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Student-faculty research presented at national conference

 St. Catherine University is making its debut at the Council of Undergraduate Research’s Poster on the Hill conference in Washington D.C. on April 25.

Associate Dean Lynda Szymanski, Stephanie Burrows ’12, and Psychology Assistant Professor Arturo Sesma, Jr. will attend the event and present data from a student-faculty collaborative research project to Minnesota congressional delegates.

The Burrows and Sesma collaborative research project was among 74 chosen from more than 850 submissions to present at this conference.  Projects were entered from across the United States and their project is one of two from Minnesota (the other is from Bethel University).

Research on homeless families and children

Their poster is part of a larger research study led by Professor Ann Masten and her students at the University of Minnesota focusing on children and families experiencing homelessness.  It is estimated that between 800 thousand and 1.2 million homeless children in the United States — most of whom are five-years-old or younger.  These children are at risk for academic difficulties, behavioral problems and psychopathology.  

The focus of Masten’s work is in identifying potential protective factors for children and families experiencing homelessness and high mobility. Protective factors, such as cognitive abilities and close parental relationships, help to mitigate the negative effects of residential instability. 

Student-faculty research on protective factors

The Burrows-Sesma collaborative research poster explores one such protective factor: parental expressed emotion (EE).  EE refers to the emotional representation parents have of their children and can be positive or negative.  

They investigated the relationship between parental EE and child behavior problems and peer difficulties among a group of children living in temporary and emergency housing.

Their research had two main findings. First—parents' positive EE about their children was related to lower levels of internalizing—but only for girls. Internalizing refers to a class of behavior problems like depression, withdrawal and anxiety.  Consequently, the more positive statements parents expressed about their daughters; the fewer problems those girls had with respect to internalizing symptoms, as rated by teachers. 

The second finding indicated that a higher number of negative parental comments about their children were linked to higher incidences of being bullied by peers, as reported by the teacher. This finding held for both boys and girls.

Conference to share importance of collaborative research

Burrows and Sesma will discuss their findings and recommendations with members of Minnesota’s congressional delegates. They will also join conference attendees to discuss the importance of faculty-student collaborative research with members of Congress.  

Research about teaching consistently documents that students learn more if they have opportunities to actually conduct research studies during their college and university education.

April 19, 2012 by Julie Michener

See also: Faculty, Liberal Arts, Students