Diversity in its many aspects explored by student researchers

Root-Cause
Student Chloe Pearson (right) explains her research to judge Hannah Mueller-Miller, theatre and film faculty member.

The fourth annual Undergraduate Symposium on Diversity: Opportunities and Challenges for the Inclusion of Diversity in Higher Education on Feb. 15 showcased student research into a broad variety of related topics. Keynote speaker Amy Fidler, in her talk on “Inclusion X Design,” addressed a subject less often heard about in the current conversation: neurodiversity.

Fidler teaches graphic design at Bowling Green State University and is the parent of a neurodiverse child. She is committed to the idea that “a neurodiverse environment can serve everyone,” and incorporates teaching methods and activities in her classroom that support student mental health, such as brief, simple yoga breathing and movements, to optimize their ability to focus and learn.

“I try to meet students where they are, no matter their challenges,” she said.

Citing a popular Facebook meme, she asked listeners to consider: “What breaks your heart most about this world? What are your unique talents and gifts? And where are you called to service?” Her teaching is based on the belief that “design can make change and create public good,” and she advocates for “human-centered design,” encouraging her students to deeply invest themselves in who they are designing for. She also engages classes in high-impact, community-based projects.

The event is hosted by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.

“As every year, even though it does not seem possible, the quality of the poster presentations was even better than in previous years,” said CURS director Dr. Cordula Mora.” It is incredibly important for students to have this opportunity to showcase their scholarly and research work related to such a wide array of diversity issues.”

The 21 students who participated shared poster presentations ranging from architecture to feminist film. Winners will be awarded an original glass piece designed by art faculty member Joel O’Dorisio.

Art history senior Micaela Deogracias, a student of Dr. Rebecca Skinner Green, presented “Reframing Aesthetic Theory in the Caribbean through Derrida’s Theory of Deconstruction,” in which she compared current Puerto Rican abstract artist Livia Ortiz Ríos’ work to earlier, colonial-influenced representations of Caribbean life as a demonstration of how the past helps defines what is happening today and how artists like Ríos defy those conventions. Deogracias communicated directly with the artist for her study.

In her “Animated Case Study Videos: A Creative Approach for Exploring Diversity Issues,” senior dietetics major Elizabeth Traxler created simple, animated videos as a tool to help students facing challenges like food insecurity and sexual assault learn about available resources and start conversation in a comfortable, approachable way. Her mentors are Drs. Mary-Jon Ludy, dietetics, and Drs. Amy Morgan and Jessica Kiss, human movement, sport and leisure studies.

Bringing together mathematics and language, student Melody Freeland presented “Closing the Gap: Experimenting with Manipulatives to Improve Mathematics Achievement of Spanish-Speaking Students.” Her mentors are Drs. Daria Filippova, mathematics and statistics, and Cynthia Ducar, World Languages and Cultures.