SEARCH for Research

UMKC students present projects ranging from dogs and reading to natural pigments

James Brown was featured at the SEARCH Symposium, where University of Missouri-Kansas City undergraduate students present their research.

James Brown the Dalmatian, that is. This James Brown is a Reading Education Assistance Dog, part of the READ program that battles child illiteracy. Beth Ann Marten, a UMKC Communication Studies student, discussed her findings on whether dogs can encourage a higher level of reading comprehension. It appears to be the case.

For her research, Marten used Albert Bandura’s Theory of Self-Efficacy — the self-judgment of a person’s capability to perform a specific task — as the framework. Marten analyzed journals from students who had READ sessions with dogs, including James Brown. A high number mastered the subject of what they read.

“It was so exciting to lead groundbreaking research,” Marten said. “Those who work with READ knew anecdotally that dog interaction helps children read, but not quantitatively. I want to continue to research correlations and associations, to help the READ program and children.”

Helping the community is one of the many benefits of SEARCH, Students Engaged in Artistic and Academic Research, the largest undergraduate research event at UMKC.

“Students are always telling me it’s a great portfolio piece for getting into graduate school or med school,” said Jim Murowchick, chair of the UMKC Department of Geosciences, who directs the event. “There is research that benefits people living in Kansas City.”

A number of students with assistant psychology professor Jannette Berkley-Patton as their mentor researched health of African Americans in faith-based settings. Presentations included understanding sexually-transmitted disease stigma, the impact of fruit and vegetable consumption on chronic health issues, and professional mental health counseling.

Research sometimes leads students overseas. For example, Taylor Stoddard read original Jane Austen texts in England for the project “A Tale of Two Femininities: Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park” and Robyn Daniels traveled to Jordan to study a water reservoir.  And it takes them close to home, even the back yard, as was the case for Christel Highland and Clare Magers. They pulverized herbs and vegetables to make natural pigments to produce egg tempera, milk paint and oil in the “Permacolor Project.”

Students presented research in five divisions:

  • Architecture, Urban Planning and Design
  • Behavioral and Social Sciences
  • Biological and Health Sciences
  • Humanities and Performing Arts
  • Physical Sciences, Engineering and Mathematics




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