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 and the Maine Policy Scholars programs.
Established in memory of UMF Alumna Michael D. Wilson (Class of 1976), the Program offers financial support and mentoring to dozens of students who are awarded a scholarship for semester or a fellowship a full-year to conduct their own independent research or pursue a creative endeavor. They present their work at the Michael D. Wilson Symposium held each spring to showcase the scholarly work of UMF students from across campus.
Pandemic Behavior of Gen Z
Brandon Martin ('20), Grace McIntosh ('23), & Nik Peterson ('22)
When the COVID-19 forced UMF to transition to online learning, Brandon Martin (‘20), Grace McIntosh ('23), and Nik Peterson ('22) quickly adapted to their changing research context. As their methodology relied on online surveys, they were able to make a "fairly smoothly transition to remote learning,” according to Grace. What changed was their research focus which shifted to social and psychological variables that impact the attitudes of Gen Z (18-25 year-olds) on social distancing during the pandemic. They explored how “social, personality, political and geographical factors might predict resistance among some citizens to not social distancing.” The team created a national survey to analyze which factors are predictive of Gen Z behavior, information that could be crucial to preventing the spread of the virus. Using various survey design sites, they were able to gather data from 497 respondents with various backgrounds. With the intention of continuing this important research, they are now applying for a grant from the Clinton Global Initiative with the hope of providing the public and government officials with more information about Gen Z behavior during the pandemic.
Honors/Wilson Fellow in Creative Writing:
Responding to Life in Farmington during COVID-19
Sylvia Schulze, '20
Combining a Wilson Fellows project with an 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. The main inspiration for this project stemmed 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. As a Creative Writing major with an Arts minor and member of the “COVID” Class of 2020, Sylvia derived important lessons from her project about the importance of adaptation that she plans to apply to her future creative endeavors: "Things may not work out as planned. But that does not mean that what does result is a failure, just simply something different."
Studying Phonetics to Reducing Accents in English
Asako Higurashi, ALLEX Fellow
As UMF’s ALLEX Fellow, Asako Higurashi teaches Japanese while taking advanced courses towards her graduate work. Building on a course she took in English Language Learners at UMF, Asako conducted an independent study project that focused on the reduction of foreign accents when speaking English. A native Japanese speaker and language instructor, Askao has been "interested in identifying 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 students tend to have difficulty with correct pronunciation." Through her research, Asako analyzed phonetic differences between Japanese and English to identify how pronunciation errors occur and propose teaching strategies for accent reduction among Japanese learners and instructors.
Women's Studies & Creative Writing:
2nd and 3rd Wave Feminism
in Young Adult Novels
Aislinn Forbes, '19
When Aislinn Forbes (’19) began working on her senior thesis topic, her first challenge was to find a topic that combined her passions for creative writing, women’s studies, and statistics. No easy feat. Through her research on the differences between 2nd and 3rd Wave Feminism, Aislinn combined statistical analysis with personal narratives, analyzing how “the general uniformity and straightforward narrative of 2nd Wave Feminism lent to 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,” which 3rd Wave Feminism addresses by focusing on issues such as racism and ableism that validate other personal narratives. Aislin found that she was readily able to combine her academic interests into a single research project because “UMF professors encourage interdisciplinary thought and research."
Honors Thesis in Early Childhood Special Ed:
Applied Behavior Analysis for Autistic Pre-Schoolers
Brittany Jones, '17
As an Early Childhood Special Education major, Brittany Jones (‘17) chose to write her Honor Thesis on the application of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). According to Brittany, the main principle behind ABA is to modify behavior through strategic interventions. Using this approach, Jones worked with two children at a specialized preschool in Livermore that has adopted ABA in its 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 ABA were effective in improving communication and peer interaction in young children with autism.” Shortly before graduating in 2017, Jones presented her findings at the Northeast Regional Honors Conference. She now 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.”