Student Scholar Day

Welcome to Avila University’s 21st Annual Student Scholar Day

Thursday, April 21, 2022
Whitfield Center

Presentations Schedule

Oral Presentations — Whitfield Conference Center

9:00 a.m.

StrayCat Films:  Beneficial to YOUR Community
Guilherme de Carvalho Berbel Lozani
Faculty Mentor: Nicole Esquibel, MFA

When spectators watch a film or video, they rarely think about what actions went on behind the scenes. However, as Film and Digital Media students, we think about the process of creating a project all the time. The CO425-Intermediate Production class assignment was to discover a community story and, through a video, highlight its mission and work. I came upon a non-profit micro-cinema called StrayCat Film Center. Discussed in this presentation will be the process utilized for filmmaking. To analyze the effectiveness of the video, it was published on social media and views are being compiled. Data analytics are early, but in 13 days, the video has 125 Views, and it has reached 338 accounts on Instagram.

9:30 a.m.

Why Say Gay
Gabriel Cuellar
Faculty Mentor: Sarah Bostrom, Ph.D.

Why Say Gay is a passion project for me as a gay man. The title is a play on the Florida Bill nicknamed ‘Don’t Say Gay,’ a bill which was recently passed that prohibits the discussion of LGBTQ+ history in classrooms, as well as allowing teachers and faculty members to report to students’ parents if they are suspected of being queer. This project explores the impacts of legislation and hate crimes in the wider community. Why Say Gay is a 3D-printed art piece which presents hate crime against queer individuals. It is meant to bring awareness to the fact that it is still dangerous to be queer in modern times despite societal progress, contrary to popular belief, as well as explain why a bill like ‘Don’t Say Gay’ is highly detrimental to the queer community.

10:00 a.m.

Emotional Intelligence as Taught in K-12 Public Schools
Alison Prettyman
Faculty Mentor: Sue Ellen McCalley, Ph.D.

Emotional intelligence is the vital ability to effectively work and interact in society. Today, expressing and handling emotions appropriately has become increasingly important as the workforce seeks improved awareness of experiences, diversity, and inclusion. Outside of the home, children first learn how to express themselves and relate to others in an educational environment, thus, teachers are essential in exemplifying and developing appropriate behaviors. A qualitative study was conducted in which five teachers were interviewed to determine how emotional intelligence was taught in K-12 public schools. This range allowed for observations across a single district and evaluated the new emotional intelligence program that had been recently implemented. Trends became apparent as educators were eager to share their experience with emotional norms in response to the aftermath of virtual learning. After interviews. I concluded that educators and the school system foster an enormous responsibility in teaching appropriate emotional responses, as students today have expanded their vocabulary to recognize emotions but are still struggling to effectively respond to them.

10:30 a.m.

Fairy Tales, Gender, and Nationalism:  The Brothers Grimm and German History
Brandon Wortman
Faculty Mentor: Jeffrey Myers, Ph.D.

Fairy tales have influenced many of our lives, whether one is conscious of such influence or not. But we are often unaware of what these tales truly teach us historically as well. Using select fairy tales curated by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the Brother Grimm, I will analyze the intersections between culture and politics in early nineteenth-century German history. The Brothers Grimm collected fairy tales as part of an ambitious project to make Germans aware of the cultural ties they shared, which the Brothers Grimm and many other early German nationalists thought essential to unite the separate German states under a united “Germany.” But careful analysis of the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm also reveals the gender roles embedded in these tales and explains the gendered nature of early German nationalism in this period.

11:00 a.m.

Recidivism among Women
Nia Musamali and Tumelo Musamali
Faculty Mentor: Kristopher Proctor, Ph.D.

The purpose of this study is to examine differences in
recidivism rates among women using correctional data
from a sample of released offenders collected from a west
coast state (N=5773). This paper incorporates notions
of intersectionality to examine whether sex alone or
the intersectionality of sex and race are associated with
reoffending, focusing on African American women.
Historically, African American women are expected
to perform traditional gender roles while also serving
as the primary family breadwinner. Understanding
African American women is crucial in learning
about the intersection of race and crime. Our results
demonstrate that while sex is a consistent predictor of
recidivism rates, important differences in reoffending
are presently based on the intersection of sex and race.
The significance of the project is to recognize that
women face a unique set of obstacles once released
from prison, and their success post-incarceration is
beneficial to society while having a positive impact.
However, African American women play a central role
in their families and the criminal behavior correlated
is potentially more consequential. Exploring variables
such as demographics, education, and family support
will assist us in better understanding African American
intergenerational transmission of crime due to the
crucial role they play in families.

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Spring Picnic
The Quad

Poster Presentations — Whitfield Center Lobby

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Suicide Rates of Police Officers
Brett Baker and Tallon Vanetti
Faculty Mentor: Sarah Bostrom, Ph.D.

Recent events have decreased public support for law enforcement and highlighted problems within police departments. The increased scrutiny has impacts on officer stress levels and mental health. In 2019, more law enforcement officers lost their lives as a result of suicide than felonious killings or accidental deaths in the line of duty. This project examines the suicide rates of law enforcement officers, reviews the literature on officer stress and suicide, offers insight into causes of the high suicide rates, and explores directions for future research. This is a timely and important project for identifying the causes of police officer stress and strategies for reducing their potentially deadly consequences.

Selenium Sulfide and Temperature on Sebum Levels and Scalp Irritation
Aaron Eustaquio and Dr. Talton
Faculty Mentor: Omonseigho Talton, Ph.D.

Selenium sulfide is a common active ingredient in shampoos used to treat dermatological scalp conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis, but has been previously shown to increase oiliness and sebum production. Increased production of sebum oils in the scalp, as well as external factors such as temperature, can damage the scalp and increase susceptibility to irritation and dermatological conditions. In this study, the effects of temperature and selenium sulfide on participants in the Kansas City area were assessed during a week-long study. The difference in sebum production and level of scalp irritation among experimental and control groups were assessed. This study contributes to the general understanding of scalp skin care and health.

Promotor Activity Measured via pClone-Red Signals
Elisa Nunez, Adbell Garcia, and
Alexander Francis
Faculty Mentor: Katie Burgess, Ph.D.

Promoters are a fundamental part of gene expression, being the main modulator of transcribing DNA to RNA. Therefore, researchers have begun to study different DNA promoter sequences and their role in the regulation of transcription. A promoter sequence is where RNA polymerase binds. RNA polymerase is the enzyme responsible for the initiation of transcription. Therefore, the higher the affinity the RNA polymerase has to the promoter sequence, the more successful gene transcription will be. This project attempts to explore the role of the rrnB P1 promoter in increasing the rate of transcription in E. coli. We chose this promoter because its specific DNA sequence is commonly found in many different promoter sequences, and it has been shown to interact well with RNA polymerase to initiate transcription. Also, we are assessing the effect of a single base-pair substitution mutation to the rrnB P1 promoter sequence and examining its potential effect on gene expression. The rrnB P1 promoter sequence has been inserted into pClone-Red through Golden Gate Assembly Reaction, where the original promoter in the plasmid was cut out and replaced with our rrnB P1 promoter. The vector has been inserted into the E. coli bacteria by the process of transformation. Results are expected to reveal the effectiveness of the rrnB P1 promoter and its mutated variant by measuring their efficiency to express Red Fluorescent Protein in the transformed bacteria.

Competitive Complexation of Hydroxyzine and PHP – B – CD Complexes
Sierra Reed
Faculty Mentor: Lida Khalafi, Ph.D.

Hydrophobic guest compounds, like hydroxyzine, can potentially interact with the hydrophobic cavity of β-cyclodextrin (β-CD) and form inclusion complexes. In a series of experiments, β-CD, phenolphthalein (PHP), and hydroxyzine were mixed in varying combinations to allow for the formation of inclusion complexes to occur. UV-visible spectroscopy provides a way to visualize the formation of these complexes. When hydroxyzine is added to the PHP-β-CD solution, there is an increase in color and absorbance of the solution indicating that hydroxyzine can undergo competitive complexation in the presence of PHP-βCD complexes to displace PHP and form inclusion complexes with β-CD. Application of standard calibration and standard addition methods in an attempt to detect and measure the concentration of hydroxyzine in prescription drug samples showed that the standard addition method may provide a more viable way to do this as the sample matrix is considered. Being able to efficiently detect and administer poorly soluble pharmaceuticals such as hydroxyzine has important implications. β-CD’s potential use as a drug delivery agent for improving the release and solubility of poorly soluble drugs is of interest for further study. The analytical techniques could also be potentially used for analysis of more complex mixtures or for analysis of hydroxyzine or other drugs in biological fluids, for example urine, to understand the drug’s half-life or metabolism within the body.

Whitfield Center Lobby

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Decision-Making Styles
Eleanor Dick
Faculty Mentor: Marcia Pasqualini, Ph.D.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur during childhood that can have a lasting impact on individuals’ health. Past research has documented the relationship between ACEs and health outcomes (e.g., Scott & Bruce, 1995); however, less is known about the relationship between ACEs and decision-making styles. Decision-making styles include pervasive, stable characteristics like spontaneity and avoidance that guide individuals’ behavior when making decisions. These styles have been studied related to many individual differences such as personality types (e.g., Riaz et al., 2012), but not studied in the context of ACEs. The purpose of this literature review is to examine whether ACEs are associated with decision-making styles, and if so, which styles.

Testing the Lac and LacUV5 Promoters through Synthetic Biology
Madelyn Mullinax, Hannah Rogers, and
Jeremiah Epps
Faculty Mentor: Katie Burgess, Ph.D.

Promoters are sequences of DNA where proteins bind to initiate gene transcription. Promoters control the binding of RNA polymerase to the DNA. The goal of this experiment is to test the Lac Promoter and a mutated promoter named LacUV5 to determine which is more efficient at gene expression. The Lac promoter has a binding site for RNA polymerase. Both promoters are efficient, produce high levels of expression, and control the LacZ, LacY, and LacA genes. The LacUV5 promoter does not require extra activators and will drive higher levels of gene expression. There is a three base pair difference in the sequence of the Lac promoter top strand (ACA) and the LacUV5 top strand (TGT). Golden Gate Assembly was used to insert promoter sequences into pClone-Blue (which is a plasmid that tests promoter activity). After promoters were introduced to pClone-Blue, they were inserted into bacterial cells and grown for 24 hours. The LavUV5 promoter has shown to induce transcription of a blue chromoprotein reporter, while the Lac promoter has shown no color change after 24 hours. This means that the LacUV5 promoter was an efficient promoter, while the Lac promoter was not sufficient in these 24 hours. Our current work is focusing on quantitative differences in RNA expression and protein expression between the Lac promoter and the LacUV5 promoter.

Learning in Covid
Quinn Austin, Holly France, Shamita Mahajan,
Gina Pace, Jason Phelps, Shelby Phillips, and
Karlee Garrison
Faculty Mentor: Jared Branch, Ph.D.

COVID-19 dramatically changed the way education was offered and conducted. Dr. Brach’s Cognitive Science Lab explored teachers’ and students’ learning experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. We interviewed students (N=8) and teachers (N=8) using a semi-structured qualitative interview. We conducted a thematic analysis and discovered six major themes consistent among both groups. Themes were socialization, focus, over-arching emotions, counterfactual, self-presentation, and uncertainty of learning. Implications for future learning and education practices are discussed.

Oral Presentations — Whitfield Conference Center

1:30 p.m.

Literacy in Refugees
Athaviah Shane
Faculty Mentor: Debra Olson-Morrison, Ph.D.

English literacy is a vital aspect of life in America. Upon arrival, refugees are enrolled in English Language Learner classes. Refugees are expected to develop adequate English ability to obtain employment between 60-90 days after their arrival. This does not take into consideration their level of literacy upon arrival. There is a lack of research and resources on the topic of second language acquisition in refugees. After assessing the struggles faced by refugees in learning English, the presenter completed a field project where she developed an alphabet book with pictures and words in the refugees’ native languages designed to assist with their English language acquisition. The presenter will discuss implementation of the intervention, results gathered, and challenges with implementing an intervention with new refugees. The presentation also broadly explores the motivation, theories, approaches, and challenges for English Literacy in refugees.

2:00 p.m.

Weight Framing in Introductory Psychology Textbooks
Lindsay B. Wing
Faculty Mentor: Jordan Wagge, Ph.D.

In the United States, weight is often seen as a function of health. The more weight someone carries, over and above an “ideal” threshold, the less healthy they are presumed to be. This idea dominates in healthcare, within families, at the government level, and even broadly throughout our culture. The idea that weight and health are negatively correlated is often referred to as the weight-centered health paradigm (WCHP). Recently, researchers have been trying to shift this paradigm, by both offering up evidence to support new paradigms, and by highlighting weaknesses with the existing paradigm. Researchers have identified several critiques of the WCHP and some of its most notorious promulgators. However, to date, institutions of higher learning have not been analyzed for their use and promotion of the WCHP. Given the extent to which undergraduates are exposed to Introductory Psychology, this research will code a sample of introductory psychology textbooks to determine to what extent they are also promulgators of the WCHP.

Faculty Scholar Presentation — Whitfield Conference Center

2:30 p.m.

Practical Scholarship and the “Why”
Debra Olson-Morrison, Ph.D., LCSW, RPT-S
Dr. Debra Olson-Morrison graduated with her MSW degree in 2001 and Ph.D. in 2009 from the University of Utah. She has worked as a clinical social worker psychotherapist for 20 years, specializing in, done training for, and written publications on play therapy, attachment, complex trauma, psychological trauma treatment, and trauma-informed care, and is the founder and Director of New Zealand Trauma Studies Institute. She began teaching research in social work graduate programs in 2007 and has taught full-time in MSW and BSW programs since 2015. In recent years the focus of her research centers on resilience in college students

Awards Ceremony & Closing — Whitfield Conference Center

3:00 p.m.

Avila University’s annual Student Scholar Day is open to all students (traditional undergraduate, graduate, and adult undergraduate) and their mentors as we celebrate and lift up our Avila scholars.

Student Scholar Day Goals

  • Promote and encourage student contributions to scholarly activity across the campus.
  • Recognize and reward outstanding student achievements and scholarly activity.
  • Promote interdisciplinary academic interaction among students and faculty.
  • Reinforce the breadth of learning that characterizes a quality formal education.
  • Support the institution’s educational efforts regarding the importance of communication skills. 
  • Enhance community awareness of the high level of scholarship at Avila University.

Disciplines in higher education have different formats for presenting research and scholarship. In the sciences (e.g., biology, kinesiology, psychology, education), scholars present research using a basic scientific approach: presentation of hypothesis, interventions or application, and results. Their research is usually presented with a PowerPoint and discussion. In disciplines such as history or English, scholars may present their research by reading a paper. All presentation styles and formats are valid and should be respected.

2022 Student Scholar Day Committee Members

Please reach out to any of the committee members with questions.


Download the 2022 PDF Program

Oral Presentation Prizes

  • First Place = $300
  • Second Place = $200
  • Third Place = $100

Poster Presentation Prizes

  • First Place = $250
  • Second Place = $150
  • Third Place = $75

Mission Award

The Mission Award of $300 may be awarded if scholarship exemplifies Avila’s mission and values, particularly the worth, dignity, and potential of each human being; excellence in teaching and learning; service with the dear neighbor; diversity and its expression; the development of the whole person; and right relationships with God, self, others, and creation

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