Changing Gears – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

UROP Fellowship: Changing Gears

ORBIT: Online Resource for Building Intercultural Teams

The ORBIT project is aimed at launching a platform that encourages collaboration between people pursuing projects or researching similar topics of interest. The platform overcomes international borders and language barriers by encouraging intercultural connections. My contribution to this project has been investigating how to extend the existing research to a new audience of middle school students and their teachers. To this extent, we are developing a version of the platform based on the existing beta platform. Because the current platform was created with faculty in mind, we are conducting new research to reconfigure some of the elements to support the middle school student audience. Working in partnership with middle school teachers and administrators, we seek to provide a medium which effectively creates an engaged virtual or hybrid project-based learning environment where students can collaborate and build interpersonal skills. The literature shows that these activities support social-emotional learning, which is particularly critical for students in this age group. We have found that students enrolled solely in remote learning feel disengaged from their peers and their classes (compared to in-person instruction) causing them to face negative repercussions in their academics and personal lives. We have developed an IRB proposal to further investigate these students’ needs and how to best accommodate them in a collaborative virtual environment. As a next step, once the proposal is approved, we look forward to gaining insights from interviewing the students directly and involving them in a series of design-based research activities.

Boards of Directors – A Behavioral Analysis

This project is related to the psychology of Boards of Directors. We are attempting to find out why certain companies allow or promote unethical behavior from their employees, and/or engage in it themselves. The purpose is generally to seek knowledge on the subject, but also to begin to lay down a framework for how companies can establish a healthy work environment. Our methodology is literature review, the findings from which have been put into a paper. The driving force behind unethical behavior is broadly capitalistic – our research has shown that many companies are willing to cut corners for the sake of saving money. These results are extremely relevant, especially when considering how to regulate this behavior moving forward. Calling more attention to the ways in which companies take advantage will hopefully help put better protections in place for employees and discourage further unethical behavior in the future.

COVID-19 hidden stories

Despite the vast studies that exist concerning marginalized populations and discriminatory concerns within the healthcare system, there are little to none focusing on the first-hand narratives of Hispanic individuals who face barriers to accessing healthcare services. Most importantly, there is not enough research that delves into the perspectives of Hispanic immigrants who have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, this study, “COVID-19 Hidden Stories,” served to extensively analyze and investigate the various factors that play a role in accessibility to healthcare that has yet been captured by the media. This investigative study was a platform for Hispanic individuals within the Detroit and Grand Rapids communities of Michigan and from Chicago, Illinois, to share their experiences with COVID-19. Through non-contact interviews covering aspects of COVID-19, substantial journalistic research was gathered and analyzed to draw commonalities between the respective recounts of the interviewees; by far, there were high relevance of themes such as loss of family, strained health, financial constraints, and fear of deportation amidst the pandemic. Through this research, there were several barriers and factors that resulted in the silencing of Hispanic immigrants during this difficult period, suggesting a systemic fault in the American healthcare system. Their stories humanize existing statistics and add nuance to the understanding of the intersectionality between immigration policies and health care services. In documenting first-hand accounts of Hispanic individuals, these stories will be compiled to create a podcast that will help the Hispanic community trudge through isolation during the pandemic.

Resilience in Crisis

Immigrants in the United States play an ambivalent role in the public health crisis of COVID-19. They are especially vulnerable to economic burden, health risk, and mental health issues due to lack of access to affordable healthcare. On the other hand, immigrant healthcare workers play a vital part in fighting against the pandemic and providing culturally sensitive care (Tayaben and Younas 2020). Focusing on immigrants’ challenges during the public health crisis, this creative arts project further recognizes their under-representation in the depiction of such challenges by the mainstream media. Through collaboration with Chicago-based community arts group CIRCA-Pintig (CP), this project provides immigrants with a voice for storytelling via theatre arts.

Does the diagnosis of idiopathic Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior Disorder require an overnight sleep study?

In an integrated health care system, in what sort of clinical settings do people receive their initial diagnosis of iRBD? Idiopathic Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Disorder (iRBD) is a sleep disorder characterized by dream re-enactment. RBD is referred to as idiopathic when it occurs in isolation (i.e. without a co-existing neurodegenerative disease diagnosis). A majority of iRBD patients will go on to receive a diagnosis of an a-synucleinopathy, a family of neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB). A confirmed diagnosis of iRBD requires the use of video polysomnography (PSG), but screening surveys, such as the RBD Screening Questionnaire, have shown good comparative validity compared to PSG. In this project, we aim to test whether people who are diagnosed with RBD without a sleep study differ from those diagnosed after a sleep study.

Analyzing how to redesign the University of Michigan website for the higher education of First Generation students

The First-Generation program has grown tremendously within the past few years. One of the key resources is the First Generation website that provides a plethora of information to University of Michigan first-generation students. Ideally, the website is designed for students to build connections and seek support. Our project explores if the website is performing to students’ standards and if the needs of University of Michigan first-generation students are being met. The overall purpose of this project is to improve the performance based on the feedback we get from our participants.

Modelling Specialists and Generalists in the Task Allocation Problem

Successful teams have a balanced range of skillsets. Agents – those autonomous entities responsible for completing tasks – are often functionally diverse, with different strengths and capabilities. Some will be generalists, completing a wide range of tasks. Others will be specialists with narrower capabilities, but higher performance at the tasks they’re capable of. We hypothesise that problem-solving teams attempting task-allocation problems can strike an optimal balance between specialists and generalists. Too many specialists may leave certain agents overloaded and tasks incomplete. Too many generalists may keep everyone busy, but slow the team down. We anticipate that peak performance will make use of individual strengths while ensuring no skill gaps exist. Our agent based-model allows us to selectively manipulate generalist-specialist ratios under different task allocation strategies. The computational approach looks at functional diversity from a theoretical perspective, making our findings generalizable over many fields. We hope our insights about team performance optimization can guide processes in science and management in an increasingly intricate world.

STEM Advanced Placement: Examining Variations in Policies Among AAU Institutions

Since the first Advanced Placement (AP) tests were given in 1952, the approach to awarding collegiate credit for these examinations has greatly fluctuated. While the grading scale for these exams ranges from 0 to 5, the amount and type of college credit equated with these scores is highly subjective. In this study, we examined the institutional policies of the members of the Big Ten conference and the Association of American Universities (AAU) in order to understand how institutions differ in their credit policies for STEM AP exams. Given the proliferation of AP courses, this project is paramount in educating high school students about how their success in AP exams can result in very different amounts and types of credit depending on their enrolled institution. The investigators also hope to inform future policy decisions in providing more transparent and fair credit policies across higher education institutions.

Mentoring, Induction, and Professional Development for Music Teachers

This study focuses on experienced music teacher’s perception of professional development throughout 20 years. The participants in this study are previous students of Dr. Colleen Conway, professor of music education at the University of Michigan. The participants have been studied previously in 1999 and 2009 regarding their experiences with teacher professional development. The purpose of the 2019-2020 study was to see what has changed or is currently changing in schools regarding profession development. This information is critical in order to give music teachers the proper assistance and knowledge in order to allow the students the best experience musical experience possible. The profession needs to know more about how to support music teachers and their work. Other researchers have studied this phenomenon as well. These studies have been published in journals like the Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, Education Review Policy, Journal of Music Teacher Education, and more. Our key question we are trying to answer with this study is “Based on their 20 years in the field, what can these experienced teachers tell us about music teacher mentoring, induction, and professional development?” My involvement has included transcribing the May 2020 interviews, and assisting in the presentation of the findings for conferences in February and April.

Can a growth mindset-based syllabus improve students’ perceptions of taking challenging coursework?

Research methods/statistics is a challenging requirement that many psychology majors are reluctant or anxious to take. This study examines if a syllabus designed to facilitate a growth mindset?the belief that abilities can be developed as opposed to being fixed?can improve students’ perceptions of and willingness to take a challenging course on research methods in psychology. Many studies now support the benefits of a growth mindset, such as greater perseverance in the face of challenges (Hochanadel, A., & Finamore, D., 2015) and improved academic performance, even in advanced mathematics (Yeager et al. 2019). Studies also demonstrate that course syllabi can markedly affect students’ perceptions of the course and instructor (Saville, Zinn, Brown, & Marchuk, 2010). In this study, participants were randomly assigned to read either a conventional or growth-mindset based syllabus and then report their course perceptions, motivation to take, and perceived ability to succeed in the Research Methods in Psychology course after a brief growth mindset measure. Analyses of variance should reveal that students who read the growth mindset-oriented syllabus report significantly greater both motivation to enroll and perceived ability to succeed in the course as well as more positive perceptions of it and more of a growth mindset than do students who read a standard syllabus with the same requirements. Simply designing a syllabus to facilitate a growth mindset may thus be a brief and cost-effective way to increase students’ enrollment and self-efficacy in challenging courses.

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