Celebrating Graduate Research

Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Graduate students promote UMKC research and diversity goals

Though significant, numbers were mere chapters in the tale of this year’s Community of Scholars Symposium and Awards Ceremony.

The bigger story: graduate students squeezed in time among taking finals, instructing classes, defending dissertations and interviewing for jobs — mostly faculty positions — to present papers and posters on their research. UMKC graduate studies is the most regionally diverse in fields of study. Research spans from arts to health professions to basic sciences and beyond.

The symposium and awards ceremony held at the Student Union were opportunities to recognize students and the faculty who have helped them.

“This year the awards targeted two strategic goals of the university: enhancing research and supporting diversity,” said Denis Medeiros, dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “As such, we focused our awards on research grants and fellowships for students who are members of underrepresented groups.”

More than 40 research posters and paper presentations highlighted new findings in research topics ranging from watershed issues to detection of breast cancer in Latina populations, to art and cultural studies that transcended continents.

“I’ve spent more hours than I can count on research,” said Carla Williams, an EdD student in the School of Education. “It’s my life’s work.”

Williams placed cans of Play-Doh next to her research poster titled “Blocks and Playdough,” a study that examined ways that preschool quality remains uneven across early-childhood settings, despite the wealth of research noting the long-lasting benefits of a high-quality pre-kindergarten experience.

Williams conducted interviews with directors and teachers and observed students at three types of preschools: private, school-district and federally-funded. Williams found that center type does not determine quality — but focusing on the social-emotional aspect of their students does.

“Worksheets for preschool students aren’t part of a high-quality preschool education because they’re not developmentally appropriate,” Williams said. “Kindergarten teachers say it’s more beneficial to have students who can control their emotions rather than knowing their numbers or ABCs.”

At the symposium, Williams said she intends to track preschoolers grade by grade through elementary school in additional study. Discussions springboarding into further research are just one of the advantages of the annual Community of Schools event, said Jennifer Friend, assistant dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

“This encourages transferrable skills,” Friend said. “All of this hard work pays off in real-world leadership, organization and communications skills.”

Ted White, dean of the School of Biological Sciences and the Outstanding Doctoral Faculty Award recipient, told the audience in his acceptance speech that it is important to see both the forest and not just the trees in research endeavors. The participants in the Community of Scholars demonstrated this wisdom through their combined efforts to create a virtual forest of new inquiry across multiple disciplines.

| Stacy Downs, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications



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