"Powerful. Personal. Practical." was the guiding theme of the 4th Annual Graduate Research Poster Session at UNC Pembroke on March 22.
The event took place in the University Center Annex and showcased 30 posters. Large research posters—sometimes measuring 12 or more square-feet—are commonly used by scientists and scholars to illustrate large or complex projects. A panel of judges evaluated these posters for recognition. The event also offered information for prospective students about UNCP's 17 graduate programs.
The graduate students' effort demonstrated all the qualities of the event's theme: Some delivered powerful insight into new fields of study; others reflected a personal dedication to an area of research, and still others provided practical, real world applications.
MBA candidate Marlon McPhatter's poster described his research on stress levels among nursing professionals and showed the importance of research in the field of business and human resource management. His research had already been awarded Best Paper at the recent Southeast Decision Science Institute annual conference.
"I tried to demonstrate for hospital administrations how to reduce stress for their professional nursing staff using flexible scheduling," McPhatter said. "Balancing work and life is critical to staff retention."
McPhatter, who is a UNCP employee, will likely continue his research when he returns to school for further education; he was recently accepted into Florida State University's doctoral program in business.
Having worked directly with the sort of people who would benefit from her research, social work graduate student Crystle Murphy's study of treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) became a matter of personal interest.
"I was a mentor for youth, and ADHD was an issue that interested me," Murphy said. "I hope to work with youth as a professional social worker."
Practicality in the classroom drove kindergarten teacher Rebecca Locklear's research. A student in the Reading Education program, Locklear applied knowledge from her UNCP graduate courses directly into her classroom.
"My research project is on building vocabulary for English as a second language (ESL) students," Locklear said. "I've learned a lot of good strategies that I can take from the classroom at UNCP to my classroom the next day."
While "powerful," "personal" and "practical" describe the kinds of research on display, "persistent" applies to the researchers themselves.
UNCP's graduate students do not fit the traditional college student mold. They often have jobs and families and frequently drive long distances to class, arriving on campus long before - or long after - other students. For these students, graduate school can be an exhausting experience, and each of them had a story about persisting when quitting was an appealing alternative.
Locklear, for example, juggles her graduate studies with caring for her five-month old baby. Though she credits her husband with plenty of help, good planning and efficiency also come in handy. "The trick," she says, "is to cook enough the night before for leftovers when I'm in class."
While many graduate students might describe their education as a "long road," Timothy Heath really means it. He takes a very long road to graduate school.
"I am the band teacher for Spring Creek High School in Wayne County," Heath said. "It's a long drive, but the program at UNCP worked better with my job, and I only come to Pembroke once a week."
Heath's research is on percussion instruction in secondary education. He hopes to earn a Ph.D. in music.
"It's going pretty well so far," Heath said. "I hope to graduate in December with a Master of Arts degree in music education and with a certificate in performance."
Lawrence Harvey, UNCP graduate student and music director of Massey Hill Classical School, manages a full-time job and a growing family while pursuing his studies in music education.
"I did my research on recruiting strategies for building band programs," Harvey said. "Band is a great experience for students, and it's a shame if they miss out."
Harvey, who is working on his graduate thesis, admits balancing graduate school and work is difficult.
"It's been hard work and time consuming," he said. "I have one child with another one on the way."
These graduate students and many more competed for recognition from a panel of four judges: UNCP Professors Dr. Roger Ladd, English; Dr. Velinda Woriax, biology; and Dr. Valerie Austin, music; along with Dr. Douglas Yongue, retired educator and former state representative from Laurinburg, N.C. After their review, they identified the three best posters.
Bruce Garris, a student in the Mental Health Counseling program, won first place for his poster, "Reducing Risk – Taking Behavior in Teens through Strengths-Based Counseling."
Exercise and Fitness graduate student Teresa Kelley's poster, "Influences on Young Children, Ages 7-9, to Participate in Physical Activity and Sport Outside the School Setting," won second place.
Laura Yoder, a graduate student in Science Education, received third place for her poster, "Prototype Robust and Inexpensive Optical Metrology Apparatus."
Dr. Yongue was impressed with the work he reviewed. "Looking around, there was a lot of work put into these projects. This makes me wish I was a student again."
School of Graduate Studies Dean Dr. Sara Simmons and Dr. Irene Aiken, assistant dean, organized the event.
"We are so proud of our graduate students whose scholarship was showcased. The quality of the poster presentations was high, and the students were articulate and passionate as they discussed their research topics with attendees," Dr. Simmons said. "What a great way to share with prospective students the ways in which a graduate education imparts benefits to individuals, as well as to their families and the broader community."