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UW-Eau Claire students, faculty to present Blugold Beginnings findings at national conference

November 28, 2012

EAU CLAIRE — University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students Sheina Wind, Platteville, Elizabeth Harris, Mondovi, and Abigail Nygaard, Delano, have been accepted to present their research on the Blugold Beginnings program at the American Educational Research Association National Conference April 27-May 1, 2013, in San Francisco.

The research project, titled "An Evaluation of the Blugold Beginnings Program: College and Career Readiness Middle School Mentoring Program," was conducted in collaboration with Heather Harris, Blugold Beginnings research coordinator.

"We conducted the research to determine how effective the Blugold Beginnings program is on middle school students' aspirations toward college," said Wind, an elementary education major. "We established a control group of middle school students to compare students who are and who are not participating in the program. We used surveys to test their knowledge of and feelings about college, and found a significant difference in children who participated in the program."

The research findings demonstrate the effectiveness of the Blugold Beginnings program on students by improving their knowledge of post-secondary programs and preparing them for a successful career in college.

Nygaard, a psychology major, said the research was important to her and her team because it was a way for them to give back to the program. "We were all a part of the original Blugold Beginnings Learning Community program and that provided us with so many opportunities, including presenting at a national conference," Nygaard said. "I also want to continue doing research in graduate school, so this experience will help me gain confidence and provide me with networking abilities."

The experience of conducting and presenting research is also helping the team with their current classes. "I have a much better appreciation of science now," said Elizabeth Harris, a social work major. "I am applying what I've learned from this to the research I am doing now in one of my social work classes. I also want to continue my education by getting my master's degree in social work."

Wind also is planning to pursue a career in graduate school. "This really opened my eyes about how research can be used in improving education," Wind said. "The best way to learn about research is to do it. I'm really excited to present at the conference and be around people who are experts in their field."

Heather Harris said she is proud of the hard work the students put into the project. "Watching them develop has been incredible," she said. "They have come out of their shells and developed critical thinking skills. There are a lot of doors opening up for them."

Funding for the research was provided by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. For more information about the research project, contact Heather Harris at harrishd@uwec.edu or 715-836-3015.

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