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Conference highlights graduate student research in education, health and criminal justice

The University of Cincinnati College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) will host the spring research conference, "Educating for Tomorrow," beginning at 8 a.m., Saturday, April 16, at the Duke Energy Convention Center, downtown. The conference will feature research presentations from graduate students representing University of Cincinnati, University of Kentucky and University of Louisville.

The conference provides graduate-level students an opportunity to present early research results as well as completed research projects earning feedback from faculty who have dedicated their careers to research and teaching in the students' fields, as well as from fellow graduate students.

The top administrators of the colleges that are taking part in the conference Lawrence J. Johnson, dean of CECH; Mary John O'Hair, dean of the UK College of Education; and W. Blake Haselton, interim dean of the University of Louisville's College of Education & Human Development will lead a panel to provide insight about research, networking, the job market and advice on developing a curriculum vita, which is used by academics to apply for teaching and research positions and fellowships.

Among the UC student research presentations are

Designing and Evaulating an After-School Social Cognitive Theory-Based Comic Book Intervention for the Prevention of Childhood Obesity Among Elementary-Aged School Children

Researchers: Paul Branscum, doctoral student, health promotion and education (CECH); Manoj Sharma, UC professor, health promotion and education; Liliana Rojas-Guyler, UC associate professor, health promotion and education; Brad Wilson, UC professor, health promotion and education; Lihshing Leigh Wang, UC associate professor, educational studies.


National figures indicate childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 30 years. Earlier this year, the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity launched its national action plan to address childhood obesity. The action plan at the center of this UC research project encouraged elementary school children to create their own comic books with healthy messages in mind. Students were inspired to think of real and fictional characters as they developed their stories, plus, they were challenged to blend the following four healthy behaviors into their creations as well as their lifestyles:

  • Participate in at least one hour of daily physical activity.
  • Consume five daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume sugar-free drinks and water.
  • Participate in no more than two hours of screen time per day that counts TV, the Internet and video games.

Branscum tested the program with third, fourth and fifth-grade students enrolled in 10 Columbus, Ohio, area after-school programs. Research on the success of the program is still underway with preliminary results expected later this spring.

The project was supported by a $1,000 grant from the national UnitedHealth HEROES service-learning grant program under the UnitedHealth Group and Youth Service America. The program awards grants to youth to create and implement programs to battle childhood obesity. The project was also awarded a faculty mentoring grant from the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH).

Do University Students Know the Warning Signs, Risk Factors and Appropriate Intervention Steps to Address Disordered Eating Among Peers?

Researchers: Ashlee Hoffman (presenter), UC doctoral student; Keith King, UC professor of health promotion and education, CECH; Rebecca Vidourek, assistant professor, human services, CECH.


Adolescents and young adults are the prime demographic to show early symptoms of developing or struggling with an eating disorder. It's also a demographic group that forms strong confidences and connections with peers as they become independent from their parents. But if a young person is struggling with an eating disorder, would that person's closest friend know or suspect that something was even wrong? And, would they know how to help?

This research involved a survey of approximately 340 college students in health classes and found that females were significantly more knowledgeable than males about eating disorders. Hoffman says this is an important finding to support future educational endeavors, because college is also a time that many romantic relationships are formed. "Perhaps with more education, earlier identification and treatment of eating disorders can occur," she says. Furthermore, the study recommends more education on how students could get assistance for themselves or friends.

A Necessary Addiction: Student Conceptualizations of Technology and Its Impact on Teaching and Learning

Presenter/researcher: Laurie Bauer, doctoral student and CECH assistant academic director


College students are connected to technology beyond their desktop. They can connect anywhere and anytime using their Smartphones and PDAs, updating their e-mails, blogs and Facebook sites. Yet, this poster presentation uncovers national research that suggests that the more they're connecting to technology, the less time they're spending studying for college.

In her surveys of students, Bauer found that students are engaging in some of the same literacy practices in their phone texts and on Facebook that they're encouraged to pursue as part of their academic experience, such as seeking support from fellow peers or doing research involving literature, as they pull quotes from songs and quotes that they incorporate into personal messages. The goal of the research is to bridge the strategies that students use related to personal technology with strategies used for success in the classroom.

The next phase of the study will examine educators' concepts of technology.

It's Not Everyone's IDEA: The Implications of Inaccessible Procedural Safeguards Documents

Presenter/Researcher: Megan Schneider Dinnesen, UC doctoral student.


Under federal law, parents of children with disabilities have the right to advocate for their child. But how well do they understand the law? And are they often signing their children's rights away when they sign on a dotted line? A review of research on the subject finds that often, these documents are dense, jargon-filled and inadequate in helping parents of children with disabilities properly make decisions about their education.

Dinnesen writes that although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been in place for more than three decades, the mandates "remain largely unfunded and its promises inconsistently upheld. Congress opened the doors of public schools to children with disabilities, but they have repeatedly failed to ensure appropriate educational opportunities for these children." Dinnesen writes that if IDEA continues to place the responsibility for accountability, enforcement and advocacy on parents, then parents must be given the proper tools to understand their rights as well as the rights of their children.

Affluence and Poverty in Schooling: Examining How Characters Influence Participants' Feelings in the Game, "War Between Suburbs: How Do We Achieve Peace?"

Presenter/Researcher: Jennifer Killham, UC doctoral student.


Killham designed a board game to inspire pre-service teachers to "play for peace." Through her work with the UC Urban Center for Social Justice, Peace Education and Research (UCSJPER), Killham designed and tested the board game, "War Between Suburbs: How Do We Achieve Peace?" Killham tested the game with dozens of undergraduates in teacher education and graduate students in educational studies to build perspective about working in affluent and impoverished school districts.

Killham researched areas of crime rates, graduation rates and income level to develop the game that divides teams into what they might face if they teach in an affluent or an impoverished school district, and how those issues affect school climate. "One of the goals of this game is to generate dialogue, to get preservice teachers talking about how to foster hope in the complexity of these communities, moving past stereotypes," Killham says. She is currently at work on developing the game to address school social issues such as bullying and violence prevention.


Contact: Dawn Fuller
University of Cincinnati

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