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GSA Newsletter: March 6, 2022

from Marketing and Communications

Three minutes and a single presentation slide. That’s the challenge a handful of UNC doctoral students have accepted to describe their dissertation projects, using non-technical language anyone can understand.  

Seven students are putting their communication and presentation skills to the test next week in UNC’s first-ever Northern Colorado Three Minute Thesis (NoCo 3MT) competition, an event sponsored by UNC’s Graduate School that is open for anyone to attend. 

The 3MT is a global academic research communication competition that was developed by the University of Queensland, Australia. While the words “thesis” and “dissertation” are used interchangeably in other countries, the competition is intended for graduate students who have completed their research/data collection and are in the process of completing their dissertation.  

“The 3MT is an internationally recognized event designed to provide graduate students with the opportunity to hone skills critical to the communication of their scholarship with a broad audience,” said Jeri-Anne Lyons, Ph.D., associate vice president of Research and dean of UNC’s Graduate School. “It provides an opportunity to highlight the amazing work done by graduate students to the campus community, Colorado and perhaps the nation.” 

The winner of the NoCo 3MT, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 22, 5-7 p.m., in the Campus Commons Prosperity Room, receives a monetary prize ($300) and will go on to compete in the Colorado Graduate Schools 3MT later this semester. 

Meet the doctoral students taking part in this year’s NoCo 3MT and get a glimpse of what they’ve been working on: 

Deanna Dykstra

Deanna Dykstra

Program: Educational Leadership, Ed.D. 

Title of Dissertation: School Leadership Through the COVID-19 Pandemic: A phenomenological study 

About My Research: Living and leading in a pandemic presented unprecedented challenges and difficulties for school leaders. I wanted to hear the powerful stories of eight principals in Colorado and learn from their experiences. Those experiences combined with the findings presented in my study offer validation as well as inspiration to other school leaders leading during a crisis 

Why I’m participating in the 3MT: I am participating in the 3MT event because I love a good challenge! I am also looking forward to sharing my learning takeaways with other students and school leaders. The 3MT process has helped me explain my research to friends and family outside the field of education. 

Jennifer Santos

Jennifer Santos

Program: Educational Leadership, Ed.D. 

Title of Dissertation: Transformative and Trauma-Informed Social-Emotional Learning at the Secondary Level 

About My Research: During my 18-year teaching career at the secondary level, I had a passion for social-emotional learning in my science classroom. I hoped to research why social-emotional learning was not as prevalent at the secondary level as at the elementary level. Due to recent events, I focused my research instead on secondary transformative and trauma-informed social-emotional learning and the important knowledge necessary for teachers to reach students of color and students who have experienced trauma through social-emotional learning.  

Why I’m participating in the 3MT: I hope that my research informs teachers about the knowledge necessary for implementing inclusive SEL in their secondary classroom. I wish teachers to not only know the importance and possible positive outcomes from social-emotional learning, but the knowledge to reach students of color and students who have experienced trauma- especially due to the pandemic (considered a trauma) and recent social-justice movements. I am hoping that my research receives attention and that I can share my research on a wider scale and inform secondary teachers of my results.  

Victoria Flores

Victoria Flores 

Program: Sport and Exercise Science - Exercise Physiology, Ph.D. 

Title of Dissertation: Exploring sex differences in the effect of cannabidiol on physical activity, cognition, psychological wellbeing and inflammatory and neural health biomarkers

About My Research: The last 20 years of cannabis research have focused on the physiological and psychological effects of cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) derivatives in animal and human studies. However, these studies are incomplete due to excluding females, physically active individuals, highly purified CBD and analyses of inflammatory and neural health responses to CBD. This lack of information is concerning because many individuals are now using CBD daily for general health and wellbeing. There is a great need for understanding the safety and efficacy of daily CBD consumption in healthy males and females and my hope is to address that knowledge gap with a scientific approach that matches CBD use patterns.   

Why I’m participating in the 3MT: My main goal with this research is to educate individuals about the potential effects of CBD. I have been following the trend in CBD use and have noticed its popularity and acceptance by the community allows others to unanimously agree it is a "cure-all” supplement. Ads showing Martha Stewart and Justin Bieber with large cannabis and CBD companies to promote sales seems to convey the message that CBD consumption is safe, healing and obligatory for optimal health. I would like my research study to help inform this view, especially for the young and healthy population.  

David Agboola

David Agboola 

Program: Applied Statistics and Research Methods, Ph.D.

Title of Dissertation: An Efficient Computational Method for Causal Inference in High-Dimensional Data: Neighborhood-Based Cross Fitting 

About My Research: Current method suggests splitting data at least a thousand times to get reliable results. This is computationally expensive, especially for high-dimensional data (that is, data with a large number of variables relative to the sample size). I am using the structure of data as a shortcut for splitting; thus, the data is only required to be split twice. My method is ten times faster and achieves the same result as splitting the data a thousand times. 

Why I’m participating in the 3MT: I'm participating in the 3MT event to communicate my research findings to the public. Specifically, to communicate my research to content experts who would find my method applicable to their research.  

Amber McElwee

Amber McElwee 

Program: Educational Studies, Ed.D. 

Title of Dissertation: At Risk for Success: Promising Practices in Their own Voices 

About My Research: When working with students that have been identified as at-risk to graduate high school, there can be many triggers that limit their ability to connect with the course material, their peers and the educational staff trying to work with them. To find practices that support their academic, personal, and post-secondary goals I interviewed 16 graduates that were identified as at-risk to find out what resources schools could offer to elevate achievement with this marginalized group of students. The study found that student-centered learning, project-based lessons, and an understanding staff were held in the highest regard, they provided strategies for students to achieve their goals and accomplish their dreams. 

Why I’m participating in the 3MT: The goal here is to spread the word about an inequitable educational circumstance in which some 21st Century students are being sent to alternative learning centers, rather than being supported by their schools with how they can make better decisions. I would like to see schools nationwide accommodate for the adverse situations these students face, preventing segregation for those with mental, physical and behavioral limitations caused by trauma. Educational facilities need to support reducing the stigma for those that are fighting to break the cycle of abuse, poverty and ignorance of the harsh realities that some students are forced to endure. 

Dalal Alrmuny

Dalal Alrmuny 

Program: Technology, Innovation and Pedagogy, Ph.D. 

Title of Dissertation: Middle School Students’ Perceptions, Experiences and Behaviors Towards Using a Virtual Reality Application to Build Molecules 

About My Research: The study explores the perceptions, experiences and behaviors of middle school students in the Rocky Mountain region towards the use of virtual reality technology in chemistry education. In order to deliver successful integration of virtual reality technology into chemistry education, it is essential that students have clear and positive perceptions about the purpose and the value of such integration. 

Researchers can refer to this study as a starting point to further explore students’ perceptions of VR in education and further investigate the effectiveness of VR technology as a learning tool. Educators as well can benefit from this study in designing their curriculum and instruction. Administrators and policymakers can use the findings of this study in making decisions and policies related to the integration of technology in education. 

Why I’m participating in the 3MT: I am interested in the 3MT event because it gives me an opportunity to share my dissertation with a wider audience in a simple format. 

Anne Boris

Anne Boris 

Program: School Psychology, Ph.D. 

Title of Dissertation: Stealth Dyslexia: Cognitive and Achievement Profiles of Gifted Students with Dyslexia 

About My Research: My research explores a clearer, more precise way to identify gifted students with dyslexia using the regular tools that most psychologists use. Neurological research points to the importance of early intervention before reading problems, as well as social and emotional problems, become more profound and entrenched. This study looks more closely at the diagnostic criteria for dyslexia in a gifted population and points toward more useful ways to identify these students. 

Why I’m participating in the 3MT: I am participating in the 3MT competition in honor of my father, who passed away last year. He was a brilliant man who could take very complex topics and make them understandable. I also hope I will be able to share my 3MT video with my friends and family who have asked what my research is about.

UNC Students vs. Staff Basketball Game

Congratulations to the staff team for winning the first-ever UNC Students vs. Staff Basketball game on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at the Bank of Colorado Arena. Final score was 73-64. The Staff team consisted of UNC graduate students, staff, faculty and administrators, while undergraduate students made up the opposing team. Big thanks to UNC Men's Basketball for providing coaches for both teams and the UNC Athletics Department for full support of this event.

UNC Board of Trustees and Audit Committee Meeting Documents:

Statement on Institutional Mishandling of Title IX Complaints
from the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (UNC Graduate Student Association is a member organization)

On February 8th, 3 former graduate students of Harvard University filed a suit against the University, alleging that it willfully ignored a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct by a professor of Anthropology, John Comaroff. Over his 10 year tenure at the University, Professor Comaroff has been the subject of several sexual harassment complaints, including these very ones, and was found to to have engaged in “verbal conduct that violated community norms” by Harvard. Pending a second investigation by the University, he was placed on unpaid leave for one semester and barred from teaching required courses or taking on new students for the next academic year as of January.

That sexual harassment is a problem at the university is no surprise to Harvard. In 2016 and 2019, they participated in the American Association of Universities' campus climate survey. In both years, neary one-third of undergraduate women reported experiencing sexual harassment during their time at the university. There also have been multiple high-profile cases of sexual harassment, including one in the same department as Comaroff. There is a clear and worrying trend at Harvard: despite significant data and high-profile cases, the problem is not being adequately addressed.

In fact, there is evidence of a culture which enables this sort of behavior: a group of 38 highly influential professors signed onto a letter expressing their dismay “towards Harvard’s sanctions against Professor Comaroff” and their concern “about its effects on our ability to advise our own students.” Though the letter is clear evidence of Comaroff’s connections with multiple high-profile sexual harassment cases in the past few years and data showing a higher rate of sexual harassment than most universities in the country, we at NAGPS are baffled that the process is being portrayed as too strict.

The letter calls for a clarification of Harvard’s professional criteria for advisors. With Professor Comaroff’s legal team stating that “Title IX investigators found John Comaroff responsible solely for verbal sexual harassment” as if to call into question the university response, a clarification does seem to be in order. There is another question in the letter which we would like to join in asking: why did this case require a second investigation? Further, why is it that the case had to escalate this far and into the public eye for this case to be taken seriously? The publicity does seem to have an effect, though–since the suit has been filed and this has become national news, 35 of the 38 professors have retracted their support for the letter, stating that they “failed to appreciate the impact” their statements would have.

These events are not isolated to Harvard: there is a clear history of these cases. Just recently, similar suits have been brought against San Jose State University, University of Nebraska Lincoln, and others. There is a clear and worrying trend that many universities are failing to protect their students from abusive faculty and staff members. Worse, many are protecting their abusive faculty members over their students. According to the 2020 Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct, nearly 1 in 10 graduate students are sexually harassed by a faculty or research staff member. This is simply unacceptable. Universities need to take complaints of abuse by faculty seriously, and take appropriate and meaningful action against faculty who have been found to abuse their students.

As an organization, we believe survivors and stand by them unequivocally. We support an individual’s right to an education, their right to pursue that education in a safe environment, and their right to access the resources necessary to ensure their safety and security. NAGPS reaffirms its commitment to advocate for all graduate and professional students, and to continue our work with the National Academies of Science, Education and Medicine’s Action Collaborative to end Sexual Harassment in Higher Education and to address the rampant abuses in academia.

Faculty hold a place of power at their universities and in the careers and lives of the students they supervise, and this responsibility needs to be upheld, and treated with the weight that it is due. No student should be subjected to an abusive advisor or faculty member, and no student should feel as if their voice has been silenced, especially at their home institution, especially under these circumstances.

Thaddeus Potter Tiffany E. Miller
President, NAGPS Vice President, NAGPS

Registration Open for the 2022 Teaching & Assessment Symposium
From Genevieve Altomare

With staff, faculty and student presenters from across campus there is something for everyone at the Teaching & Assessment Symposium! Join us in-person on March 22 and online on March 23 to learn about inclusive teaching, trauma-informed pedagogy, Critical Race Theory, problem-based learning, design thinking, teaching technologies and more! Full session details and registration information can be found online.    


GSA Meeting with President Feinstein

Tuesday, March 22
10:30-11:30 a.m.
Location: Zoom meeting
Registration Form

Monthly graduate student meetings with President Feinstein have been cancelled. The March 22 meeting will be the last graduate student meeting with the president this semester. Ask questions and bring up your concerns. All graduate programs are encouraged to have at least one representative present.

GSA Student-Faculty Lunches
Registration Form

The GSA is providing meal swipes to take your advisor to lunch at Holmes Dining Hall. Meals are provided for one or two graduate students and one faculty advisor. Student-Faculty lunches are an excellent time to discuss academic and career topics with your faculty member(s). This opportunity is available to all registered UNC graduate students (including the Loveland Center, Denver-Lowry Center and online).

Registrations are first-come, first-served, pending availability of the GSA meal card. If you check-out the GSA meal card, be sure to return it as soon as possible so that the next graduate student can use it. If you have questions, contact GSA Administrative Assistant Francis.To@unco.edu.

gsa sticker
GSA Stickers

Order free graduate student stickers

Free stickers and free shipping within the U.S. for current UNC graduate students. Limited availability.

UNC Student Legal Services

From Student Legal Services webpage

Student Legal Services provides UNC students three free legal consultations each academic year. Mr. Brandon Houtchens, Attorney at Law, is available by appointment only. If you have questions about Student Legal Services, please send them to dos@unco.edu or call 970-351-2001. Legal Services is a student fee funded program.

UNC Police Reports
Daily Crime Logs: Dec. 29, 2021-Feb. 28, 2022
2021 UNC Campus Security & Fire Safety Report

student senate
Student Senate Report

GSA Director, David Shimokawa (SES: Sport Administration, Ph.D. program), attended the Student Senate business meeting on Jan. 26, Feb. 2, Feb. 9, and Feb. 16 on behalf of graduate students. There are no graduate students serving as senators for their college at this time. Links to meeting minutes will be posted when available from Student Senate. 

faculty senate
Faculty Senate Report
Meeting minutes from August 30, 2021

Meeting minutes from September 13, 2021

Meeting minutes from September 27, 2021

Meeting minutes from October 11, 2021

Meeting minutes from October 25, 2021

Meeting minutes from November 8, 2021

Meeting minutes from November 22, 2021

GSA representative, Yohan Lee (SES: Sport Administration, Ph.D. program), attends Faculty Senate meetings on behalf of graduate students. There are no graduate students serving as official representatives on Faculty Senate at this time.


Contact Your Representatives / Leadership at UNC

UNC Graduate Student Association

UNC Student Senate

UNC Student Judiciary

UNC President's Leadership Council

Contact Your Representatives / Leadership in Government

Greeley City Council

U.S. Senate (Colorado)

U.S. House of Representatives (Colorado)

U.S. President
President Joe Biden https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ 

submit news
Graduate Student News Wanted
Do you have exciting news to share from your program or personal life? Been published or received an award? The GSA is looking for graduate achievements to mention in our newsletter and on our websites. Please send any info to GSA Administrative Assistant Francis.To@unco.edu