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Poster session puts graduate research, professionalism into focus

April 23, 2014

Stacy Medina, a candidate for a master’s degree in UNC Pembroke’s Clinical Mental Health program, is studying mental health in prison populations. She could have been speaking for all of the graduate students in the room when she said: “This project represents a couple of years of work. I have always wanted to do this.”

The passion and professionalism of UNCP’s graduate students was on display at the 2014 Graduate Research Poster Session and Open House on March 18.

Stacy Medina, a student in the Clinical Mental Health program, discusses her research poster

Stacy Medina, a student in the Clinical Mental Health program, discusses her research poster.


Brandon Tart said the theme of his sculpture exhibit is an homage to labor. “I have a deep connection to both work and art,” he said.

The university’s graduate students are as diverse as their educational and personal backgrounds. With students representing the 17 UNCP graduate programs assembled in one room, the strengths and relevancy of the programs are evident, said Dr. Rebecca Bullard-Dillard, dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

“There is much public discussion these days about whether or not college graduates are leaving their institutions with relevant job skills that employers value,” Dean Bullard-Dillard said. “Participation in research projects, such as the work displayed by these UNCP graduate students, allows our graduates to hone exactly those job skills: problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and effective communication.”

Graduate students come to Pembroke from many places. MBA candidate Daniel Bougt is from Sweden and Corinne Jordan is from South Africa. Bougt played on the soccer team, and both are full-time students with paid graduate assistantships.

James Smiling is a math teacher at Purnell Swett High School, and Denise Williams-Hall is a music teacher at Pine Forest High School in Fayetteville, N.C. They are pursuing advanced degrees in their disciplines to enhance their teaching skills.

For his project, Frederic Booth, a full-time science education student, was looking for something practical he could use in a middle school classroom. On the display table, he had two black boxes and a digital tape recorder.

“This project demonstrates how sound waves are energy that can power a light, and then convert back into sound,” Booth said. “I made it from components for my teaching tool box.”

A degree from UNCP is very affordable, according to U.S. News & World Report’s “short list” of 10 “low-cost public colleges” Affordable is one thing and “doable” is another, said Dr. Jennifer Twaddell, a nursing faculty member.

“We make it doable,” said Dr. Twaddell, who was recruiting for the Master of Science in Nursing program, UNCP’s newest graduate program.

“The MSN can be taken full or part time; it does not matter if you have work experience or are coming straight out of our bachelor’s degree program in nursing,” she said. “It’s very flexible; we understand that life happens.”

At least six students in the room have graduate assistantships and study full-time. The most common graduate student profile is a student who works full time and has family.

Corrine Jordan, a candidate in the Science Education program, presents her research to Graduate Poster judges from left: Dr. Angela McDonald (Counseling), Dr. Valerie Austin (Music), Dr. Roger Ladd (English) and Dr. Velinda Woriax (Biology). Standing on the second row is event coordinator Dr. Irene Aiken, assistant dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

Corrine Jordan, a candidate in the Science Education program, presents her research to Graduate Posterjudges from left: Dr. Angela McDonald (Counseling), Dr. Valerie Austin (Music), Dr. Roger Ladd (English) and Dr. Velinda Woriax (Biology). Standing on the second row is event coordinator Dr. Irene Aiken, assistant dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.


Graduate students find support in their families too. Denise Williams-Hall, a music teacher at Pine Forest High School in Fayetteville, brought her support team with her – husband, Mike.

“I was able to finish in two years,” Williams-Hall said. “I worked hard and learned a lot. But I could not have done it without my husband.”

Williams-Hall said graduate studies expanded her knowledge base, and she took her first online course. Her studies also proved relevant. “I took a course in grant writing at the same time I was writing a grant for my school,” she said.

The research on display speaks to the passion of the grad students and to the relevancy of their study to their work. Kelsey Cummings, an elementary school music teacher, researched the effectiveness of a student conduct program that is used at her school.

Marissa Baker, a member of the volleyball team and a candidate for a Master of Arts degree in physical education, wants to coach. Her research addressed individual negativity and team cohesion.

“I learned that an athlete with a negative attitude affects both team and individual sports in the same way,” Baker said. “What surprised me is that it did not matter if they were male or female teams.”

Being successful in graduate school can inspire students to continue their education. Artist Brandon Tart enjoyed his studies at UNCP, and like many graduate students, he will leverage a master’s degree into a doctoral degree.

“This is a fantastic program and its graduates get jobs,” he said. “The next step for me is a Ph.D. program.”

Tart won an honorable mention in the poster judging. Winners will be invited to join other representatives from graduate schools across North Carolina at Graduate Education Day in Raleigh in May.

Research poster contest winners:

  • David A. Wimert (Science Education) -The Relative Effects of Inquiry-Based and Commonplace Science on Middle School Students’ Alternative Concepts Regarding Conservation of Mass”
  • Marissa Baker (Physical Education) -The Influence of One Negative Member on the Larger Group in a Team Sport Context”

Honorable mention:

  • Brandon H. Tart (Art Education) - “21st Century Renaissance; Reclaiming the Right of Contemplative Creativity: The Recourse of the 21st Century Schizoid Man” 
  • Jonathan Thomas (Music Education) - “Effective Instructional Strategies for Middle School Choral Teachers: Teaching Middle School Boys to Sing During Vocal Transition”

 Judges:

  • Dr. Valerie Austin, Music Education
  • Dr. Rita Hagevik, Science Education
  • Dr. Roger Ladd, English Education
  • Dr. Angela McDonald, School Administration and Counseling
  • Dr. Velinda Woriax, Department of Biology

For more information about graduate study at UNCP, please contact the School of Graduate Studies at 910.521.6271, email grad@uncp.edu or go online to www.uncp.edu/grad.