KOKOMO, Ind. – Professors Rachel Blumenthal and Stephanie Medley-Rath are looking to build new traditions at Indiana University Kokomo.
Since they began their positions last August, they have created the IU Kokomo Research Support Group, a new initiative for faculty to come together, talk about their research, and receive feedback from their peers. Earlier this month, they co-organized the first-ever Faculty Research Symposium on campus.
“We want to promote a culture of research and showcase what our faculty are accomplishing outside the classroom,” said Medley-Rath, assistant professor of sociology.
“We spend all this time encouraging students to engage in research and present it, and it’s important that they see faculty practicing what they preach,” said Blumenthal, assistant professor of English.
The day before the faculty symposium, 44 students gathered from a variety of disciplines to present their creative work at the annual Student Research Symposium. Four students won $200 awards—two for Best Poster and two for Best Presentation.
Mark Thompson, from Peru and a senior and new media communications major, was one of the four winners. His research “Traditional Printmaking in the 21st Century” focused on combining traditional and digital printmaking to create pieces of art that mimic linoleum.
“I didn’t even know this type of art existed until I took an independent study with Minda Douglas,” he said. “I experimented to see if my ideas would even work, and luckily, it did. Each material I use brings certain characteristics to the piece that you can’t create digitally.”
Netty Provost, lecturer in philosophy, co-chaired the event and said the symposium is a great opportunity to celebrate intellectual, meaningful work outside the classroom.
“As a campus, we are very focused on what makes us distinctive, and this is it,” she said. “Students engaging in research is a high impact practice, and this event further highlights the value of our undergraduate degrees.”
“IU Kokomo is known for being a small, close-knit community where our focus is teaching and student learning. But, I think we have a real opportunity to become a research powerhouse,” said Paul Cook, assistant professor of English. “We can have both, and that’s what will make us distinctive.”
Cook was one of five faculty members to present at the faculty symposium. With his project, titled, “Serial: What a Podcast Can Tell Us about How We Live Now,” he is trying to argue that the cultural function of narrative (storytelling) is changing as the ways that we consume and produce media also changes. Serial is a podcast that explores nonfiction storytelling over multiple episodes.
He was impressed with the faculty’s initiative to create more opportunities for them to learn from each other, too.
“All faculty do research, but we don’t always have the opportunity to see what other faculty are studying. I rarely get to learn from chemists, astronomers, and artists, but through events like this, I can,” Cook said.
Health sciences major Austen Conwell, from Kokomo, also received an award for his research presentation, “Male Youth Hockey: Case Study of Relative Age Effects.” He is gaining knowledge in performance advantages in certain athletes due to age, and hopes his research will shed light on this topic and increase youth sport participation. He was excited to share his hard work with the community.
“Being recognized by the university is an honor,” Conwell said. “The courses I’ve taken that involve sport and youth have been, by far, my favorite classes.”
Thompson hopes his success will inspire other fine arts students to showcase their art and creative processes.
“Not many people see or understand the work and research we do because it comes in a different form, and it’s important for us to share it with the campus,” he said.
Provost always appreciates an opportunity to learn from students, especially those she doesn’t teach.
“Students can often get stuck in their major, so this is an opportunity for them to see what their peers are doing under the same roof,” she said.
Other student award-winners include: Courtney Cochran, “Factors Contributing to Colony Morphology and Growth Patterns on Unknown Bacillus Bacterium” and Carolina Anaya-Pico, “The Impact of Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock on Non-Permanent Immigrants.”
Other faculty presenters included: Minda Douglas, fine arts; Patrick Motl, Physics; Hisako Masuda, biochemistry; and Mary Bourke, nursing.
The IU Kokomo Honors Program and Office of Academic Affairs sponsored the Student Research Symposium, and the Faculty Research Symposium was sponsored by the IU Kokomo Research Support Group.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.