Research » Undergraduate Research Symposium

Annually, CCEL co-hosts MSU's Undergraduate Research Symposium with the Shackouls Honors College. The Symposium features faculty-guided, student-led research efforts from diverse departments, colleges, and research centers across campus. In recognition of Mississippi State University's Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, a Community Engagement track is included in the symposium. Faculty judges from multiple disciplines review and score the engagement projects. Abstracts and photos of the winners of the Community Engagement Track are featured below. For additional information about future undergraduate research symposium dates, please visit http://www.honors.msstate.edu/research.


2016 Undergraduate Research Symposium Community Engagement Track Winners

First Place

Student: Audrey Sanderson
Major: Elementary Education
Faculty Advisor: Kathleen Alley
Project Title: Professional Development to Support Familiarity and Use of Instructional Strategies in the Middle Level Classroom
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Abstract: Professional Development to support Familiarity and Use of Instructional Strategies in the Middle Level Classroom Audrey Sanderson This Study Investigates the influence of an intensive, month-long teacher institute on participants’ familiarity with the use of research-based instructional strategies. SSILTT: Science and Social Studies Integration with Literacy and Technology was a professional development program for middle level educators that took place in June 2014, with two follow up sessions provided during the 2014-2015 school year.

Workshop goals were to help teachers: (1) increase academic rigor and their use of CCSS to design instruction in literacy and in the content areas, including the infusion of research-based instructional strategies, (2) increase students’ use of argument critical thinking, listening and speaking, and writing skills required for the CCSS, (3) increase teachers’ use of technology, including multimodal and visual literacy, and (4) create developmentally responsive learning experiences, promoting motivation at the middle level. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to investigate participants’ familiarity with and use of research-based instructional strategies. Data sources I used in this investigation included an instructional strategy questionnaire of teachers’ knowledge of instructional strategies, given pre and post intervention; and, transcriptions of focus group discussions conducted during the June institute and follow up sessions. Statistical analysis indicated there was a significant difference in participant familiarity with strategies before the training and after. Paired-samples t-test results comparing participant self-reported use of strategies before the training were significant. Qualitative analysis of transcribed focus group discussions supported quantitative analysis, indicating teachers felt the professional development they received supported their increased familiarity with instructional strategies they then included more frequently when planning for and implementing instruction. Further, teachers stated they believed their increased use of these instructional strategies supported students’ academic achievement.


Second Place

Student: Anna Barr
Major: Architecture
Faculty Advisor: Alexis Gregory
Project Title: Continuing to Improve on Outreach Design
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Abstract: The field of architecture hast opportunity and responsibility to serve the community. Architects are challenged with catering to the needs of specific communities, such as the Oxford-Lafayette area, while also improving the residents’ quality of living. I conducted continued research for the Habitat for Humanity of Oxford-Lafayette area, taking house designs developed through a collaborative research project. The original research was conducted by me and two other architecture students in Fall 2014/Spring 2015 and funded by an Oxbridge Tutorial. The research team conducted preliminary research into previously constructed Habitat for Humanity houses, building code, zoning requirements, ADA and egress requirements, and site analysis, including solar orientation and wind direction. The team then brought in student volunteers from the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) to participate in a 4 hour design service-learning immersion project. The purpose of this design project was to establish a relationship between the students and the community for the betterment of both through equal cooperation. This current project used AIAS student designs to create construction drawings to make the house designs fully useable. To do this, I created mechanical and plumbing drawings, further developed the floor plans, and drawing details for the physical construction of the houses. The continuation of this project will further the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the houses. This project will not only give Habitat for Humanity the designs for two homes, but these houses will also serve as prototypes for the betterment of Habitats overall outreach goals of making better designed homes available to low income families. The implementation of our prototype houses will help enrich the community through the influence of better designed low income housing.


Third Place

Students: Christine Dunn
Major: Secondary Education
Faculty Advisor: Judith Ridner
Project Title: A Shake Truce: Starkville Civil Rights
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Abstract: This project sought to identify key terms and themes present in interviews of members of the Starkville community present during the integration of education. These interviews were conducted by researcher’s part of the “A Shaky Truce” project. In order to identify these terms and themes, the researcher listened to, partially transcribed, and annotated several key interviews. Using these partial transcriptions and annotations, as well as the notes taken by other researchers in the project, the researcher identified events and themes that appeared in multiple interviews. Once these themes had been identified, the researcher created lesson plans for the Starkville Civil Rights website, highlighting illustrative interview segments for teacher’s use in the secondary education classroom.


2015 Undergraduate Research Symposium Community Engagement Track Winners

First Place

Student: Heather Lyles
Major: Anthropology
Faculty Advisor: Toni Copeland
Project Title: Creating a Better Tomorrow: A Service-Learning Project in Starkville, Mississippi.
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Abstract: Community is a concept that includes family and friends, local businesses, schools, services, and even sporting events. Being a part of a community is a key factor in creating, sustaining, and developing the social well being of its people.

Often it is the adults' opinions and beliefs that shape the future of any community; children are rarely asked for their input. Their voices and hopes for the future of a community are seldom heard. Objective: Creating a Better Tomorrow Together is a service-learning project (SLP) committed to documenting elementary school children's perspectives on the community of Starkville, MS. Methods: Graduate students visited local elementary schools and asked fourth graders at those schools to reflect on Starkville today, to design their ideas for an ideal future community, and to portray these in artwork. Elementary school students accomplished this by drawing and creating pictures of many elements associated with the community of Starkville. Key Findings to Date: These pictures were used to create a coloring book to give back to the kids, a full color book to give back to the schools and community, and an instruction manual for others who wish to perform similar service-learning projects. The service-learning project focuses on initiated change within the community, especially community cohesiveness through children's eyes as well as empowering these children. It also encourages community engagement and partnerships between schools, higher education, and various community members.


Second Place

Student: Shelby Hayes
Major: Agricultural Economics
Faculty Advisor: Matthew Freeman
Project Title: Communication Avenues for Vietnamese-American Fishing Communities in Mississippi and Alabama with Coastal Resource Agencies
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Abstract: Vietnamese-American fishers are a large proportion of the shrimping population and seafood industry workers in the Mississippi-Alabama Gulf Coast, and a high level of fisheries resource dependency exists among the Vietnamese­ American community in the MS-AL Gulf Coast. These communities have faced extreme environmental and economic shocks in the recent past which has increased the urgent need for effective communication among Vietnamese­ American fishers and diverse agencies and successful dissemination of information to the Vietnamese-American community on the MS-AL Gulf Coast. These shocks highlighted the importance of effective agency communication and outreach to bolster community economic, environmental and sociocultural resiliency. This project is focused on identifying socioeconomic factors that encourage/discourage communication between Vietnamese-American communities and coastal resource agencies. The three main objectives of the project are to: identify existing channels and barriers for communication among community and agencies regarding regulatory, environmental and health risk information; identify key nodes within existing community communication networks; and promote research partnerships with community organizations and among agencies. Our research sites are Biloxi, MS and Bayou La Batre, AL because they exist within the same Sea Grant agency and federal agencies yet have different state agencies and local communities. This allows for comparison across more diverse agency/community relationships. Using interviews with state and federal agencies, community associations, and focus groups with members of the fishing community, we aim to develop a survey measurement tool for use in further assisting and improving communication avenues between Vietnamese-American fishing communities and state/federal agencies in Mississippi and Alabama. The created measurement tool will be available for use and modification for other ethnic coastal fishing communities.


Third Place

Students: Patrick Brown, Anna Barr, and Lucas Posey
Major: Architecture
Faculty Advisor: Alexis Gregory
Project Title: Improving on Outreach Design
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Abstract: The field of architecture has the opportunity and responsibility to serve the community. Architects are challenged with catering to the needs of specific communities, such as the Oxford-Lafayette area, while also improving the residents' quality of living. Developing the ability to fulfill the needs of clients while also improving the community begins in education. This research uses a service-learning project spanning over two semesters combined with a brief 4-hour service-learning immersion. Through service-learning, students have the opportunity to gain real-world knowledge of their specific field through serving a community with programs such as Habitat for Humanity. This begins with establishing the specific requirements set out by the client and using those requirements to create more efficient and sustainable designs. The research team conducted preliminary research into previously constructed Habitat for Humanity houses, building code, zoning requirements, ADA and egress requirements, and site analysis, including solar orientation and wind direction. The team then brought in student volunteers from the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) to participate in a 4-hour service-learning immersion project. The purpose of this project was to establish a relationship between the students and the communities for the betterment of both through equal cooperation. The end goal of this research is to better the designs of two cost effective homes. These designs will provide an example for future Habitat for Humanity projects of good design in low-income housing. Placing good design practices in the reach of low-income families will better the quality of living and increase the benefits of the home, making it more affordable in the long run. The involvement of the students will raise awareness through the design charette about extending opportunities to low-income families and improving communities in the long run.


2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium Community Engagement Track Winners

First Place

Student: Katherine Abell
Major: Wildlife & Fisheries/Wildlife Science
Co-Authors: Dr. Jessica Tegt
Faculty Advisor: Leslie Burger
Project Title: Natural Resources Outreach Education: Does It Last?
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Abstract: Outreach programs are a common approach used to introduce young people to natural resources management and conservation issues. However, their ability to produce long-term changes in environmental attitudes in participants is largely unknown. We administered a 10-item, 3-demensional, validated survey instrument – the New Ecological Paradigm Scale for Children – to a diverse population of 6th- and 7th-grade students in a small, rural town in Mississippi. The objective of the project was to determine the students’ environmental attitudes 1- to 2-years after participation in a school-based, natural science program. Analysis of usable surveys (n=106) indicated no significant change in student attitudes one year later, suggesting attitude retention. Also, those who had participated in the environmental program during 2 grades exhibited scale dimension values that were more environmentally positive (x Ì… = 3.63) than those who had only been in the program once ( x Ì… = 3.32, p = 0.04). However, significant declines in scale dimensions were detected in those students who were 20years post-program. Additionally, a negative shift in environmental attitudes was observed in 9 of the 10 scale items between 1- and 2-years post-program. Results of this study suggest positive gains from natural science programs are retained, but in the absence of reinforcement, will begin to decline after an extended period of time.


Second Place

Student: Lucy Ly
Major: Industrial Engineering
Co-Authors: Christina McDaniel, N. Eric Heiselt, Burak Eksioglu, and Davonta Whalum
Faculty Advisor: Sandra Eksioglu
Project Title: Mission Intermodal Excellence
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Abstract: The focus of this presentation is a year-long educational program delivered to K-12 teachers through the College of Engineering. The objective is to introduce K-12 teachers and students to intermodal transportation. The program started during the summer with a short course to train the teachers. During this training, teachers worked on developing lesson plans and hands-on activities. The teacher delivered these lesson plans to their classrooms during the academic year. The students of participating teachers participated in a related Public Service Announcement (PSA) competition. A PSA is a “commercial” to teach the audience something important. The summer training consisted of in-class instruction. More specifically, the following topics were covered: transportation safety, traffic flow, transportation emissions, transportation cost analysis, etc. A number of field trips to intermodal facilities were organized. Experts from industries in Mississippi visited the classroom and discussed related topics such as the intermodal operations at the port of New Orleans, intermodal activities at the FedEx hub, managing the school bus schedule in Starkville school district, etc. We conducted a survey and collected data in order to evaluate the impact that the in-class instructions, field trips and hands-on activities had on improving teachers understanding on intermodal transportation. The results of the survey indicate that, teachers understanding of intermodal transportation and related issues improved drastically. For example, of the 17 teachers surveyed prior to the workshop, only 3 knew what the term intermodal transportation is, 4 confused the definition of intermodal with intra-modal transportation, and 10 did now know. Similar improvements are observed amongst students as well. The result from the PSA competition indicates an increased awareness among students about transportation safety, and transportation-an-environment.


Third Place

Student: Katherine Hester
Major: Anthropology
Co-Authors: Curtis Kennett
Faculty Advisor: Toni Copeland
Project Title: Food, Fun, and Farming: Perspectives on a Local Farmer’s Market community in Starkville, MS
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Abstract: Farmer’s Markets are a source of fresh, quality fruits and vegetables as well as social and community connections. They also support local, small farms while providing customers with alternative shopping experiences as compared to grocery stores. In order to sustain markets, customers must be motivated to shop there which often entails an understanding of the benefits of the markets. This project explores the motivations of customers shopping at a local Farmer’s Market. This includes the reasons they choose to shop at stores or frequent the market, expectations, and desired improvements or additions. These are compared to farmers’ perspectives. Specifically, we compare how much farmer and customers agree on the benefits of the market, the importance of different aspects of the market, and how they would like to see the market develop in the future. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, we found that there is a shared cultural model of the benefits of Farmer’s Markets among patrons and famers. There is, however, a great deal of variation in how much they agree on specific qualities. For example, farmers have a very different view of what improvements are needed and even whether or not they are needed to provide a better experience for customers. This research is being supplied to the Farmer’s Market to facilitate a better understanding of what customers want from the market. This will assist the farmers and the market in maintaining current customers and growing in the future.


2013 Undergraduate Research Symposium Community Engagement Track Winners

First Place

Student: Alyssa Barrett
Major: Agricultural Science
Co-Authors: Dr. Mike Oye, Dr. Gaea Wimmer, Dr. Ned Browning
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Ned Browning, School of Human Sciences
Project Title: Development of Extension Programs in Nigeria: A Case Study
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Abstract: Research has shown there is a high correlation between the location of Moringa oleiferas natural environment and the places where malnutrition and hunger are most prevalent. Moringa oleifera is a shrub-like tree that grows in tropical and sub-tropical environments. The fruit, flowers, leaves, and sap of the Moringa tree are used for their dietary and medicinal value for humans. Under the direction of Dr. Mike Oye, a Nigerian educator, I am observing how Moringa oleifera is being re-introduced and adopted by the people of Abakaliki, Nigeria. During spring semester 2013, as part of a mission trip, I will be observing Dr. Oye’s development work in utilizing a native plant to help alleviate hunger. My research objective will be focused on the diffusion of the innovation (Moringa oleifera) and the adoption process. As a student concentrating on agricultural extension education, I hope to gain a better understanding of the methods used to introduce a crop as a marketable product and how people adopt the new crop. I am also observing how people react to and learn a new practice. The research design will consist of a case study focusing on the adoption of the Moringa oleifera as a medicinal and profitable agricultural commodity. I will ask questions to those directly involved in the dissemination of this innovation and those adopting it. I will also keep field notes and reflect on observations made during my time in Nigeria. Other research questions will emerge from the research process. Upon returning to Mississippi I will transcribe my field notes and responses to questions asked of those I interviewed. I will analyze the results through the constant comparative method to identify themes to answer my research questions.


Second Place

Student: Rebecca Cash
Major: History
Co-Authors: Andrea Drake, Brittany Henderson, Karissa Logan, Randi Manning, Austin Walthall, and Shawna Williams
Faculty Advisor: Amy Fountain, Communications
Project Title: Super Readers: Meeting Literacy Needs in our Starkville Schools
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Abstract: According to the Social Science Research Center, 78% of Mississippi's fourth graders performed at a below proficient reading level, resulting in a national ranking of 48 in 2009. Unfortunately, the trend continues as the students advance, as 74% of third graders who perform poorly in reading will continue to do so into high school. While participating in the Day One Leadership Community we began to realize the literacy needs in our community, especially among elementary school students. After being paired with the Sudduth Elementary School’s library, we worked with students and began to seek ways to increase interest in reading at an early age. Using the school’s mascot and the concept of super heroes which interested young readers, we created a book that encouraged pursuing higher education and exploring various careers. We incorporated vocabulary words included in the school’s curriculum to reinforce what they were learning in the classroom. To cultivate excitement about the book, we had several students draw specific scenes and characters to include as illustrations. We experienced the children’s excitement about their work when we presented nineteen copies of the book to the library. In addition to writing the book, we visited the school weekly to spend time with the children and personally instill an interest in reading. Over the course of the fall 2012 semester, we individually worked with approximately 66 students in 110 hours.


Third Place

Student: Melinda Ingram
Major: Architecture
Co-Authors: Alex Reeves, Jake Johnson, Mark Riley, Adam Troutman, Dr. April Heiselt
Faculty Advisor: Alexis Gregory, Architecture
Project Title: Elevating Habitat: Service-Learning in Construction and Design
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Abstract: Organizations such as Architecture for Humanity, Architects Without Borders and other non-profit architecture design organizations are interested in service-learning to aid those throughout the world that have been affected by poverty, war and natural disasters. The students working on this research worked with the Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity to design the upcoming Maroon Edition 2013 house to be constructed in the fall semester of 2013. The class was composed of students from the School of Architecture and the Department of Building Construction Science. Students met and worked directly with the future homeowners for the house in addition to members of the Starkville Habitat for Humanity board. The research studied the effects of service-learning on Millennial students working on architecture design and construction. The students worked as a team to design the house, as well as create the construction drawings that will be needed to order materials and construct the house. Students developed critical professional skills in addition to the design skills inherent in architecture education. These include the ability to utilize modular materials for construction detailing to limit the expense of the house construction, the ability to complete a construction budget estimate to help provide guidance on the expense of the construction of the student design, and the ability to complete a construction schedule for the project to understand the time implications of design for a non-profit client. The service-learning aspect of the research exposed students to a new way of learning and looking at an architectural design and construction project. They were able to partner with a real-world client, not just imagine how to work with them. This helped the students better understand the needs of their client, and the community. A more developed sense of the effects of architecture as service was achieved through the student research.