Graduate students from the College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) gathered at the Binghamton University Downtown Center on Tuesday morning to exhibit their research in the school’s fall showcase.
The showcase, designed to give students a platform to present their work during the fall semester, is held in addition to the CCPA’s annual spring showcase. It featured research that was a mixture between course work and projects for independent conferences.
Natesha Smith, one of the event’s organizers and an assistant professor of student affairs administration, said the showcase creates an important opportunity for students to practice presenting their ideas, a skill that is often needed in public affairs careers.
“One of the big things about being a student affairs professional is being able to talk about different ways to improve practices and enhance the student experience in the college environment,” Smith said. “This gives them a chance to practice some of that before they go on to their full-time positions.”
Jessica Mitchell, a first-year graduate student studying student affairs administration, and Trevor McClenon, a first-year graduate student studying student affairs administration, were among the students presenting their research, which examined whether commuter or noncommuter students found university environments more supportive. According to Mitchell and McClenon, they came up with the topic after discussing their experiences as commuter students.
“We found that commuter students feel that there is a less supportive environment at their institutions than noncommuter students,” Mitchell said. “We researched previous studies, [which] indicated similar outcomes, that commuter students generally live more complicated lives outside of campus and, therefore, do not have as much time to engage with faculty, staff or their peers.”
Mitchell and McClenon’s presentation included potential solutions to the disconnect between universities and commuter students, including hybrid courses, mandatory group work and special lockers to give them their own spaces on campus.
Other research groups focused on different problems in collegiate education. Julianne Foster, a second-year graduate student studying student affairs administration, said her group studied eating disorders in female athletes. According to Foster, her group’s presentation aimed to highlight the links between immense pressure for athletic performance and disordered eating.
“A lot of times, performance is associated with thinness,” Foster said. “A lot of the time, athletes have personality characteristics associated with eating disorders just naturally, things like competitiveness, self-motivation and discipline.”
Beth Riley, assistant dean of students and director of case management at BU, conducted research on the quality of life for international students in collaboration with Zack Wilson, a first-year graduate student studying student affairs administration.
“Here at [BU], we have a lot of resources like Residential Life professionals, who work very hard to try to get international students engaged,” Riley said. “They work very hard with the introverts along with the extroverts to get them to mix and mingle.”
According to Myra Sabir, associate professor and associate dean of human development, the information and insight that students collect through their research are extremely valuable.
“The reason we do research is so that it can make a difference, not just for a grade,” Sabir said. “These are useful findings; we have to assume, as we are a professional institution teaching students how to do research, that this is quality data.”