ Students and Students of Color

    Students of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or other (LGBTQ+) youth experience significantly high rates of discrimination and bullying while at school, which can lead them to perceive their school environment as unsafe and unsupportive, contributing to a host of negative academic and social–emotional outcomes (Kosciw, Greytak, Giga, Villenas, & Danischewski, 2016; Pollock, 2009). All youth, regardless of background, should be able to develop and express their personal identities in a supportive school climate that is free of discrimination and prejudice (National Association of School Psychology, 2017). The purpose of the current study is to better understand the identity of high school students on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, learn about their experiences regarding intentional and unintentional aggression as well as their perceptions of school climate, and gain insight into what they would change about their school to make it safer. Participants in the study will be students who attend a LGBTQ+ support group at a Midwestern high school. Data will be collected via focus groups, as the researcher will solicit information about participant experiences in school, their perceptions of school climate, as well as the changes they feel would make school a more supportive environment.

  • John Blakeman

    Mennonite College of Nursing
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Wendy Woith

    A Holistic Exploration of Fatigue Experienced by Women Before a Myocardial Infarction

    Quantitative studies have demonstrated that fatigue is the most common myocardial infarction (MI) (“heart attack”) symptom experienced by women prior to MI. However, studies exploring the unique dimensions of this symptom are limited, making clinical decision-making difficult. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore adult women’s unique and shared experiences of prodromal MI fatigue. Methods: A qualitative, descriptive, multiple case study design with across-case and within-case analysis is being used. Ten women have been enrolled from a large hospital in Illinois using purposive sampling. Semistructured interviews were conducted during hospitalization, and two to three months post-discharge, a follow-up interview will be conducted. Women were also provided with a journal in which to record thoughts. A supplementary interview with family members or friends will also assist in data triangulation. Analysis will involve constant comparison, coding and categorization, visual displays of data, and thematic development. Importance: The results from this study will assist in providing a holistic description of this symptom. Understanding MI fatigue’s quality, severity, and influence on activities of daily living will assist clinicians in recognizing fatigue and intervening prior to a heart attack.

  • Kirstin Johnson

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Brea Banks

    The Impact of Inclusive Curriculum on Attitudes Toward Sexual Minority Populations

    Students enrolled in educational institutions are consumers of curricula, which include the formal and informal lessons disseminated to students (Wiles, 2008). Hidden curriculum consists of informal lessons that reflect the norms, beliefs, and attitudes of the greater institution (Alsubaie, 2015; Kelley, 2009). Researchers suggest that heteronormativity (i.e., belief that heterosexuality is the default sexual orientation) is commonly present within hidden curriculum (Walton, 2005) and may lead to more negative attitudes toward sexual minorities. Further, research suggests that these attitudes may be associated with increased levels of victimization, which is related to several negative outcomes for sexual minority individuals (Kosciw et al., 2018; Rey & Gibson, 2008). As part of the current study, the researcher seeks to examine the impact of inclusive hidden curriculum on attitudes toward sexual minority populations. Given that research indicates that exposure to media that includes sexual minority populations leads to more positive attitudes toward sexual minority individuals (Calzo & Ward, 2009), it is hypothesized that exposure to academic material that is inclusive of sexual minority individuals will improve heterosexual individuals’ attitudes towards sexual minority individuals.

  • Brian Klein

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Gary Cates

    The effects of handwriting and typing practice on transcriptional fluency and written product outcomes

    While handwriting occupies a small amount of instruction time, it’s becoming increasing common for young students to type their schoolwork. The current study will examine the effects of handwriting and typing practice on early elementary school children’s transcriptional fluency and written product outcomes. Three classrooms of second-graders will be assessed on their fluency and written outcomes before and after an eight-week intervention. Measures will be taken in both handwriting and typing modes. One classroom will practice handwriting, one will practice typing, and a third will serve as a control group. Data will be analyzed to determine within-group and between-group differences in transcriptional fluency and written product outcomes.

  • Lynn Mackey

    Education Administration & Foundations
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. James Palmer

    How African American Community College Online Learners Succeed

    African-American community college students perform twice as poorly in online classes when compared to their non-Black peers. As online learning grows in popularity, and more African-American community college students enroll in online courses to balance school with work and family obligations, the demographic’s higher online course attrition rates threaten to further exacerbate low college completion rates and educational inequity. This study aims to uncover strategies that successful African-American community college online learners employed to earn high grades in their online courses. Positive deviance will be used as the framework in this qualitative interview study, which aims to discover how African-American community college students beat the odds in online learning. Insights gained from study participants may be used to help members of the population improve online course success rates and reduce educational inequity.

  • Trevor Rickerd

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Viktor Kirik

    The role of the TON1A protein in dividing plant cells

    Plant cell division occurs with the formation of a cell wall between the two dividing cells. The location of this cell wall is determined at the onset of the division cycle by a structure known as the preprophase band (PPB). The PPB is an organized, circular array of microtubules around the nucleus of the cell. It is important for the PPB to be oriented properly for the dividing cell wall to develop optimally. By directing the orientation of the cell wall, plant cells can control the direction of their growth. TON1A is a protein known to be involved in the formation of the PPB. When TON1A is absent, the PPB fails to form, leading to a misplaced cell wall after cell division. TON1A interacts with multiple proteins to form a complex which regulates the formation and orientation of the PPB. Little is known about the constituents of this microtubule-organizing complex and what regulates its formation and activity. My research aims to determine what domains of TON1A are involved in its interaction with proteins forming the complex that orients the PPB and the role of TON1A phosphorylation in the process.

  • Amy Roehrig

    Department of Mathematics
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Tami Martin

    The Intensities of Elementary School Teachers’ Self-Efficacy and Mathematical Identity and the Use of Effective Practices

    Because many elementary school teachers teach all subjects, they face the daunting task of knowing and implementing research-based teaching practices for each content area. The purpose of this study is to describe relationships among the characteristics of mathematical self-efficacy, mathematics teaching self-efficacy, and mathematical identity of elementary school teachers and the influence these characteristics have on the use of effective teaching practices as defined by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics [NCTM] (2014). Both Lacanian Psychoanalysis and moderate hermeneutics will play a role in guiding the structure and analysis for this study. Specifically, I will apply a phenomenological hermeneutic methodological design. Data sources include mathematical autobiographies, interviews, observations, and multiple lesson plans of ten elementary school teachers. The participants will be teachers identified as particularly effective by their principal or by virtue of having received a state or national teaching award. Analysis will involve establishing a holistic understanding of the teachers’ characteristics (i.e., mathematical self-efficacy, mathematics teaching self-efficacy, and mathematical identity) and the possible interrelatedness of the characteristics, including the possible connection to the use of effective practices.

  • Amy Smith

    Teaching & Learning
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Kyle Miller & Dr. Becky Beucher

    "Let’s Play!!": Critical Gaming Literacy Engagement in a Secondary ELA Classroom

    Teens are engaging with other youth around the world and are participating in online video games, fanfiction sites, and other affinity spaces (Gee, 2017) where people have the same interest or passion for “some shared identity connection to some shared activities, values, and norms” (p. 111). Educators use technology daily to support student learning (Ruggiero & Mong, 2015); however, the technology integration in the classroom has been for more traditional academic assignments (Hutchison & Reinking, 2011; Peterson & McClay, 2012). Some would argue the integration doesn’t parallel youth technology practices in their everyday lives (Gee, 2007) where meaning is created with multimodalities within teen popular culture practices. In this research study, I will explore the nature of student literacy learning and practices with digital video games to more fully understand the affordances that this area can offer to the field of education and even more importantly the implications on student learning. The focus will be less on the tools of technology and more on technology as a type of literacy practice. The significance of this relationship is based upon the idea of understanding more about student literacy learning within popular youth texts and culture.

  • Courtney Sutton

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Mary Jeanette Moran & Dr. Amy Robillard

    Illustrating Childhood: Trauma, Empathy, and Memory in Graphic Memoir for Children

    Working at the intersections of life writing, children’s literature, and memory studies, this dissertation will examine graphic memoirs for children and young adults, including Jarrett Krosoczka’s Hey Kiddo, David Small’s Stitches, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Cece Bell’s El Deafo, Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared, Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, and Shannon Hale’s Real Friends. I interrogate these texts for the ways in which they represent the engagement between the textual narrating and narrated I on the one hand and the text and the young reader on the other, arguing that this engagement is representative of the memorative process. I will suggest that these texts function simultaneously as material-discursive traces of individual memory (the neurobiological process of the author) and also contributions to/engagements with cultural (collective) memory of the concept of childhood and the child. I propose that the memorative process is fundamentally narrative and argue that autobiographical narratives—and, by extension, memory—represent an empathic engagement between the narrating and narrated I. In the final chapters, I turn toward the implied child reader, challenging the contemporary understanding of narrative empathy as an unproblematic good.

  • Ellen Wing

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Gregory Braswell

    The goal of this research is to elucidate Head Start caregiver and educator beliefs concerning effective parenting, teaching, and the home school connection during the preschool years. It is important that organizations designed to serve children and families with low income, such as Head Start, develop a strong conceptualization of what it means to parent and to teach effectively. While previous research has attempted to define both parenting and teaching within this population, there are two main limitations with this research. First, many previous investigations have focused heavily on the deficiencies of these parents, their homes, and their values (Ullucci & Howard, 2015; Abell, Clawson, Washington, Bost, & Vaughn 1996). Second, research that has sought to define effective practices employed by the parents and teachers has done so by studying each enterprise separately (McWayne et al., 2017). That is, there is little known about how these key entities conceptualize the role of their counterpart and how this may influence collaboration. The present researchers aim to address the limitations of previous studies by uncovering the perspectives of caregivers and teachers through a strength-based and qualitative approach.


  • Cyndy Alvarez

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Matthew Hesson-McInnis and Dr. Beth Hatt

    Teachers' Perceptions of English Learners: A Multidimensional Scaling Approach

    Currently, public schools encompass about 4 million English Learners, with culturally and diverse demographics (NCELA, 2017; NEA, 2017; U.S. Department of Education, 2017). Despite student demographics becoming more diverse, the teaching force remains predominantly White middle class (Salerno & Kibler, 2013). This shift in student demographics leads to a mismatch between teachers’ and students’ personal experiences and background; as a result, Latinx English Learners tend to be vulnerable to experience teacher-based prejudices, biases, microaggressions, discrimination, stereotypes, misconceptions, and deficit-oriented perceptions (Benner & Graham, 2011; Ford, Scott, Moore, & Amos, 2013; Gonzalez & Ayala-Alcantar, 2008; Staats, 2016). All these implicit and explicit perceptions contribute to teacher attitudes, which ultimately perpetuate the achievement gap (Ferguson, 1998; as cited in Callahan, 2005). Therefore, it is critical to continue examining teachers (pre-service and in-service) perceptions of Latinx English Learners. The purpose of the current study is to understand the various perceptual dimensions through a Multidimensional Scaling approach, which will be employed by teachers as they consider English Learners and identify the individual differences among teachers that may explain the differential salience of these dimensions. The study will identify the most salient characteristics attributed by teachers towards Latinx English Learners.

  • Cory Barnes

    Education Administration & Foundations
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Pamela Hoff

    What about us: The forgotten stories of nontraditional black male student as achievers at HWI's

    The title of my study will be What about us? Nontraditional black male students at Historically White Institutions (HWIs) and how the stories of this subgroup are typically forgotten about, left out, or untold. Critical race theory CRT will serve as the primary theoretical framework. The methodology will be an exploratory qualitative study using phenomenology to understand what it means to be a Nontraditional black male student achiever at a PWI. 8-10 participants will be interviewed lasting 30-40 minutes per interview. The study will explore the definition of nontraditional, how it intersects with the black male identity, all while navigating a HWI dealing with sense of belonging, microaggressions, ageism, and being a forgotten about subgroup. I will conduct a questionnaire to reach a broad audience in the spirit of still capturing their narrative. Additionally, I would use Schlossberg’s Transition Theory. According to Evans (2010), College students, whether traditionally or nontraditionally aged, face many changes that can have short- and long-term effects on their lives. Nancy Schlossberg’s transition theory provides insights into factors related to the transition, the individual, and the environment that are likely to determine the degree of impact given traction will have at a particular time. The nature of the supports available to facilitate coping, as well as strategies that can be used to assist those experiences change, is also addressed. (pp. 212- 213) Research questions that would be addressed in this study are: 1. If applicable, how has the social construction of racism impacted your transition between multiple institutions? 2. As a black non-traditional male student, what type of support services are you receiving or do you need to persist?

  • Judith Bee

    Milner Library
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Elizabeth Lugg

    The Nature of Primary Source use with Pre-service teachers in Methods Courses

    This dissertation focuses on the nature of digital primary source use in preparing pre-service teachers for teaching experiences within the classroom. This qualitative study will explore education methods professors’ attitudes towards the use of primary sources within their curricula. Education professors across the mid-west who use digital primary sources to teach pre-service teachers will be observed and interviewed to determine their attitudes and teaching practices. This data will be collected from a diverse group of participants. Professors who teach pre-service teachers across the Midwest will be selected from different demography and geographic locations. There are limited studies that explore the motivations, attitudes, and practices of education professors to include primary sources and the nature of their use in their curricula. This study will attempt to add to the higher education literature. Teachers are the key to shifting the way learning happens in the classroom. However, teachers are not always skilled in inquiry, critical thinking, and historical impact. Teaching with primary sources provides a context from which to train pre-service teachers in these essential skills. This dissertation focuses on the nature of digital primary source use in preparing pre-service teachers for teaching experiences within the classroom. This qualitative study will explore education methods professors’ attitudes towards the use of primary sources within their curricula. Education professors across the mid-west who use digital primary sources to teach pre-service teachers will be observed and interviewed to determine their attitudes and teaching practices. This data will be collected from a diverse group of participants. Professors who teach pre-service teachers across the Midwest will be selected from different demography and geographic locations. There are limited studies that explore the motivations, attitudes, and practices of education professors to include primary sources and the nature of their use in their curricula. This study will attempt to add to the higher education literature. Teachers are the key to shifting the way learning happens in the classroom. However, teachers are not always skilled in inquiry, critical thinking, and historical impact. Teaching with primary sources provides a context from which to train pre-service teachers in these essential skills.

  • Brandi Clendenny

    Department of Mathematics
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Edward Mooney

    Pre-Service and Inservice Teachers' Perception of Viable Arguments

    In this study we want to examine what in-service middle school teachers and pre-service middle school teachers deem as viable student arguments on various tasks requiring justification. The in-service and pre-service teachers will evaluate authentic student work based on the degree in which they think the responses are valid mathematical arguments. The teachers' evaluations and their areas of focus will be used for analysis. Research Questions: 1. What do in-service middle school mathematics teachers (ISTs) deem as a viable student argument? 2. What do pre-service middle school mathematics teachers (PSTs) deem as a viable student argument?

  • Sylvia Miriyam Findlay

    Education Administration & Foundations
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Jim Palmer

    Are We There Yet? Understanding the Intercultural Competencies of Higher Education Professionals Engaging International Students on Campus

    Internationalization of American higher education has resulted in the increased enrollment of international students on campus. Higher education institutions are fundamentally transforming the scene with campus internationalization activities. However, international students on U.S. campuses face innumerable challenges, and it is shocking to see that literature review on this topic dates back 30 years with these challenges remaining unmet. Currently, the services are rendered to international students demonstrate a reactive approach where most of the services are ‘created’ after the students arrive on campus. This study aims to assess the intercultural competencies of student affairs administrators, faculty, and staff engaging international students, both undergraduates, and graduates, in a private and public institution in Illinois. Using a structured survey instrument and follow-up in-depth interviews with key respondents, this study will identify the strengths and areas of development of intercultural competencies of the respondents. Intercultural competency, according to Fantini (2006) is “a complex of abilities needed to perform effectively and appropriately when interacting with others who are linguistically and culturally different from oneself” (p. 12). Hence, this study will focus on assessing the communication abilities, cultural sensitivity and knowledge dimensions of those serving international students on U.S. campuses. This study will provide vital information for leaders to design training and distribute personnel and services for addressing the concerns of international students on campus.

  • Danielle Gieschen

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Leandra Parris

    Social Learning in the Digital Age: The Impact of Technoference on Child Attachment and Social Skills

    Research has shown links between parenting practice and children’s social development. However, there is little research examining the role of parental technology use. In this study, parental technology use, child attachment style, maternal insularity, and children’s development of social skills will be examined. Rating scales examining these variables will be completed by 80 mothers-child dyads between the ages of 18 and 50 with children in elementary school. Linear regression analyses will be conducted to examine the association between (1) parental technology use and attachment styles, (2) children’s social skills and parental technology use, and (3) maternal insularity and parental technology use. Furthermore, hierarchical linear regression analyses will be conducted to examine the effect of attachment on the relation between parental technology use and children’s social skills. Demographic differences such as socioeconomic status, age, child gender, and number of children will be controlled for as potential confounding variables. It is hypothesized that a greater number of technological interruptions (i.e., technoference) will be associated with more insecure forms of attachment and more problematic social skills in children. Further, we hypothesize that maternal insularity will lead to increased technology usage.

  • Heather Lacey

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Adena Meyers

    Predictors of Social Emotional Learning Implementation

    The development of social-emotional competencies is a critical task that may be promoted through the use of programs that teach social-emotional learning (SEL). Given the importance of these skills, federal and state legislative efforts have been made to encourage the implementation of SEL within schools. One important factor that may influence SEL program implementation in schools is the role of teachers as implementers, which depends heavily on teacher attitudes and perceived responsibility to promote students’ social-emotional health. One way to predict implementation is to consider teachers’ beliefs about SEL and emotions. Previous research suggests attitudes about SEL may be an important factor. Understanding teachers’ beliefs about their comfort, commitment, and perceived institutional support of SEL may provide information regarding what inhibits SEL implementation. Due to the impact distressing emotions have in the classroom, teachers’ meta-emotive responses to children’s distressing emotions may also provide insight regarding SEL implementation behaviors. The current study seeks to better understand the extent to which teacher implementation behaviors can be predicted through the roles that meta-emotion and SEL beliefs play in implementation of SEL.

  • Jessica Lucas-Nihei

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Alycia Hund

    Mediating the Relation Between Parent-Child Attachment Relationships and Peer Acceptance with Preschoolers' Self-Regulation

    A crucial component of early childhood is for young child to be well-liked by their peers, as it impacts multiple areas of their development (i.e., academics, behavior, social-emotional; Ladd & Sechler, 2013). Children’s earliest peer relationships begin forming during the preschool years. Parent-child attachment and children’s self-regulation are predictors of peer acceptance. Security experiences within parent-child attachment foster children’s social competence and help children to begin forming relationships with other children (Thompson, 2016). Self-regulation includes behavioral processes that allow children to manage their behavior (Liew, 2012). This dissertation’s purpose is to test the mediating role of preschoolers’ self-regulation on the association between parent-child attachment relationship qualities and preschoolers’ peer acceptance. Three mediation models will be tested using path analysis. Model 1 will test whether children’s self-regulation mediates the relationship between attachment and peer acceptance. It is predicted that this model will represent a good fit for the data. Models 2 and 3 will explore the role of gender and age. It is predicted that girls and older preschoolers will demonstrate stronger self-regulation and more favorable peer acceptance, compared to boys and younger preschoolers, respectively.

  • Annette Moore

    Mennonite College of Nursing
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Kim Astroth

    Influences on Long-term Physical Activity in Physically Active African American Women

    Incidence of and fatalities from preventable chronic illness among African American (AA) women are disproportionate compared to their White and Hispanic counterparts (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2014). Regular routine physical activity is recommended to prevent the onset of chronic illness, yet AA women are among groups most physically inactive (CDC, 2014). Factors surrounding influences to initiating physical activity in AA women have been studied, yet little research focuses on those who maintain long-term physical activity. The study's purpose is to understand the perspectives of physically active AA women who maintain long-term physical activity. The socioecological model will be used as a lens for the study taking place in central Iowa and central Illinois. Semi-structured interviews were audio-recorded from AA women participants aged between 35 and 65 who are physically active for more than six months. Content analysis of transcribed data is performed using qualitative data analysis software. Knowledge obtained will add to the literature to refine existing interventions and develop campaigns that promote routine physical activity among AA women.

  • Aaron Neitzel

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Steven Landau

    Parental Right Wing Authoritarianism and Social Dominance Orientation: Attitudes Towards Transgender Access to School-based Bathrooms

    Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) and Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) are robust predictors of prejudice towards marginalized social groups, but only recently have they been measured in regards to the transgender population and the recent controversy surrounding these individuals accessing school bathrooms that best align with their gender identity. Theory surrounding RWA and SDO dictates that each construct has motivated needs (e.g., need to reduce threat, need to dominate subordinate social groups, respectively) that are influential in the affinity for certain ideologies, such as political conservatism. The purpose of this study will be to examine parent’s conservative and prejudicial attitudes regarding a hypothetical, trans-female teacher seeking access to female bathroom and locker room facilities, as well as feared negative outcomes of allowing this teacher access to these facilities. Results of this study will 1) clarify theory on political conservatism by identifying which specific socio-political ideologies are influential in attitude formation regarding transgender teachers, and 2) inform potential school policies related to equal bathroom access for transgender teachers by examining attitudes of parents of school-aged children.

  • Elisha VanMeenen

    Department of Mathematics
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Edward S. Mooney

    The Contribution of Combinatorics to Students' Understanding of Probability Concepts

    For my dissertation, I would like to explore the relationship that research has identified between combinatorial reasoning, generating sample spaces, and calculating probability ratios and identify where combinatorics contributes to students understanding of probability concepts. I would like to investigate what Bryant & Nunes (2012) described as the most glaring gap in research on children’s understanding of probability and propose a research study which explores how combinatorial ideas influences the ideas and solution strategies that students use to generate sample spaces and calculate probability ratios. I would like to identify the ways that students learn and reason about probability when given a strong foundation in counting methods and compare this reasoning to those that have not had combinatorial instruction. Batanero, et. al. (2016) acknowledged that new research is needed to identify the best sequences to introduce different approaches to probability and analyze changes in students’ intuitions about different probability concepts after specific teaching experiments. I would like to design a teaching experiment which will allow a better understanding of how foundational topics like combinatorics support students’ probabilistic understanding.

  • Amelia Wood

    Education Administration & Foundations
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Elizabeth Lugg

    Student Affairs Administrator Knowledge of FERPA

    The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, § 513 of P.L 93-280 is a Federal Law that protects the privacy of student education records. FERPA Law applies to all schools receiving funds under an applicable program of the United States Department of Education (2004). Previous scholarship pertaining to employee knowledge level has focused on faculty in academia (Cantrell, 2016; Maycunich, 2002; Werosh 2013). Rather this study uses a researcher-designed, cross-sectional survey to examine the FERPA knowledge level among student affairs administrators at four-year public, postsecondary institutions. Applying a systematic design approach, the results produce a baseline measure derived from a composite score of FERPA knowledge level to examine current knowledge effectiveness. This study contributes to the field of higher education administration in the area of student affairs to identify knowledge gap in terms of strengths and weaknesses. The study concludes with a discussion of results and implications to address privacy issues among practitioners that also serves as a resource reference for future studies.


  • Kelsey Atteberry

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Steven Landau

    The Effect of Threat Exposure on the Social Exclusion of Marginalized Peers: Individual Differences in Right Wing Authoritarian Motives

    Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) is a cognitive style characterized by submission to authorities, aggressiveness toward marginalized groups, and strict adherence to societal norms. Individuals who report a high level of RWA are more likely than others to endorse prejudicial attitudes and social exclusion. RWA can be explained by a motivated need for environmental control, and is exacerbated by a perceived threat in the social environment. Although research suggests that RWA beliefs and attitudes begin to emerge in early adolescence, little research has actually examined the effects of such attitudes among teens. Understanding the impact of RWA during adolescence may be especially important, because of increasing political discourse regarding public policy debates in this country. The purpose of this study will be to examine the moderating role of the constituent motivation drives in the multicomponential construct of RWA and the effect of threat exposure on teens’ social exclusion of others. This will be accomplished by bringing 100 teen boys and girls into the lab, assessing the extent to which they evince RWA cognitive style, exposing them to differential levels of media-based threat, and examining their propensity to exclude from game play an e-confederate portrayed as a marginalized peer.

  • Daisy Bueno

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Thomas Critchfield

    Emotional Overtones of Professional Jargon as Experienced by English, Spanish, and Bilingual Speakers

    To understand how the “content-free” emotional overtones of words may interfere with therapist-consumer communication, I will employ an online data collection tool to obtain emotion ratings of jargon words related to a common type of treatment for autism. Previous research has shown that many jargon words in this area may elicit unpleasant emotional responses that could be expected to “turn off” consumers. My interest is in understanding how effects that have been documented in English might apply to translated terms in Spanish. A first study will compare emotional responses to English terms by English-native individuals and to Spanish terms by Spanish-native individuals. A second will examine responses to terms on both languages by bilingual individuals. Together the studies should inform decisions about how to communicate technical information about therapy to consumers who do not have relevant technical backgrounds.

  • Christy Fornero

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Viktor Kirik

    The Role of TRM Proteins in Plant Cell Division

    Plant cells determine the plane of cell division with the formation of a pre-prophase band (PPB) of cortical microtubules that encircles the nucleus. Little is known about PPB assembly and its role in division plane determination. Mutants, such as ton1 and ton2, that lack the PPB have lost the ability to orient cell division planes. TON1, TON2, and members of the TON1 Recruiting Motif (TRM) protein superfamily demonstrate sequence homology to centrosome-related proteins. Both TON1 and members of the TRM superfamily interact with TON2, which is a putative regulatory B’’ subunit of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A). It has been suggested that together, TON1, TRMs, and TON2 form a complex that targets PP2A activity to microtubules to regulate PPB formation. Localization studies and targeted disruption of a subset of TRMs is expected bring insight into the molecular mechanism of PPB formation.

  • Christopher Goldsmith

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Wolfgang Stein

    Premotor Network Regulation of Multimodal Integration and Motor Output

    Real-time integration of multimodal information and adaptive control of behavioral responses are vital functions of the nervous system. Traditionally, it was understood that several independent layers (neural networks) of processing were necessary to execute both of these functions. The research presented in this dissertation, however, shows that this is by no means a requirement of all nervous systems. In the nervous system of the Jonah crab, a small premotor neural network processes information from multiple sensory modalities, and controls the behavioral output produced in downstream motor centers. It does so using a combinatorial coding mechanism, wherein: (1) distinct, yet overlapping, pools of neurons are active in chemosensory and mechanosensory conditions, and (2) each of these network responses are associated with distinct motor outputs. The findings here have far-reaching implications for the simplification of neural information coding, which up to this point has been enamored by a plethora of complex mechanisms. Presumably, this research will influence sensorimotor research in other invertebrate and vertebrate systems, and will provide an empirical model for solving complex nervous system tasks with fewer and simpler neural networks.

  • Frank Macarthy

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Angela Haas

    Breaching the Screen: A Digital Technofeminist Methodology for Virtual and Augmented Realities

    Over the past several years, further integration of virtual and augmented reality peripherals has caused a material turn in digital rhetoric. These emergent tools of communication require a methodological framework that considers the social, cultural, economic, material, individual, and political implications. Toward these necessities, I will use my dissertation as a space to develop a digital technofeminist methodology that recuperates existing techno- (intersections of technology and feminism) and cyber- (intersections of the internet and feminism) feminist theories to reveal the affordances and constraints of virtual and augmented reality technologies on our research and teaching, as well as our digital and material identities. Emerging scholarship in Computers and Composition has helped to reveal some of the social and cultural complexities of these tools. But, this research is limited, especially in relation to identity, embodiment, and power. To fill this gap, I plan to establish the exigency for my proposed methodology in digital rhetoric studies, articulate the technofeminist influences on my methodology, outline the values and features of my framework through a variety of case studies, forecast how I plan to use this methodology in future projects, and explicate the overall affordances and limitations of a more open perspective of composition tools.

  • Kelly Poirot

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Gary Cates

    The Effects of Noncontingent Praise (NCP) on Classroom Behavior

    This dissertation will report on the effects of noncontingent praise (NCP) as a classroom behavioral intervention. Six teacher participants will be trained to provide NCP to the classroom at their free operant level of praises and reprimands directed towards the classroom. Class-wide academic engaged time will be collected to examine the student effects of the intervention. In addition, teacher-student relationship, teacher stress, and teacher job satisfaction will be measured both before and after the intervention. Treatment fidelity and intervention acceptability data will be examined.

  • Tisa Trask

    Department of Mathematics
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Tami Martin

    Explorations of culture, race, and power and influence on preservice secondary mathematics teacher understanding of culturally responsive mathematics teaching

    Incorporating students’ culture into mathematics lessons can lead to improved student outcomes (e.g., Gutstein, 2003; Tate, 1995). With few exceptions (e.g. Ramsay-Jordan, 2017), little is known about preservice teacher [PST] preparation for culturally responsive teaching. For this study, I collected 12 PSTs’ class assignments and videotaped their in-class discussions with each other during a 3-week professional development on the role culture, race, and power and influence play in African American and Latin@ students’ mathematics education. These PSTs were also engaged in cultural immersion at a site with African American and Latin@ students. PSTs created two types of tasks for the professional development, a critical mathematics task and culturally responsive mathematics tasks. Three PSTs were interviewed about their cultural engagement experiences. I utilized Gay’s (2002, 2010) Culturally Responsive Teaching framework to analyze the cultural responsiveness of tasks and used Critical Race Theory (Delgado, 1995) to analyze PST privileging of racial minority student voice and acknowledgement of the ways race influences students’ experiences. Finally, Smith and Stein’s (1998) Levels of Cognitive Demand framework was used to examine the quality of mathematics tasks.

  • Steve Turner

    Department of Mathematics
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Cynthia Langrall

    Beyond the Mathematics Major: Identifying the Pedagogical Content Knowledge Exhibited by Preservice Secondary Mathematics Teachers

    Teachers’ knowledge of content and pedagogy are necessary to effectively teach mathematics for understanding. With regard to the preparation of teachers, the Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators (2017) has developed a set of standards aimed at guiding teacher education programs to better prepare beginning teachers. Many of those standards directly address the development of prospective teachers’ mathematics content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). The existing literature shows that most research has been conducted in the elementary and middle grades, and the findings do not necessarily generalize to secondary practice. Further evidence of the development of PCK for secondary mathematics PSTs and the ways in which that knowledge manifests itself is needed. The purpose of the proposed study is to identify and characterize the presence of pedagogical content knowledge in secondary mathematics preservice teachers by contrasting their knowledge with that exhibited by mathematics majors on a task designed to elicit evidence of PCK. The underlying assumption guiding this research is that mathematics majors will not have developed PCK and that differences that may appear between the two groups will provide evidence of PCK.

  • Tharini Viswanath

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Roberta Seelinger Trites

    The Discursive Material of the Sexualized Female Body in Young Adult Literature

    Discussions of gender and sexuality in Young Adult literature are ubiquitous, and most studies that exist privilege either the linguistic or the material because the debate between discourse and the material is an ongoing one. While it is almost impossible to ignore the materiality of one’s body, one must also be able to implicate oneself in language to become part of the Symbolic order. This dissertation will argue that the liminal positionality of female sexuality creates a space in which discourse and the material are mutually implicated. Arguably, the liminality of sexualized female body provides the space in which to interrogate the influence of the material on the linguistic and vice versa. My dissertation, therefore, argues that the sexualized female body is the site of both the linguistic and the material, and it is the intersection of both that grants the young female character agency. I also argue that for a female character to be strong, she must have a sense of community. Finally, I question whether a female character’s loss of voice can be equated to the loss of agency. I work primarily with contemporary Young Adult texts including Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, Ellen Wittlinger’s Parrotfish, and Disney-Pixar’s Brave.

  • Susan Watkins

    Mennonite College of Nursing
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Kim Astroth

    Research on Primary Care Medicare Wellness Visits (MWV) Effects on Health Outcomes and Ambulatory Nursing Implications

    The objectives of this study will be to determine the effect of primary care Medicare Wellness Visit (MWV) interventions on health outcomes. The study is designed as a case–control retrospective matching analysis utilizing a pre and post intervention time series design to assess whether MWV services effect health outcomes. The sample includes random electronically selected MWV recipients, cases (n = 200) and MWV non-recipients, controls (n = 200); matched for gender, age, ethnicity, health problems, and medication prescription classes between January 2013 and January 2016 from a large Midwestern primary care Medicare beneficiary population. Data collection methods include de-identified electronic abstraction for case and matched control sample groups. Data analysis will include doubly repeated measures MANOVA with two time points, baseline and 1 year, to determine variability between case and control group health outcomes including: fasting glucose, fasting lipid profile, and blood pressure, along with categorical group completion rates for pneumococcal vaccination, colon cancer screening, breast cancer screening, hepatitis viral screening, and human immunodeficiency virus screening services. Results may determine the effectiveness of MWVs to the rapidly expanding older adult population health outcomes.


  • Julie Bates

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Angela Haas and Dr. Elise Verzosa-Hurley

    Toward an Interventionary Environmental Rhetoric in Technical & Professional Writing

    This project, Toward an Interventionary Environmental Rhetoric in Technical & Professional Writing, considers how scholars in technical communication, rhetoric, and writing can learn from and support the work of community activists who are intervening in local cases of environmental risk and how we can prepare technical and professional writing students to do this work in their own communities. In particular, this study emphasizes the efforts of community activists whose bodies are disproportionately at risk (often because of race, socioeconomic status, gender, ability, and/or citizenship status), yet who are able to assemble a local counterpublic to intervene. In this project, I analyze a number of cases of local interventionary efforts and draw from those analyses a framework of interventionary rhetoric that highlights the ways community activists can integrate cultural, embodied, and scientific community knowledges in their efforts to tactically intervene in local cases of environmental risk and build coalitions to support that work.

  • Samantha DeHaan

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Gary Cates

    The Differential Effects of an Interspersing Procedure Among Students at Different Instructional Levels

    Students learning rate and academic achievement are strongly influenced by the number of opportunities to respond during academic tasks and rate of academic engagement (Shapiro, 2011). Further, if task demands are too great for a student in comparison with his or her skills, the task is said to be at a frustration level and academic engagement and learning may be compromised (Gravois & Gickling, 2008). Mathematics interspersing is a procedure that can be used to modify tasks by distributing brief math problems among a set of target problems. Studies have demonstrated that students are more actively engaged in these assignments and are more likely to choose them to complete for homework due to the rate at which the student accesses reinforcement (i.e., discrete task completion) for engaging in the task (Cates & Dalenberg, 2005; Skinner et al., 2002). This study aims to examine the effects of varying rates of reinforcement on students’ math performance and choice behavior. The relationship between students instructional level and the rate of reinforcement threshold for influencing choice behavior will also be explored. In general, it is hypothesized that as the rate of interspersing increases student academic engagement and ratings of academic assignments will also increase.

  • Deksiyos Desta

    Math Education
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Jennifer Tobias

    Preservice Teachers’ Knowledge of Fractions Concepts and Operations: Issue related with this knowledge and how its development has been facilitated in mathematics education content course

    Research, at one mid-western State University, will be conducted to investigate elementary preservice teachers' content knowledge of fractions concepts and operations, their issues in understanding sense making, the effect of one of the current mathematics content courses on elementary preservice teachers content knowledge of fractions concepts and operations, and also the role of content knowledge in changing preservice elementary teachers attitude towards mathematics preservice teachers knowledge of fractions concepts using qualitative and quantitative measurements. Data will be collected through observations, classroom productions, audio, video recording, and tests. I will study preservice elementary teachers whole classroom practices that become taken-as-shared using Cobb and Yackel's (1996) emergent perspective. I will document whole classroom practices of the preservice elementary teachers that become taken-as-shared overtime using three phases data analysis framework of Stephan & Rasmussen (2002).

  • Kristin Duffield

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Ben Sadd

    Exploring the terminal investment hypothesis in a gift-giving cricket, Gryllodes sigillatus

    Trade-offs between the expression of life history traits, in which increased investment in one leads to decreased investment in another, favors strategic allocations that maximizes total reproductive output. The optimal timing and magnitude of reproductive effort is likely to be context-dependent. The terminal investment hypothesis posits that a reduction in the potential for future offspring should result in increased investment towards current reproduction. Terminal investment has often been treated as a static strategy, with a switch in investment to reproduction occurring when an individual encounters a specific threat to longevity or future reproduction. However, the level at which a cue is perceived to be a sufficient mortality threat to trigger a shift in investment towards reproduction, the terminal investment threshold, may be dynamic and depend on an individual's intrinsic state. The research plan for my dissertation is to 1) assess the propensity for individuals to terminally investment, 2) demonstrate the existence of a terminal investment threshold, and 3) explore the influence of intrinsic factors (specifically, age and condition-dependent nutrition) on an individual's terminal investment threshold.

  • Luminita Hartle

    Special Education
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Sharon Doubet

    Special Educators in Romania: Attitudes and Instructional Practices Implemented with Students with Disabilities

    Romania was under the Communist Regime from 1947 until 1989. During that time the majority of children with disabilities were institutionalized or lived at home with limited or no education or professional assistance. The transition from the Communist Regime after 1989 has had a serious impact on children with disabilities and their families. Teachers' practices and perceptions of working with children with disabilities has improved over the years, but there are still strong cultural, economic, and political influences impacting services and supports. The purpose of this study is to examine special educators' perceptions toward working with students with disabilities and the type of teaching practices used with these students.

  • Michaela McGinn Lottes

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. John Sedbrook

    Engineering Zero Erucic acid in the New Oilseed Winter Cover Crop Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense)

    Pennycress (Thlapsi arvense) is an oilseed plant with considerable agronomic and economic potential as a feedstock for generating liquid biofuels along with value-added byproducts- most notably, high-protein animal feed. Pennycress could be grown on millions of acres of farmland throughout the U.S. Midwest Corn Belt in the winter between rotations of corn and soybean without displacing food crops- eliminating the food vs fuel debate. Here we discuss targeted disruption of the FATTY ACID ELONGATION1 (FAE1) gene in order to make pennycress seed oil less viscous and ideal for conversion to biodiesel. This genetic change will also result in edible seed castings suitable for use as animal feed. FAE1 is an enzyme in the fatty acid biosynthetic pathway that converts oleic acid (a lower viscosity, edible fatty acid) to erucic acid, which possesses unfavorably high viscosity and is restricted by the USDA for use in food. We propose utilizing the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system to target mutations in FAE1 in pennycress, then removing the CRISPR-Cas9 transgene to produce a non-GMO plant. This fae1 mutation will be a genetic mimic to the mutation that occurred in inedible rapeseed that resulted in the edible variety known as canola.

  • Jenna O'Dell

    Math Education
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Cynthia Langrall

    Beyond Problem-Solving: Elementary Students’ Mathematical Dispositions When Faced with the Challenge of Unsolved Problems

    Mathematicians view mathematics as a beautiful field of study and discovery. Although we want students to develop views of mathematics that are similar to those of mathematicians, students typically think of mathematics as something mathematicians have created that they now need to learn (Fosnot & Dolk, 2002). Many students think that they do not have the mathematics gene and have fear or anxiety about mathematics. However, Lampert (1990) conducted a study in which fifth-grade students engaged in many of the common practices of mathematicians. She found that when students engaged in these practices, they acted as mathematicians and behaved differently than students who did not have this experience. More recently, Boaler (2016) claimed that it could be empowering for students to work like a mathematician. With these ideas in mind, I propose to conduct a dissertation study that examines the following question: What are the characteristics of students' dispositions toward mathematics when they engage in the exploration of unsolved problems? I will investigate this question through semi-structured, task-based interviews (Goldin, 2000) with Grade 4 students at an after-school program in the Midwest.

  • Geoffrey Ower

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Steve Juliano

    Exploring compensatory and overcompensatory production of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes under varying density and predation regimes

    When an extrinsic source of mortality such as predation is applied to a population that is limited by food resources, the population will tend to rebound to its previous density. This occurs because predator mortality replaces starvation mortality, resulting in the same number (compensatory mortality), or possibly even greater numbers of individuals surviving (overcompensatory mortality). Aedes aegypti mosquitoes breed in containers with limited food resources, and any form of extrinsic mortality applied to their populations by mosquito control programs (e.g. insecticides or natural enemies) could undesirably result in production of the same or even increased quantities of adult mosquitoes, which in turn could increase transmission of dengue, Zika and other arboviruses. The proposed research will study the effects of predation on A. aegypti cohorts with a 3-way factorial design of prey density, predator treatment and predation intensity. The quantity and quality of adult mosquitoes produced in each cohort will be measured. Additionally, each experimental cohort will be video recorded to measure several parameters for an individual-based computer model that is being developed in parallel with this project. Exploring the conditions under which compensation and overcompensation occur could help improve mosquito control programs with the aim of preventing arbovirus epidemics.

  • Amanda Rohan

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Gary Cates

    Exploring the Impact of Relational Frame Theory on Pre-Service Teacher Perceptions of Behavioral Consultation Efficacy and Treatment Acceptability

    Although rewards and praise are evidence-based strategies that reduce problematic behaviors, many teachers often resist these behaviorally-oriented strategies due to conflicts with their child-centered training philosophies (Bear, 2013). Relational Frame Theory (RFT) holds that the core of human language and cognition is the ability to learn to relate terms and ideas (Hayes, 2004). Furthermore, expanding on these verbal networks is easier than creating new verbal networks, particularly when new networks directly conflict with existing ones (Wilson & Hayes, 1996). Because teachers and school psychologists often receive training based on different philosophies, their language and verbal repertoires may not always be consistent, presenting a noteworthy barrier to effective collaboration. The purpose of the proposed study is to use RFT in an attempt to bridge the communication gap between these two disciplines by identifying common relational networks and attempting to expand teachers' existing verbal repertoires to increase treatment acceptability and improve perceptions of consultation efficacy. This study will explore the possibility that identifying a common language between teachers and school psychologists is an effective consultation technique that can help school psychologists provide teachers with more support to meet the needs of challenging students and therefore improve student outcomes.

  • Kevin Stanley

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Craig Gatto

    The mechanistic requirements of passive H+ import through the Na+/K+-ATPase, physiological and pathophysiological relevance

    The Na+/K+-ATPase (Na-pump) is found in nearly all mammalian cells and is responsible for maintaining ionic homeostasis across the cell membrane, while being secondarily important for maintaining membrane potential, cell volume, nutrient uptake, and pH. While the Na-pump primarily moves both Na+ and K+ against their ionic gradients, it has also been demonstrated to passively import H+ ions (protons) into the cell while cycling. Excess import of extracellular protons into the cell causes the cytoplasmic environment to become more acidic, negatively impacting cellular function and viability. Under physiological conditions the passive influx of protons is negligible, however in the pathophysiological condition of ischemia as well as cardiac and neurological disease-related mutations in the Na-pump, this proton movement is substantial. The mechanism of this proton influx has been partially characterized, but little remains known regarding both extracellular gating and intracellular requirements. The proposed approach utilizes the Xenopus laevis oocyte expression system to detect and characterize passive proton movement through the Na-pump, building on our understanding of this phenomenon. This proposal will be critical in providing a mechanistic framework for future studies in the field and disease-related Na-pump mutations with which passive proton influx has been implicated.


  • Theresa Adelman-Mullally

    Mennonite College of Nursing
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Cindy Kerbe

    Exploring the Relationship Between Working the 12-steps and Alcohol Abstinece Self-Efficacy in Members of Alcoholics Anonymous: A Mixed Methods Investigation

    An increasing body of evidence supports the assertion that Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) is an effective intervention for those individuals working to overcome alcohol use disorder. One outcome cited is improved self-efficacy, which has been credited to participation in A.A. but not specifically to working the 12-steps. A search of the literature using a multitude of databases (i.e. CINAHL, PsychInfo) revealed no publications to date addressing the effect of working the steps of A.A. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to describe the self-efficacy in a sample of A.A. members working the 12-steps. Given the paucity of research on this phenomenon, a concurrent, embedded mixed method design will be used to provide a foundation for understanding this phenomenon. Quantitative data will consist of survey data and qualitative data will consist of perspectives from A.A. members. This study attempts to address this current knowledge gap to further the understanding of why A.A. works.

  • Daisy Bueno

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Steve Croker

    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.

  • Dana DeShon

    Mennonite College of Nursing
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. 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. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the use of a pedometer to increase activity in overweight and obese school aged children in a primary care office. Wearing a pedometer and providing evidence based education on diet and exercise in a primary care office with overweight/obese children age 10-18 years of age over a 60 day period will be compared with overweight/obese children 10-18 years of age who only receive evidence based education on diet and exercise. The study will be a convenience sampling, quasi-experimental 2 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. The intervention 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. Descriptive statistics will be calculated and compared. Through this study outcomes of activity with overweight or obese children and adolescents may lead to better understanding on how to meet the challenge of childhood obesity. Most studies on pedometer use has been in the school or home environment with limited studies examining the effect of primary care providers using pedometers as a tool in fighting the childhood obesity epidemic.

  • Yvette Evans

    Special Education
    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.

  • Meg Gregory

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. 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, alongside the fictional Alexander Letter to Aristotle; and two well-know hagiographical texts, the Life of St. Mary of Egypt and the Life of St. Margaret of Antioch.

  • Susan Hovey

    Mennonite College of Nursing
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Mary J. Dyck

    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.

  • Samuel Kamara

    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.

  • Sinan Kanbir

    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 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 mean gain score was significantly different from zero, the mean gain scores for the other two groups increased only slightly.

  • Colleen Kelley

    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.

  • Ashley Leja

    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.

  • Richard Olshak

    Education Administration & 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.

  • Nicholas Seitz

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. David Rubin

    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.

  • Kiran Tiwari

    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.


  • Susana J. Calderon

    Mennonite College of Nursing
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Caroline Mallory

    A Grounded Theory Study to Discover Adolescents' Oral Health Behaviors

    United States adolescents, ages 12 to 19 years old, are in serious distress because of poor oral health. The Surgeon General’s report “Oral Health in America” (2000), there is a “silent epidemic” of untreated dental problems leading to chronic disease throughout the nation. Yet we know little about the oral health behaviors of adolescents or the factors influencing these behaviors. The purpose of this study is to discover what oral health behaviors adolescents engage in and the factors that influence these behaviors, resulting in the generation of a theory. The research questions are the following: What are the oral health behaviors of adolescents? And what are the factors influencing oral health behavior(s) in adolescents? This grounded theory study will employ convenience and theoretical sampling with approximately 15-20 high school students’ age 13-18 years, both genders and from different socioeconomic status. Face-to-face focus groups, one-on-one informal interviews, demographic questionnaires, memoing, and field notes will be utilized to collect data simultaneously. This study may be used to inform the development of interventions to promote oral health behaviors and practice in school environments.

  • Saipraseuth Chaleunphonh

    Educational Administration & Foundations
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. John Rugutt

    Best Forms of Involvement for First-Year Student Veterans for Academic Success

    The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship of pre-entry attributes, skills gained or lost, and student involvement to first-year academic success for first-year student veterans in comparison to first-year non-veteran students. The results of the study will contribute to the efforts of campus professionals to coordinate services and direct resources in order to better serve and increase the academic success of this population. Using secondary data, the study will examine maturity, prior academic deficiencies, family and work obligations, financial stress, psychological/physical health, and military service and training as prior learning experience as factors for pre-entry attributes in relationship to academic success. Additionally, the study will compare first-year student veterans with comparison groups: traditional first-year students, non- traditional first-year students, and first-generation first-year students. Finally, the study will identify what forms of student involvement work best for student veteran academic success. The study will also explore differences between student veterans at public/private institution types and commuter/residential status.

  • Dhimitraq Duni

    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Edward Mooney

    Teacher’s Statistical Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Middle School

    This study will analyze the nature of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (Shulman, 1986) (PCK) that teachers project while teaching statistics in a middle school setting. In-service teachers will be observed, while teaching, for evidence of awareness of misconceptions that students have, with respect to middle school statistics. Teachers will also be observed for evidence of multiple representations of concepts and evidence of different contexts for introducing certain topics. The study will also analyze teacher pedagogical knowledge through semi-structured interviews that will give teachers the opportunity to reflect on different aspects of the day's lesson. Teachers will be presented with snippets of classroom instruction and will be given the opportunity to analyze their reaction to student questions, and their handling of student misconceptions. This study will help understand the state of teacher pedagogical content knowledge preparedness to teach statistics. It will also be used as a foundation for future development of PD to help improve middle school teachers' pedagogical content knowledge. PD cannot be developed without knowing where teachers are and where they should be going, and this study will help understand where teachers are in terms of their Pedagogical Content Knowledge of statistics.

  • BreAnna Evans-Santiago

    School of Teaching & Learning
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Barbara Meyer

    Sexual Minority Educators and Public Disclosure: How Identity and Culture Influence the Decisions to be Out in School Settings

    In thirty years, sexual minority educators will have taught at least 65,676,600 children. Several studies have shown that sexual minority teachers exercise the right to refrain from disclosing their sexual identity because they are aware of the possible repercussions when they “come out” in the K-12 educational setting. Choosing whether or not to disclose their sexual identities may result from the juxtaposition of deciding how and with whom to identify. This study specifically analyzes cultural factors and educators’ commitments as professionals in educational settings. This study dissects the stories from five K-12 educators that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). Several researchers believe that educators partake in leadership responsibilities such as role models and mentors and they believe educators’ responsibilities in school settings strongly impact students as professional role models. A narrative analysis study will be conducted to aggregate lived experiences, including stories and discussions from interviews, thus providing a voice to underrepresented populations of educators. Because of their impressionable roles in students’ lives, the understanding of educators’ intersectionalities and the factors behind their choice of disclosure is relevant as a contribution to research on LGBTQ Pre-K-12 educators and intersectionality.

  • Alexandria Fladhammer

    Department of Psychology
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Steve Landau

    Does a positive illusory bias mediate the moderating effect on achievement orientation on response to exclusion in boys with ADHD?

    Children with Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experience significant difficulties with their peer relations. These children are the most rejected by their general education classmates and most often excluded (i.e., ostracized) from social activities. These negative peer interactions have serious long-term consequences, including substance abuse, school dropout, depression, anxiety, and criminal behavior. Whereas some researchers have focused on direct interventions to improve peer relations, the causal factors of peer problems among those with ADHD have yet to be determined. There are a number of studies that have examined achievement orientation in boys with ADHD, but far fewer examined the positive illusory bias (PIB) among these boys. This is the first known study, however, to link those two concepts together to explain the degree of persistence following social failure among boys with ADHD. Linking these concepts will further the theoretical implications of the positive illusory bias, and provide information about how best to intervene for boys with ADHD.

  • Lisa Phillips

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Julie M. Jung

    Changing Smellscapes: Introducing Olfactory Rhetoric to Environmental Policy through Feminist Methodology

    Western rhetorical traditions focus on visual and verbal modalities. Sensory modes like smell (olfaction), taste (gustation), and touch (tactility) are devalued, feminized, and animalized. My dissertation synthesizes this devaluation and introduces the idea of sensory rhetorical analysis by way of olfactory rhetoric in order to complicate commonplace assumptions relative to the ongoing sixth wave of mass extinction on Earth. I situate my research within environmental rhetoric and use a hybrid method of feminist embodied rhetorical theory and ecocritical theory to analyze public perceptions of science at intersection with environmental issues and public policy. Olfactory rhetoric becomes a means to reason through and rethink an expanded sensorium leading to sensory rhetorical analysis. I use sensory rhetorical analysis to examine two case studies in which environmental degradation is tied to environmental and social injustices for people of color, women and children, and rural populations, human and non. The first case study examines the Sriracha Sauce factory controversy, a legal case related to air quality and pollution control regulations. My second case examines the environmental impact of agro-industrial disasters via the Salton Sea's history and environmental legislation. The dissertation will conclude by highlighting pedagogical implications of incorporating sensory rhetorics in our teaching practices.

  • Emily Ronay Johnston

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Co-Chairs: Dr. Rebecca Saunders and Dr. Kirstin Hotelling Zona

    Violence in Theories, Representations, and Practices of Sexual Abuse Trauma

    My dissertation research centers on representations of rape trauma, a form of gender violence disproportionately impacting girls and women globally, across literary, cinematic, theoretical and medicolegal texts: a newly-added chapter on traumatic disorders in the American Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-5); literary and cinematic blockbuster, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a feminist critique of Sweden's institutional violence against women (Larsson 2008, Oplev 2010, Fincher 2012); and Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror,Judith Herman's groundbreaking theoretical work on sexual trauma, used globally as a clinical guide for working with survivors. These (and other) cultural artifacts represent rape trauma as a neurocognitive pathology, a memory carried and transmitted through the body, and an inevitable byproduct of misogyny, among other representations. They also demonstrate how sociocultural factors, like gender ideologies and kinship structures, shape females' experiences of rape differently. My cross-textual analysis will focus on females' rape experiences in global locales, cultural ideologies circulating in these locales, and connections and gaps between ideologies and lived experiences. Identifying relationships across rape trauma representations can prompt new directions for the field of trauma theory, and for social institutions that interface with rape survivors.

  • Hilary Selznick

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Julie Jung

    Enabling Pain, Enabling Insight: Opening up Possibilities for Chronic Pain in Disability Rhetorics and Rhetoric and Composition

    This dissertation addresses the absence of persons with chronic pain from the fields of rhetoric and composition, medical rhetorics, disability studies, and in particular disability rhetorics, while providing an opening for this marginalized and stigmatized group. Considering the growing national and worldwide population of persons with chronic pain, the lack of scholarship on pain in the above fields is troubling and results in further alienation of persons with chronic pain and the perpetuation of problematic rhetoric. Such problematic rhetoric casts the chronic pain figure as suspect, lazy, drug-seeking, and difficult to manage. In order to counter this representation, the central argument of this dissertation is that chronic pain is rhetorical despite the theoretical and commonplace assumption that pain resists language and is unknowable. As such, pain is accessible, communicable, and representable to those without the lived experience of chronic pain . In order to make this argument, this dissertation moves from an analysis of oppressive and stigmatizing rhetorics of chronic pain found in medical, pharmaceutical, political, and public texts and discourses to generating a more productive rhetoric of pain that moves beyond pain as suffering and tragedy to an understanding that pain has value and enables insight into the human condition.

  • Suranjana Sen

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Craig Gatto

    An Investigation of the Membrane Biophysical Properties of Gram-positive Bacterial Pathogens-Listeria Monocytogenes and Staphylococcus Aureus

    Staphylococcus aureus is a worldwide significant pathogen in the hospital and the community. The bacterial membrane is a critical determinant of cell physiology and survival, and the fatty acid biosynthesis pathway for membrane lipid generation is a lucrative target for novel antistaphylococcal drugs. The observation that the growth of S. aureus in different culture media led to significant changes in membrane lipid composition, promoted an investigation on the effects of a growth environment, resembling an in vivo condition, on the biophysical properties of the phospholipid bilayer and the consequent impact on the physiology and virulence properties of this notorious human pathogen.

    Preliminary studies show that growth in serum generates a drastically different lipid profile from fatty acids likely not biosynthesized de novo giving a drastically different lipid profile. This revealed a hitherto unappreciated plasticity of S. aureus membrane composition when subjected to in vivo conditions. Further investigation on the implications on physiology, antimicrobial susceptibility, and virulence properties will be the goal of this research. This will provide valuable insight into the S. aureus lipid biosynthesis, its regulation and impact in an in vivo environment which will support downstream research on novel translational medicines targeting these pathways for antistaphyloccocal activities.

  • Sirisha Sirobhushanam

    School of Biological Sciences
    Dissertation Committee Chair Dr. B.J. Wilkinson

    Characterization of an Alternate Pathway of Production of acyl CoA Substrates for Fatty Acid Biosynthesis in Listeria Monocytogenes

    Listeria monocytogenes, the causative organism of listeriosis, is a major health hazard since it grows actively at refrigeration temperatures. This capability may be attributed in part to its maintenance of membrane fluidity at low temperatures by increasing the low melting point membrane branched-chain fatty acids (BCFAs) content. Mutants impaired in BCFA precursor biosynthesis are cold-sensitive, less virulent and susceptible to oxidative stress. Although the rescue of such mutants with addition of short branched-chain carboxylic acids (BCCAs) such as 2-methyl butyrate has been well documented, the metabolic pathway involved in this rescue has not been characterized. Our hypothesis is that the first two enzymes of the bkd operon namely phosphotransbutyrylase (ptb) and butyrate kinase (buk) together as a pathway are involved in conversion of exogenous carboxylic acids to their active acyl CoA derivatives which are precursors of fatty acid biosynthesis. This study involves the kinetic characterization of the individual enzymes of the alternate pathway namely Buk and Ptb and creation of a mutant of this pathway. The kinetic constants Km and kcat from the two enzymes would help reveal the role of this pathway in L. monocytogenes. The knockout mutant would then be studied in the presence of BCCAs which have been previously shown to be beneficial in the cold sensitive mutant. Our hypothesis is that these substrates would not benefit the L. monocytogenes buk bkd double mutant.

  • Barbi Smyser-Fauble

    Department of English
    Dissertation Committee Chair: Dr. Lee Brasseur

    Applying a Feminist Disability Methodological Framework in Technical Communication by Interrogating Access & Deconstructing Social Barriers of Exclusion

    My dissertation, examines the intersections of technical communication, disability studies, feminist theories and medical rhetorics. Specifically, I look to extend the current focus on accessibility and inclusion within the field and discipline of technical communication, by proposing the development and application of a feminist disability methodological framework. I hope to demonstrate how this framework can be applied to both research and pedagogical approaches in order to increase visibility and accountability for furthering socially informed access and inclusion in the classroom and the public sphere. In order to demonstrate the pedagogical and research benefits of this framework, I will discuss two case studies that engage with digital, qualitative rhetorical research methods as related to a specific breast cancer clinical trial and institutional discourses of accommodation. Ultimately, my dissertation works to: 1) Make more apparent the benefits of intersectional methodologies (combining lenses of inquiry), such as a feminist disability methodology, that can, I hope to prove, further the pursuits of social justice, and 2) create a stronger focus on deconstructing social barriers of exclusion through an emphasis on the valuing of embodied experiential knowledges and patient narratives.