2015 Student Challenge Grant Winners

2015 Doctoral Dissertation Awards

Name: Anna Eva Hallin

Program: Communicative Sciences and Disorders

Department: Communicative Sciences and Disorders

Mentor: Christina Reuterskilold

 Project Title: Language Processing and Awareness in Swedish-speaking School-age Children with and without Language Impairment

 Abstract: In this study, language processing in Swedish- speaking school-age children with and without language impairment (LI) is investigated through three experimental tasks: grammatical error detection, correction and repetition. Two target errors that are vulnerable in pre-school Swedish-speaking children with LI are included: omission of the obligatory indefinite article in a noun6phrase, and use of the infinitive instead of past tense verbs. Furthermore, the lexical frequency of the target noun or verb is manipulated (high/low). The target errors are compared to two control errors: omission of preposition and a singular noun instead of plural. Ten sentences of each type are included as well as 40 filler sentences, making 140 sentences total, where half are incorrect. Sentences are presented aurally through the software E-prime. Error detection speed and accuracy in the detection task, and accuracy when correcting and repeating sentences with errors are measured. 25 students (10-11 years old) with typical development (TD) and 15 students with LI will be recruited for participation. If lexical frequency has an impact on accuracy and reaction time, the emergentist view of language processing is supported –detecting and correcting errors is not just about mastering grammatical rules. Rather, statistical and semantic information and grammatical patterns are intertwined and interact. Children with LI are expected to be slower and have lower accuracy in all tasks, but if they show a higher sensitivity to lexical frequency than children with TD, this result can help us explain the variability in grammatical performance often seen in individuals with LI.


Name: Sarah Klevan

Program: Sociology of Education

Department: Applied Statistics, Social Science, and Humanities

Mentor: Pedro Noguera

Project Title: Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance: A School-based Ethnography of Restorative Justice Practices

 Abstract: Negative schooling outcomes experienced by minority boys have attracted attention from a broad range of researchers and education practitioners. One of the most troubling findings regarding minority males’ school experiences is their overrepresentation in disciplinary consequences. In New York City, the site of this study, black students represent 33% of the student population by account for 53% of suspensions over the past decade. Numerous studies demonstrate that boys receive disciplinary consequences at a rate higher than girls (Skiba 2002), placing minority males at an especially high risk of receiving disciplinary sanctions.  Suspensions and expulsions result in a critical loss of instructional time for offending students and are correlated with a host of negative outcomes ranging from school disengagement to involvement in the criminal justice system.

 Though a large body of research confirms that school removal policies do not successfully deter misbehavior or maintain order in schools, (Kupchik 2010; Nolan 2011), little research has investigated alternative disciplinary practices. An emerging alternative approach to removal policies is called restorative justice. This research will contribute to the conversation around school discipline by producing an ethnographic account of an urban high school’s implementation of restorative justice approaches to discipline and the ways in which these practices shift the disciplinary experiences and outcomes for minority males at the school. Restorative justice approaches to school discipline appear to be an important leverage point for reducing the disproportionate number of suspensions experienced by minority males, making this study a critical contribution to the scholarship on school discipline.   


Name: Sue-Yeon Song

Program: Higher and Postsecondary Education

Department: Administration, Leadership, and Technology

Mentor: Teboho Moja

Project Title: The Patterns of Governance in Higher Education and Their Impact on University Restructuring

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to investigate the impact of governance in higher education systems on university restructuring from a cross-national perspective. To understand this issue, I will classify the various patterns of governance in national higher education systems in order to determine dominant modes of governance in higher education across different countries, and then analyze how those different patterns of governance affect the transformation of universities in the selected countries, examining three components: institutional autonomy, for-profit activities, and quality assurance. This study will be conducted using mixed methods research, which combines both qualitative and quantitative approaches. By including both a quantitative and a qualitative phase in the methods design, I intend to gain a comprehensive understanding of how different patterns of governance promote university restructuring including both crossnational macro trends (system level) and two case studies of public universities in selected countries (institutional level) from a comparative perspective. The first stage will be a quantitative study of classifying the various patterns of governance in the higher education systems. In the second stage of the research, using qualitative methods, I will investigate two case studies in South Korea and Hong Kong focusing on the selected public research universities. I will use a case study approach to the design of this research in order to discuss the changing cultures and management practices of the higher education institutions. By investigating two institutions, I predict that the two cases will show contrasting results in terms of their organizational changes, which are influenced by the role of their different governance patterns.


Name: Alyssa Trzeszkowski-Giese

Program: English Education

Department: Teaching and Learning

Mentor: Sarah W. Beck

Project Title: The Role of Verbal Scaffolding in Student Appropriation of Argumentation Discourse in Peer-led Small Group Discussions

Abstract: The inclusion of argumentation as a prominent feature of the English language arts (ELA) Common Core State Standards (CCSS) represents a significant change from previous state ELA standards in what is taught and assessed (Porter, McMaken, Hwang et al., 2011), increasing the proportion of argument-based texts used in classrooms across the United States and emphasizing improvement in students’ ability to formulate claims about texts using “valid reasoning” and to support these claims with “relevant and sufficient evidence” (CCSS, 2012).  However, many adolescent students have difficulty mastering the advanced comprehension, linguistic, and literacy skills associated with engaging in and critiquing effective arguments (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004; Nippold, Hesketh, Duthie et al., 2005; Voss & Means, 1996). Instructional approaches that involve classroom discourse are considered to be one fruitful approach to fostering students’ argumentative skills. My dissertation examines the influence of teachers’ verbal scaffolding moves on middle school students’ argumentative thinking in free-flowing child-led small-group discussions. Three moves will be examined: prompting for the use of evidence, asking for clarification, and providing counterarguments. Lag sequential analysis will be applied to a corpus of over 28,000 speaking turns during 90 discussions to identify recurrent turn-by-turn patterns of teacher-student and student-student talk initiated by teachers’ moves. This analysis has the potential to reveal a complex system of influence among discussion participants and examine the ways in which students appropriate argumentation discourse. The findings will inform teacher practice by expanding the discourse “tool kit” for effective instruction.  

2015 Graduate Students Research/Creative Projects Awards

Name: Elizabeth Chan

Program: Counseling in Mental Health

Department:  Applied Psychology

Mentor: Anil Chacko

Project Title: Examining the relationship between reading mindsets and aspects of reading abilities in school-aged children diagnosed with ADHD

Abstract: A growing body of research has demonstrated that mindsets can have important implications for how students cope with academic challenges, and can be an effective intervention target for improving academic outcomes (e.g., Blackwell et al., 2007). Students with fixed mindsets (the belief that abilities are immutable) often respond to academic difficulties with negative affect, and fail to produce effective problem-solving strategies (e.g., less likely to persevere, more likely to switch to easier tasks, give-up; Heyman, 2008). In contrast, students with growth mindsets are more willing to persist, take on challenging tasks, and seek mastery in an effort to learn more (Heyman, 2008); components of motivation, which are known to predict higher academic outcomes (Lepper et al., 2011).

The present study aims to examine the relationship between mindsets and aspects of reading ability (i.e., persistence, achievement, willingness to take on challenging reading passages that promote learning) in school-aged children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is a psychiatric disorder that affects 5-7 percent of youth in the United States (APA, 2014). Moreover, 60% of school-age youth with ADHD have reading difficulties (McGrath et al., 2011) that frequently lead to future academic challenges and even school drop-out (DuPaul, 2006). Reading interventions have primarily focused on medication, behavioral interventions, and reading remediation, which offer insufficient benefits on reading outcomes(Langberg & Becker, 2012). If a relationship exists between mindsets and reading abilities in school-aged children with ADHD, mindsets could afford another meaningful target for improving reading outcomes in this high-risk population.


 Name: Ana Bess Moyer Bell

Program: Drama Therapy

Department: Music and Performing Arts Professions

Mentor: Robert Landy

Project Title: Addiction Performance

Abstract: This fifteen-minute psycho-educational performance will highlight the struggle of drug addiction, staged through the stylistic approach of sketch comedy. The performance will use the structure of a hero’s journey to show the protagonists passage through discovery, addiction, and finally the road to recovery. Comedy will be used as a tool to relieve the audience of potential overwhelming and uncomfortable feelings to create a more digestible piece. It will speak directly to the current epidemic of heroin addiction and the mass of overdoses that have plagued southern New England.

 Using the psycho-education model the communities will become informed and empowered through the performance. Due to the pain, blame, and shame cycle surrounding the reality of the addict, the performance will give the community a way to connect with the otherwise stigmatized “other,” and hopefully bring an end to this cycle. The piece will also aid in normalizing the topic of drug addiction, in turn reducing stigma.

 The performance will be broken into three parts; which will contain five-minute sketches emphasizing each piece of aforementioned addiction and recovery process. It will be followed by a fifteen-minute talk back with the cast and a person(s) who is currently in drug addiction recovery. The performance will travel to high schools, community centers, and addiction recovery sites in Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts.


Name: Nicholas Robertson

Program: Educational Theatre

Department: Music and Performing Arts Professions

Mentor: Amy Cordileone

Project Title: Adapting Dido and Aeneas: A Fresh Take on 400-Year-Old Youth Theater

Abstract: I will be co-creating and producing an adaptation of Dido and Aeneas, the 1688 Purcell opera, for teen audiences. Originally performed by students at a girls’ school in London, the piece has become entrenched in the professional opera repertoire over the last 400 years. Through this production, I aim to reconnect it to its roots. Ill-fated love, terrible advice from best friends, betrayals, and hate-you-just-because relationships drive the action of Dido and Aeneas; in other words, a perfectly timely and relevant teen drama. With these elements and the gorgeous score in hand, I will attempt to create a vibrant and exciting retelling of this story that engages today’s young people. I will adapt the orchestration of the score from its Baroque setting to a bluegrass ensemble. Additionally, I am compiling a team of artists from varied theatrical practices (choreography, puppetry, lyric-writing, dramaturgy) to help build context, emotional expression, and spectacle throughout the piece. Today’s theatrical landscape is aimed primarily at two populations: young children and adults. There is a giant section of our population aged 13-18 whose only two options in the theatre are to be talked down to or talked over. Drama is one of the most valuable tools we have as a society, allowing us to explore conflicts within ourselves and each other in a safe and distanced way. Great theatre pulls us together through shared experience and challenges us to reflect critically on our own lives. Who stands to benefit more from this than the members of our community undergoing the largest physical, emotional, and social changes of their lives? With this project, I aim to start bridging the theatrical gap and serve a population that is deeply in need of a voice on stage.


2015 Undergraduate Students Research/Creative Projects Awards

Name: Gabrielle Gunin

Program: Applied Psychology

Department: Applied Psychology

Mentor: Gigliana Melzi

Project Title: Latino Parenting Practices and Children’s Self-Regulation Skills

Abstract: Parenting practices have been linked to a plethora of outcomes for children. For instance, recent connections have been made between certain parenting practices and self-regulation skills in children. Self-regulation is a component of executive functioning, and involves initiation and termination of impulses in response to situational demands. Extant research shows that self-regulation skills are critical for both academic and social success in school. While the relation between parenting practices and self-regulation has been explored in European American populations, Latino populations have not been studied as intensely. The present study seeks to address this gap in the literature through observational and survey data. Forty Latino parent-child dyads will be recruited from the partnering East Harlem Head Start center. Both observational and survey data will be collected to assess Latino parenting practices, and direct-assessments will be conducted to gauge children’s self-regulation skills.


Name: Evan Kent

Program: Music Composition

Department: Music and Performing Arts Professions

Mentor: Ezequiel Vikao

Project Title: Night Office (String Quartet and Electronics)

Abstract: Night Office is a cumulative, collaborative concert music piece, scored for string quartet, live electronics, and percussion. Formally, it will be comprised of many movements. At least four of the movements will be for acoustic quartet, and will invoke liturgical vocal music. These will be separated by five solos for string instrument and electronics that will be more suggestive of the anxiety associated with the nighttime. There will also be more literally presented source material (chant, polyphony, rhythmic music) interspersed throughout the piece, to further blur the lines between the antiquity and contemporary.

Originally stemming from my interest in the music of the early Catholic Liturgy, particularly the nighttime masses, and what man has historically associated with the nighttime, Night Office, will wrestle with a variety of musical and extra-musical concepts. On the compositional level, these include using disciplines and techniques from early music in a decidedly New Music context, as well as incorporating electroacoustic processes to explore the timbral possibilities of what is, more or less, vocal music. On the collaborative level, the piece will take a more involved approach to the composer-performer relationship, workshopping music as it is composed, exploring early and modern performance practice, and communicating music through means other than the traditional notated score.