University Research Conference Addresses Perseverance, Unity and Change

On Friday, April 30th, Seton Hill University held its University Research Conference. The title of this year’s conference was “Learning from 2020: Perseverance, Unity, and Change.” Due to the ongoing pandemic, research presentations were held virtually through Zoom. 

“The conference, organized annually by Communication Program students under the leadership of Dr. Jen Jones, offers incredible opportunities for interdisciplinary dialogue and high impact, authentic learning,” said Debra Faszer-McMahon, Ph.D., dean of the School of Humanities and professor of Spanish

Several students from Dr. McMahon’s Spanish course expressed that they were inspired by the keynote speaker, John Spurlock, Ph.D., professor of history. His speech was titled, “With Great Research Comes Great Responsibility.” 

“They appreciated how Dr. Spurlock contextualized the importance of expertise and respectful intellectual dialogue,” Dr. McMahon said. “He acknowledged the intense efforts they had put forth in their research while simultaneously setting them at ease and inspiring them to think about the importance of seeking truth and sharing our gifts and insights generously in dialogue with others.” 

Research presented at the conference included: 

Philosophical Perseverance for Today’s World: Leading Change in COVID-19

Maddie Harry, Rob Hofseth, and Ally Riddle each presented their research during the “Philosophical Perseverance for Today’s World: Leading Change in COVID-19” panel session. 

Maddie Harry, a senior communication and dance performance double major, presented “Camus and Isolation: A Response to COVID-19.” “My research focused on the philosopher Albert Camus and the contemporary issue and context of COVID-19,” said Maddie. After becoming interested in the philosophical works of Camus in a Corporate Ethics course, she wanted to research his philosophy further through the context of his novel, “The Plague,” and apply it to a topic that has had a significant impact. “Specifically, my research focused on the isolation during the pandemic and the similar experiences of isolation within the novel,” she said. “I focused on exploring social isolation in a very technology-centered world.”

Rob Hofseth, a senior communication major, presented “Aristotle and the Virtues of Good Leadership.” His research was based on Aristotle’s book “Nicomachean Ethics,” which presents insight on how to live a good life and be happy. “Aristotle believed that living well, in solidarity with one’s surroundings, avoiding excess, and directing one’s existence through purpose is the road to the most virtuous and happiest life,” Rob said. “Within all of this, one can take these virtues and relate to them directly and use them within their leadership strategies.”

Allison Riddle, a junior communication major, presented “Karl Marx on COVID-19: A Virus of Economic Inequality.” Through a Marxist lens, Allison explored the economic disparity that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s a lot of political controversy between our government and the ideals of Marxism, but I felt that it was the best route to go when trying to examine economic inequality,” said Allison. “I became interested in this topic because similar to many people, I have faced the adversities of COVID-19, and I’ve taken notice it has a lot to do with economic issues and class inequality.” For her research, Allison analyzed Marx’s work and essays to provide a cohesive standpoint. 

Social Psychological Perspectives on Emotion

Brianna Leith is a junior forensic social work major with a double minor in psychology and criminal justice. Brianna presented “Empathy and Trauma in Social Work” during the “Social Psychological Perspectives on Emotion” panel session.  

“In my research, I discussed social work and other helping professions, and how professionals in these fields can benefit from understanding empathy and different responses of empathy,” Brianna said. “I included a discussion of a genuine form of helping another person and the positive and negative effects of this.” 

Psychological Perspectives on Social Influence

Emily Dongilli and Meghan Hirak presented their research in the “Psychological Perspectives on Social Influence” panel session. 

Emily Dongilli, a freshman nursing major with a minor in psychology, presented “Disability, Identity, and the Negative Effects of Social Influence.” “My research discussed how individuals with varying disabilities are able to formulate their own identities,” she said. “I discussed the numerous factors that may affect the way that the individual is able to obtain their own unique personality traits.” Emily found interest in this topic because of her own personal experience. “There are individuals in my family that suffer from various ailments,” she said. “My father, for instance, suffers from epilepsy and had to undergo brain surgery to try to correct his diagnosis. I wanted to understand how he sees the world knowing that others view him as different.”

Meghan Hirak, a junior psychology major with a social work minor, presented “Cults and Social Control.” 

“In my research, I talked about mind control, gaining and retaining members, and the difference between a cult and a religion,” she said. “I also connected my three main talking points to Jim Jones, who is known for his cult The Peoples Temple, to show a different perspective. I talked about the isolation that one undergoes when involved in a cult, the need to belong, and persuasion which affects how we act, think and behave.”

COVID and the Latino Experience in the U.S. and Abroad

Katie Muise, a junior Spanish and physician assistant double major, participated in the COVID and Latino Experience in the U.S. and Abroad panel session. She presented her research titled “Pandemics in Mexico and The Dominican Republic: A Comparison Between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19.” Her research was a part of her Senior Capstone: Spanish in Action course. 

“Every country has unique cultures in terms of medicine, but Mexico and the Dominican Republic share some prominent features, such as universal healthcare,” she said. “I recalled the 1918 Influenza pandemic and how it drastically changed the medical community. Utilizing my skills from a previous microbiology course, I learned of the genetic similarities between the 1918 Influenza pandemic and COVID-19 and the shared ‘end of the world’ feeling the countries had. Reports in the media have only amplified this feeling with insecurities about vaccines.”

As for the panel itself, it was a Spanish and English bilingual panel. This was not necessarily new for Katie as she has attended many events before for Spanish organizations that were entirely in Spanish. “Presenting in a field of research, especially scientific research, you need to utilize a lot of abnormal vocabulary, which, for some, is difficult to understand,” she said. Presenting at the University Research Conference provided her with a wonderful experience. “I loved having the opportunity to respond to questions, hearing about the other presenters, learning some Spanish that I may not have ever known in my life, and even learning about events or problems within the community that I wasn’t aware of,” she said. 

Other Research

Other original research presented at the conference:

  • “Model UN Spring Conference Research,” Paris Szalla (Political Science/Global Studies), Mark Nealon (Political Science), Ariana Scott (Sociology/Political Science), Brianna Franzino (Global Studies), Gabrielle Bubin (Global Studies), Pietro Porco (Political Science), Shannon Hubble (History/Political Science), Meghan Cutshall (Prelaw), Emma Jorgensen
 (Political Science)
  • “The Presence of Integrating Factors Throughout Differential Equations,” Joshua Gottlieb 
(Math/Actuary Science)
  • “An Analysis of Anxiety, Study Habits, and Retention of Math Skills Versus Standardized and Placement Exam Scores,” Brendt Billeck 
(Math/Actuary Science), Morgan Vincent (Chemistry), Jared Burns
 (associate professor, mathematics)
  • “Genetic Diversity of Common and Rare Plant Species and its Effect on Ecological Success,” Jeffrey R. Yurek
  • “Meiotic Counts of Various Species of Flowering Plants,” Hannah Judy (Biology) and Kaylene Chavez 
  • “The Impact of Online Dating on Attraction and Relationships Development,” Haylee Stiffler
  • “Initial Physical Attraction and Relationship Compatibility,” Megan Nestor
  • “The Origins of Salsa and its Ongoing Impact Today,” Angela Emanuele
  • “Bonhoeffer and Responsibility in Journalism: Responding to Anti-Semitic Propaganda,” Kayleah Beedon
  • “Jane Austen and the Fourth Wave of Feminism: What We Can Learn From Pride and Prejudice Today,” Camila do Nascimento
  • “Cornel West and Anti-Racism,” Chris Jones, Jr.
  • “Effects of Parental Divorce on Children and Adolescents,” Emilie Moore
  • “Computer Graphics - A Synthesis of Subjects,” Joshua Gottlieb
 (Math/Actuary Science)
  • “How Kodak Fell Victim to Time’s Arrow,” Noah Smith
  • “A COVID-19 Educational Crisis: Latinos Falling Behind,” Nicholas Young
  • “Positive and Negative Social Influences,” Hezikiah Hawkins
  • “Group Hierarchies and Leadership,” Sarah Beedon
  • “Preschool in the Time of COVID-19: Challenges and Opportunities,” Abigail Thomas (Music/Psychology)
  • “Maximizing Educational Success for Immigrant Children: Creating Aware and Empathetic Educators,” Max McMichael
 (Elementary and Special Education)
  • “Shining Light on Those Who Stay in the Shadows: Providing Undocumented Latinos with Mental Health Assistance,” Maura Brereton
 (Medical Studies)
  • “An Analysis of Latinx Immigrant Youth and Lack of Mental Health Treatment,” Rose Grover (Medical Studies) and Tian Schiera
 (Medical Studies)
  • “Traditional Medicine: Improving Medical Care for Latinos and Offering Alternatives to Invasive Treatments,” Shaney Enck
 (Osteopathic Medicine)
  • “Mexican Indigenous Remedies and Practices: Insight for Providers,” Sophia Signor
 (Medical Studies)
  • “Improving U.S. Healthcare Based on Healthcare Systems Throughout the World,” Alyssa Ference (Health Science) and Lauren Hennessy
 (Medical Studies)
  • “The Opioid Epidemic: A Failure of the American Healthcare System” 
  • “Learning About Diverse Culture in Latino Medicine: Traditional Latino Illnesses,” Natalie Maver
 (Exercise Science)
  • “A Message to Providers: How Latino Children’s Health is Impacted in the U.S.” 
  • “COVID-19 and Latinos: Health Disparities in the U.S. Revealed,” Daneiris M. Mejias Garcia
  • “Inequality in the Medical Field and How it Affects Latinos and Other Minorities,” Brenden Gray
 (Computer Science)
  • “Comparison of Emergency Medicine Treatment; Facilities, Resources; Cuba, U.S., Argentina,” Alyssa Ference
 (Health Science)
  • “Cuban Healthcare and the Factors to Their Success,” Tommy Sekunda
 (Health Science)
  • “Trauma Informed Care: The Case of Trauma Guerilla Groups in Colombia,” Lexi Michele
  • “Novel Method of Soft Tissue Removal of Cadaver Bones,” Julianna Nichols
  • “ACE2 Gene Polymorphism rs2106809 and ACE2 protein levels: Comparing genotype to protein levels in conjunction with SARS-CoV-2,” Brianne Falatovich (Osteopathic Medicine), Adam Bobak
 (Osteopathic Medicine)
  • “A Hidden Influence: Understanding Latino Cultural Beliefs about Sexual Health and Their Contribution to High Incidences of Cervical Cancer Among Latinas,” Sydney Palya
 (Health Science)
  • “The Genetic Link Between Inherited Cancers and the Latino Population,” Brenna Upholster

“My students found it particularly enriching to attend presentations at the conference that were outside their areas of expertise,” Dr. McMahon said. “Their curiosity and discovery speak to liberal arts learning at its best, and that willingness to explore beyond disciplinary bounds will make them even more creative, thoughtful researchers in their own fields.”

Student researchers who have requested that personal information not be released by Seton Hill in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) do not appear in the information above.