YSU Honors College Students Present Valuable Research

By Frances Clause

Ten Youngstown State University students from the Honors College presented research and exchanged ideas with other colleges at the National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Boston Nov. 7 through 11.

The NCHC provides students and members with resources, collaborative events and training opportunities to build and sustain honors programs and curriculums.

Honors College students have attended the NCHC conference since 2008 and have received three top awards in the past decade.

Lexi Rager, a senior mathematics and psychology major, was awarded first place for her poster in the Education and Pedagogy category this year. Her research was titled, “A Data-Driven Analysis of Counseling Services at Youngstown State University.”

“The idea for this research came to me when I realized how few mental health counselors YSU has — only two for 13,000 students,” she said. “From what I’ve heard from other students, having so few counselors make it incredibly difficult to get an appointment in a timely manner.”

Photo courtesy of Alanis Chew

Rager’s research contained national statistics about college students’ feelings on mental health, YSU surveys given to students about its counseling services and a math algorithm she created, that can take survey results and cluster students together based on their responses.

“The goal is that these clusters help us identify risk factors for mental health issues such as racial and ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation and age,” she said.

The information would be used to determine which students would be given the largest disservice at YSU by lacking adequate mental health counseling.

“The end goal is to make a financial argument for more counselors,” Rager said. “I will continue working on this research until I graduate in May, so there is much yet to be done.”

Alanis Chew, a business economics and mathematics major, said attending the conference and its workshops enabled her to bring ideas from other colleges back to YSU.

“One of the main themes in this year’s NCHC conference was mental health awareness,” she said. “It was great to hear students emphasize the importance of mental health and how easy it is to overlook the stress and anxiety students experience.”

Chew said her favorite part of the conference was getting to know her peers and learning from others.

“I did not present at the conference, but I was there to learn about ways to better our Honors College and to offer moral support to those who did present,” she said.

Hunter Thomas and Gianna DeToro, senior early childhood education majors, presented for the first time at the conference. Their research was titled, “Embracing Non-Traditional Literacy Practices in the PreK-3 Classroom.”

“Our research pushes the idea that no way of practicing literacy at home is the wrong way and that we need to stop focusing on white middle-class norms of literacy,” Thomas said. “Teachers need to become researchers of their communities.”

Thomas said it was wonderful to see all the different ideas of Honors students around the world at the conference.

“There were many topics I enjoyed during the poster session such as inclusion in special education classrooms, racial biases in reporting on mass shooting perpetrators, second language acquisition in adults, the effect of classroom décor on learning and the effect of rape crisis centers on campus on sexual assault reporting,” he said.

More than 400 students submitted research ideas, and about 300 presented their findings at the NCHC conference.