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Experiential Learning Is Main Feature
of Summer Research at UW-Eau Claire

RELEASED: Aug. 6, 2009

Student James Bomber and Professor Tom Lockhart
Junior James Bomber, right, pictured with Dr. Tom Lockhart, professor of physics and astronomy, is among many students taking advantage of experiential learning opportunities this summer at UW-Eau Claire. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Bill Hoepner)

EAU CLAIRE — More than 150 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students are engaged in experiential learning this summer, guided by faculty mentors from almost every department in the university.

Dr. Karen Havholm, assistant vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs and director of the Center of Excellence for Faculty and Undergraduate Student Research Collaboration, said 80 projects involving 110 students have been funded through the Summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, while at least 40 other students are being supported through external grant funds.

According to Dr. Jim Phillips, professor and chair of UW-Eau Claire's chemistry department, the students are not only learning practical, technical skills, but also the kind of critical thinking skills that will benefit them in their future educational endeavors and make them leaders in their fields and in the communities where they choose to live and work. The chemistry department alone has 45 students currently working on summer research projects.

"These are high-impact learning experiences that also put dollars in students' pockets," Phillips said. "I think most people in the community are unaware that these activities are going on, at least on this scale, or of how many of the outside grant dollars we bring in go directly to support our students, who often end up spending that money in the community."

Of the 45 chemistry students currently engaged in summer research, 33, or approximately 75 percent, are supported by external funds, which amounts to about $120,000 in student wages from external funds alone, Phillips said. Seven are UW-Eau Claire students and four are from area two-year schools — UW-Marinette, UW-Fond du Lac and Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, Minn. — via a recent National Science Foundation/Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant.

The chemistry students are working on everything from practical issues such as preventing acid rain and making better plastics to basic research projects like determining the structural details of important biological molecules.

"Some people seem to think that research is all about the faculty members and their interests," Phillips said. "But they're mistaken. At this point in my career, I don't care that much about whether I publish another scientific paper, but I do care whether my students publish scientific papers, because it can make all the difference in getting them into graduate schools and giving them strong starts in their careers.

"Don't get me wrong, I love doing the science," Phillips said. "But we really do take the teacher/scholar model seriously here. Our focus is on the students and what the research can teach them — the people are the product. Research experiences, coupled with the benefits of a liberal arts education, create the kind of capable people who can adapt to a variety of situations."

Chemistry professor Mike Carney sees yet another benefit to student research.

"I think it's also worth stating that these projects are often life changing," Carney said. "In addition to learning a bit more about their fields of study, students can use these experiences to help them decide if a research career is in their future. Sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes the answer is no, but students are able to make this determination earlier rather than later — and often at no cost."

Dr. Teresa Sanislo of the history department agrees that the summer research experience has many benefits. One of her students, junior Garrett Vander Grinten, a Blugold scholar from Green Bay, has been working for two years under her guidance on "Commemorating the Marburg Uprising: Locality, Nationality, and the Memory of the Napoleonic Wars in Hessen." This summer he worked with her in libraries and archives in Marburg, Germany, after his study-abroad program in Marburg ended in late June.

"I think it's important to stress that this project not only gave Garrett an opportunity to do creative, active, hands-on research on primary source documents, it tied a research experience to study abroad, enhancing the study-abroad experience and putting experiential learning into a global context," Sanislo said. "It also built upon and strengthened his foreign language skills and helped him see the connection between the past and present and the relevance of historical knowledge and research for everyday life."

Following are examples of just some of the other projects under way this summer at UW-Eau Claire.

  • In the physics and astronomy department, junior James Bomber, Eau Claire, is working with Dr. Tom Lockhart on a project that involves studying and photographing a peculiar fluid behavior in which a stream of liquid bounces off a surface of a pool of the same liquid rather than simply going "splat." According to Lockhart, almost any liquid with sufficient viscosity will exhibit this behavior. Water will not. A high-speed video camera is being used to study this phenomenon.
  • In the geology department, five students are working with Dr. Brian Mahoney, Dr. Geoff Pignotta and Canadian geologists performing field mapping that involves looking for economic mineral potential in remote parts of British Columbia. They are using boat access along the northern coast and helicopters to reach the Coast Range Mountains. The students' names will appear on the published maps and records. Three other geology students are working with Dr. Katherine Grote to measure the amount of water in soil using geophysical techniques. The aim of the project is water conservation and the prevention of groundwater contamination from fertilizers and pesticides, and the students are planning and implementing experiments, processing data and working on the manuscripts of results.
  • In the history department, senior Elizabeth Olson, Eau Claire, is working with Dr. Patricia Turner on a project involving the Great London Plague of 1665-66. By examining plague deaths in 24 London parishes, they hope to ascertain whether, as a few studies of plagues in rural England have suggested, more men than women died in the plague.
  • Sophomore Catherine Emmanuelle, Eau Claire, is conducting the first phase of a women's studies research project on Mamie Till Mobley, mother of Emmett Till, the African American boy from Chicago who was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 for flirting with a white woman. Working under the guidance of Dr. Katherine Rhoades, interim director of the women's studies program, Emmanuelle is looking specifically at the links between personal devastation, resiliency and political activism. The two traveled to Chicago for five days at the end of July to continue the research. Emmanuelle will be a McNair Scholar this fall. The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program is a federally funded TRIO program for selected UW-Eau Claire juniors and seniors who demonstrate academic talent and plan to enter graduate school to pursue a doctorate.
  • Dr. Wendy Makoons Genuisz, director of American Indian studies at UW-Eau Claire, is leading four undergraduates in a project to design a course, "Ojibwe Language Camps," which will be taught next summer. The researchers are investigating how best to serve future students of the course, which will examine the language camp movement — an effort to save various endangered indigenous languages — and how to teach short elementary Ojibwe language lessons at these camps. Genuisz and the students will visit two of these language camps this summer as part of their research. Genuisz received a course development grant from UW-Eau Claire's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to support this research.
  • The department of foreign languages has many research projects under way this summer.
    • Christopher Maierhofer, Eau Claire, is conducting research on "Sustainability and Organic Farming in Japan" with assistant professor Dr. Tomomi Kakegawa.
    • Dr. Kate Mastruserio Reynolds is working with two students to gather resources to be used in producing a video to help inform the general public about how language teachers work with non-native English speakers in the classroom. Senior Kara Shore, Plymouth, Minn., is taking the lead on this project
    • Dr. Jessica Miller is working with students on several research projects. She and Caryn Drewiske, a French major from De Pere, are working on a teaching and learning research project to investigate the effectiveness of different methods of teaching French pronunciation to college-level beginners. After gathering a large amount of data from two sections of French 101 last spring, they are now collaborating to analyze the data, write up results and update a paper they wrote last year. Miller also is assisting Brianna Butera, a French and Spanish major and McNair scholar from Rib Lake, with framing her own questions and hypotheses on level-two phonology acquisition in Spanish and guiding her through the preparation for data gathering in the fall.
  • In the College of Business, research projects are being conducted in the departments of information systems and management and marketing. Following are a few examples:
    • Sara Clark, a double major in management and psychology from Chanhassen, Minn., and assistant professor of management Dr. Jonathon Halbesleben are conducting a meta-analysis project looking at studies that assess the relationship between the "Big Five" personality traits, leadership effectiveness, leader popularity and outcomes such as employee satisfaction.
    • Assistant professor Dr. Jennifer Johs-Artisensi is working with health care administration major Jennifer McKee, Plover, and Dr. Paula Lentz, a business communication lecturer, on a qualitative research project to examine how a 24-hour simulation experience, where students lived as nursing home residents, would influence future leaders in long-term health care. The aim is to see if this experience would lead toward a change from the traditional medical model of nursing home care to a more social model of person-centered care in a homelike environment
    • Dr. Nancy Rasmussen, a management lecturer, is working with Kerry Samples, a management student from Owatonna, Minn., to investigate employment practices pertaining to workers with limited English proficiency in western Wisconsin. They hope to investigate what area employers see as barriers to hiring non-English-speaking workers and inform them about support services available and current best practices in working with these employees.
    • Dr. Bruce Lo, professor of information systems, is working with Tidie Rizanoor, an IS and accounting student from Jakarta, Indonesia, on a project titled "Globalization in Cyberspace: An Investigation of the E-Business Browsing Preferences of a Disperse Cultural Group." They are collecting Web site traffic and ranking data and performing analyses that involve categorization, computation of correlation coefficients, discordance index and associated scatter and polar graphs.

For more information on summer research at UW-Eau Claire, contact Havholm at 715-836-3405 or havholkg@uwec.edu.

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NW/JP

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