Research at UMF
Research is at that heart of any institution of higher education, and UMF is no different. Developing each student's research skills begins from the moment they arrive on campus. It is embedded in every course offered in every discipline, culminating in Senior Capstone projects, Honors Theses and other independent research projects such as the Wilson Fellows/Scholars Program.
Established in memory of UMF Alumna Michael D. Wilson (Class of 1976), the Program offers financial support and mentoring to a dozen scholars each semester and fellowships awarded for a full-year grant to conduct their research and pursue their creative endeavors. The results of their endeavors are then presented at the Michael D. Wilson Symposium held each spring to showcase research conducted by UMF students from across campus.
"A Response to Life in Farmington during COVID-19 Isolation"
Sylvia Schulze, '20
In a Wilson Fellows project that she combined with her Honors creative project, Sylvia Schultz ('20) created an artist’s book entitled "Woe is Me: A Response to Life in Farmington During COVID-19 Isolation" to capture her personal experience with the pandemic. Sylvia's work took inspiration from Gertrude Stein's book of poems Tender Buttons. While working on Woe is Me, Sylvia learned how to adapt her previous product-based research project into a process-based creative project. Sylvia explained that as a Creative Writing major with an Art minor "this adaptation is key to my future creative endeavors." As a member of the "COVID" Class of 2020, Sylvia derived important lessons from her project: "Things may not work out as planned. But that does not mean that what does result is a failure, just simply something different."
Sylvia's "Woe is Me" Honors Creative project in the streets of Farmington.
Psychoanalytic Theories and Belief in Pure Evil
Angelica Jones, '20
Angelica Jones ('20) focused her Honors thesis on psychoanalytic theories about Adolf Hitler to explore college students’ Belief in Pure Evil (BPE). I found that individuals with a high BPE wanted the script of the miniseries altered so that it did not create the impression that Hitler had a normal childhood, should be portrayed as profoundly evil, and the series should not offer a psychological explanation for Hitler's attitudes and behaviors. In preparation for the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Immaculata University that she will be starting in the fall, Angelica chose to write an honors thesis to help her gain more research experience. "I was also able to focus on a topic I was interested in. I feel more confident and am better prepared for the doctoral program."
Angelica Jones, Class of 2020
Studying Phonetics to Reducing Accents in English
Asako Higurashi, ALLEX Fellow
Asako Higurashi is the latest of a series of ALLEX Fellow who join UMF to both take courses and teach Japanese. Building on her coursework in English Language Learners, Asako conducted an independent study project focusing on the reduction of a foreign accent. As a native Japanese speaker and instructor of Japanese at UMF, Askao has been "interested in finding strategies and techniques for helping native Japanese speakers improve their pronunciation in English. As little attention has been given to pronunciation when teaching English in Japan, Japanese learners tend to have great difficulty with correct pronunciation. I examined some of the characteristic phonetic differences between Japanese and English [to understand] how the pronunciation errors will occur for Japanese learners of English, [and propose] effective teaching strategies for accent reduction for Japanese learners and instructors."
Asako Higurashi, UMF Faculty
How Young Adult Novels Relate to Second Wave Feminism Values
Aislinn Forbes, '19
"The most vital part of my research was the difference between Second and third Wave Feminism. Although the Second Wave of the 70's and 80's achieved major success in legalizing divorce and pushing for legal protections for women in the workforce, it was unable to address the less concrete forms of sexism, and the diverse experiences of women. Third Wave Feminism formed in the 90's to address things like media representation, racism and ableism within the Feminist movement, and to validate personal narratives rather than strict logic or data. The general uniformity and straightforward narrative of Second Wave Feminism lends booksellers a marketable blueprint for young heroines who adopt the violence and aggression of male counterparts in order to tear down "the system". Although this narrative has an important and valuable place in young readers development, it is damaging in that girls who don't fit into that mold won't be able to think of themselves as heroes. As I was trying to combine statistics, women's studies, creative writing, and english analysis into one paper, it was very useful for me to be at UMF where professors encouraged interdisciplinary thought and research. I wouldn't have been able to finish it if my advisor, Kristen Case, hadn't been willing to do her own research on my behalf."
Aislinn Forbes, Class of 2019
Mathematics & Psychology:
How Expectations Impact a Student's Performance
Jennifer Hart, '20
My project focused on exploring the tendency humans have to meet or resist inner and outer expectations to help uncover how these tendencies affect academic performance. The framework of expectation styles created by Gretchen Rubin was chiefly drawn upon to explore four main tendencies regarding expectations: Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, and Rebel (2017). Over 90% of participants were Obligers, indicating that they tended to meet outer expectations and resist inner expectations. Participants were then asked to select a small academic plan to carry out each week. There were plans designed for each tendency, and the most commonly chosen plans were to have an accountability partner and to create small rewards for completing desirable academic behaviors. This research suggests that we may be able to mold our environment in small ways to suit our tendencies and ultimately improve our productivity. I majored in both mathematics and psychology. Because of this I could use my psychological background to analyze the psychological component of expectations and how people's behavior is motivated by expectations and I was able to use my mathematical background to analyze and conceptualize the data.
Jennifer Hart, Class of 2020
Religion & Philosophy:
Philosophical Exploration of Status Function within Relationships
John Kaminski, '18
John Kaminski (‘18) focused his honors thesis on “a philosophical exploration of the linguistic power of status function in interpersonal relationships outside of the family.” With this mindset and with the help of the faculty in the Philosophy and Religion department, Kaminski “set out to discuss the ways in which this status functions shape our understanding of our relationships with others, and from that, the kinds of connections we might conceive of as possible or impossible.” Not only did his thesis become “an integral step in the growth of my personal philosophy,” but he was also able to formulate “a new perspective with which I gained an understanding of the sociolinguistic mechanisms that give rise to the problems I was witnessing and experiencing.” Through his philosophical exploration, Kaminski was able to create new terms such as ‘categorical inclusion,’ which “describes the case in which an expectation for additional activity or feeling exists within a relationship based solely on the category/label invoked.”
John Kaminski, Class of 2018
Early Childhood Special Education:
Applied Behavior Analysis
Brittany Jones, '17
Brittany Jones, Class of 2017
Brittany Jones (‘17) centered her research study around applied behavior analysis (ABA), an evidence-based methodology “comprised of numerous interventions that follow the operant model of psychology. The main idea of ABA is to use these intervention strategies to shape behavior in the forms of increasing the frequency of a behavior, decreasing (and in some cases extinguishing) the occurrence of the behavior, and modifying the behavior.” These strategies are effective with the symptoms of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Using this methodology, Jones worked with two children at a specialized preschool in Livermore which implements ABA in their classrooms. “I tracked their behavior and academic data across the first few months of the semester, specifically their communication behaviors with teachers and peers, and play and peer interaction goals. I analyzed this data to conclude that the interventions used under applied behavior analysis were effective in improving communication and peer interaction in young children with autism.” In 2017, Jones presented her findings at the Northeast Regional Honors Conference. She plans to use her research findings as a “foundation to any doctoral research I do in graduate school” as “there is limited research citing these interventions and their effectiveness with very young children.”