UA Grad Students Win Research Travel Awards at Symposium

  • April 17th, 2017
Winners of the Educational Studies Graduate Research Symposium.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Five graduate students representing three colleges at The University of Alabama were honored recently for the top research papers and posters at the Educational Studies Graduate Research Symposium.

The UA Graduate School and the educational studies department awarded $3,000 in research travel awards to the five students.

One hundred-fifteen UA graduate students from six colleges participated in the symposium, which, in its ninth year, is the largest graduate research presentation event on campus.

“The Symposium is a wonderful opportunity for graduate students across the University to present at an event that focuses on both faculty and peer feedback,” said Dr. Stacy Hughey Surman, clinical assistant professor in educational research and organizer of the symposium.

Jenna Starck, a doctoral student in kinesiology, participated previously in the symposium in 2015. This year, her poster, titled, “Student-Learning Assessment in a Physical Education Teacher Education Methods Course,” was the best poster presentation in the category of “Research in Progress: Research Proposal, Conceptual Framework, Literature Review.”

Starck’s research proposal included qualitative data collection from a kinesiology class she taught in the fall at UA to help illustrate the need for assessment in physical education to promote student engagement in their own learning, as well as evaluation of student achievement in K-12 physical education.

Nan Mu, a doctoral student in the educational studies department, explains her research poster, “Social Perspective Taking and Self-Control in Pre-Adolescent Children.”

“Many students said grades should be based on participation efforts and dressing out,” Starck said, “but, in reality, none of that measures achievement. With math, is bringing your textbook and pencil to class achievement?

“With the understanding that teaching and learning are inseparable, if you can’t validate or show that achievement is happening, then how do you know that you’re really teaching? That’s my dissertation topic, but it’s also a course that I was engaged in, and I love it.”

Starck, along with the other four winners, received a $600 cash award that she said she’ll likely use to attend the International Association for Physical Education in Higher Education conference in Guadalupe in November.

-Outstanding posters and papers in the category of completed research, professional development and evaluation were:

-Catanya Stager, College of Education, educational studies in psychology, research methodology and counseling, poster title: “Exploring L1 and L2 Essay Features and Rating Quality: A Rasch Analysis”

-Meghan Saculla Bankhead, College of Education, educational studies in psychology, research methodology and counseling, poster title: “ Moral Reasoning Development: A Multilevel Modeling Approach to Exploring Individual & Environmental Factors”

Christopher R. Simpson, College of Engineering, aerospace engineering and mechanics, paper title: “Conceptual Design of a 1U CubeSat: Incorporating Tracking Aids into Design”

David Ryan Trump, who is pursuing a master’s of fine arts in acting, won top paper in the category of research in progress.

Trump’s paper, “Philosophy vs. Theology: The Similarities and Differences of Greek and Christian Antiquity,” explored how ancient Christian texts and Greek plays influenced and shaped the texts still used in modern day religion and theater curricula. He said he became interested in the topic after taking a theater history class at UA.

Brian Rivera, a doctoral student in educational psychology, explains “arithmetic N400 in fraction processing” during the poster session.

“The Greek theater is the foundation of modern day theater,” Trump said. “It’s what Shakespeare had to read. As I was reading – having grown up in the South and going to Baptist church my whole life – I’d read these plays and say ‘wait, this sounds like a story I’ve read before,’ then I’d find it again in the Bible.

“So, the question became ‘who or what came first?’ As I was digging in and deciphering, I found the Christian faith stole some things from the Greeks, and the Greeks stole some things from the original Jewish faith.”

The symposium started as a departmental push to prepare students for the American Educational Research Association annual conference but has grown in size and scope over the last four years. Participation increased from 43 students in 2013 to 103 in 2016, the first year it was opened to students from all majors.

Bama by Distance students now can participate through virtual poster sessions and remote video presentations.

“It doesn’t matter what you’re studying, if you can find some quantitative or qualitative research that you’re already doing, it’s just as worthy as studying DNA or the current political landscape,” said Trump, who was the only theater and dance major to participate Thursday. “Everyone has an equal platform.

“Your research, while it may affect different people, it still has value and importance.”


Dr. Stacy Hughey Surman, 205/348-7729,


David Miller, UA media relations, 205/348-0825,

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.