Friday, December 18, 2015

URSP Student Cayla Milius Researches The Secret to Well-Being

Sophomore year of college is when I became interested in the topic of well-being. I have always had a passion for learning and experiencing new things and it seemed that the more I learned about well-being, the farther and father I traveled down the rabbit hole of positive psychology. When I met my mentor, Dr. Todd Kashdan, we decided to study the topics of meaning in life and happiness, and how the effected aspects of sexuality. By studying these topics, I am able to further my understanding of well-being through a scholar’s point of view.
After I graduate, I plan on attending graduate school to pursue my doctorate degree in clinical psychology. While pursuing my degree, I plan on continuing my research on well-being to include mindfulness, intimate relationships, meaning in life and happiness. After I complete my doctorate degree, I plan on having my own clinical practice, as well as continuing my research on positive psychology with the intention of having my findings available for all individuals to utilize and better their lives from.
Pertaining to my current research, on a weekly basis, I meet with my mentor to discuss any questions I have and the future steps that lie ahead. I also continue to look at past research to build upon my own topics and to fully understand the constructs that I am studying. Currently, I am learning the statistics necessary to analyze my existing data set. This includes reading literature on Multi-Level Modeling and meeting with my mentor and a graduate student within the lab to slowly build upon the knowledge I have about this statistical analysis.

One thing that I have discovered this week is the extreme importance of my word choices. Each word that I use to discuss and describe my research must be chosen with intention, thought, and precision in order to fully convey the information about my topics. Choose your words carefully and your audience will be captivated by your studies.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

URSP Student Robert Miller Evaluates the Cultural Context of Education on Homeless Youth in the D.C./Metropolitan area

My name is Robert Miller and I am working on a project titled “Evaluating the Cultural Context of Education on Homeless Youth in the D.C. / Metropolitan area, a Group Project with Jesse Roof”.  This project is looking for links between educational policy and the downfalls when it comes to homeless youth.

I got interested in this topic when I entered a case study through George Mason about a little girl named Relisha. She was a nine year old who was housing impaired and she disappeared. The case study was asking how you could best help the rampant case of homelessness in D.C. My group came up with a charter school to cater directly to homeless/ homing impaired students. Getting information about homeless/ housing impaired youths educational levels and problems they faced helped me to realize the great injustice.

The more I thought about the charter school idea, the more I thought about what public schools in the area could do differently to better cater to the homeless youth population. This is where my project came to mind. I wanted to do this study to get a better understanding of what can be done to help this group of people. I want housing impaired students to get the same opportunity to experience education as non- housing impaired students.

I am a math major here at Mason with a minor in education studies. This project relates directly to my minor. Not only is it about the educational system, it is about how a group of people experience education and how the educational policy affects them. When I get older I would like to become an educational policy analyst. This way I could look at different cities educational policies and see how to better the educational system of that city.

For my project every week I have been calling homeless shelters and hospitals around the area to promote the project. To get the information from this group we must advertise in many locations. I have spent countless hours on the phone trying to get shelters to allow us to interview their constituents along with changing our procedure and resubmitting to IRB. Getting interviews from a group that is very transient is quite difficult and therefore takes time.

This week I have learned of two needed resources that are interested in helping Jesse and I with our project. These centers will allow us to conduct interviews there with their constituents. With our constant outreach to these shelters we have gotten many leads on where to find research participants. We look forwarding to gathering more data to find trends in this transient population.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

URSP Student Christopher Messier Works Towards a Theory of Voter Choice

This time next year, millions of Americans will go to the polls to determine who will be the next president of the United States of America. The citizen’s duty to help determine the political trajectory of the nation is what comprises the core of the democratic ideal. So the rhetoric goes. The common discourse in the classical literature and research often characterizes voting in platitudes such as these: restricting the reasoning of voters to the normative realm. While the common discussion of voting in normative terms leaves much to be desired, it has provide space for the development of formal theories of why individuals vote in elections. This is the principle aim of my research.

In many ways, this research sits at the confluence of my many research interests. I had always been drawn to the study of Political Science, and the desire to understand the nature of political relationships among individuals; however I was always left me yearning for a more formalized methodology. It was this desire for that lead me to pursue my studies in Economics. The formalization of models, and the efforts to test theories using empirical and experimental studies provided the rigor that I had always desired. As continued with my studies, I was still drawn to the topics of Political Science, but with the aim to apply my newfound analytical framework. I am quite grateful that the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program has allowed me to do this.

Exploring voting through the lens of Economics has provided a wonderful foray into this interdisciplinary field. Primarily my efforts focused on how to contextualize much of the Political Theory that I had studied in the past within the applicable Economic Theory. This leads me to reading publications from economists, and mathematical political scientists – a field that I have pleasantly been introduced to during my current research – who have worked on the formalization of the theories of voting. I have come to find that the topics of elections and voting are of great interest within a number of fields, such as Game Theory and Mechanism Design, and I have found a wealth of literature that has fed my own growing interest. Yet, reading the works of others is only beginning of my research efforts. My real work begins when I put pen to paper, and begin playing with different models of voting behavior and electoral systems. This past week it was a proof of the stability of binomial candidate preferences, next it will be trying to model the distribution of voters with heterogeneous preferences faced with this choice set. It has been a joy to watch my research develop throughout this semester, and am quite grateful to have this opportunity.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

URSP Student Kelsey MacEachern Conducts A Choreographic Exploration on the Physical Manifestation of Human Emotion

Last year, I had the privilege of presenting my first work of choreography at the American College Dance Association. While there, a panel of professional adjudicators blindly reviewed and critiqued dances from colleges across the Mid-Atlantic region. They often commented on the inability of dancers to fully explore and feel what it was they were trying to convey. If the dancer does not fully embody the emotion or movement, the audience member will not successfully receive the choreographer’s intent. It is this connection between dancer and audience member that I had hoped to examine more closely. 

Specifically, the emotional capacity and ability of a dancer to effectively portray a character, personality, or emotion to an audience. Being fascinated with the concept of the seven deadly sins and contrasting virtues, I decided to focus my research on those well-known personalities. As a dancer, exploring this concept will help me become a better performer. As a choreographer, it will enable me to more effectively work alongside other dancers in order to communicate intent through movement performance.

On a weekly basis I hold two, hour and half, rehearsals where I explore movement and choreographic research with my cast of eight dancers and two understudies. Also, I perform my own scholastic and creative research to prepare for those rehearsals, meet with my mentor for feedback, and converse with my costume designer Mailey Shimon. Having finished choreographing the main section of my piece, this week, I began to dive further into character development for each dancer, creating a captivating opening with a brief cameo or introduction to each sin or virtue. I am currently working with the dancers to enhance these personalities, and prepare to present my final product on stage at the Mason Dance Company’s “Fall: New Dances” concert.       


Monday, December 14, 2015

URSP Student Meredith Hermann Conducts A Choreographic Study of the Modern Female

I have been dancing since I was three years old, but I fell in love with choreography when I came to college.  Being a choreographer I have the freedom to comment on the world around me.  In the studio I am able to create my own distinct world, where I can explore and decide what happens. My piece deals with female attractiveness. I noticed many of my friends when going out on a Friday night would attract more attention than they had anticipated.  Females feel pressure to always look good and we are bombarded with beauty standards.  I wanted to explore this idea of female attractiveness and this state of vulnerability in the studio.  Here, I could decide how a night might go instead of society.  With my dancers I was able to create a whole piece dedicated to women.
Choreographing will remain an important part of my life even after I graduate.  I plan to move to bigger cities and start auditioning and continue my love of dance.  My ultimate goal is to dance professionally with a contemporary dance company.
On a weekly basis, I live and breath dance.  I prep before each rehearsal.  I keep a journal close at hand in case any creative thoughts cross my mind.  My journal contains anything and everything that relates to the piece. I map my music which means I code it in a way that I can count and distinctly identify what I want to accent with physical movement.  This planning helps me accomplish a lot in rehearsals.  I rehearse with my dancers twice a week.  As much as I want to play I have a time limit and tech week approaches.  This week we are in the theater setting lights and performing in costumes. Sometimes I forget why we dance, but the stage reminds me.  The lights, costumes and theatre help me fully tell my story.  Dancers are really storytellers. And I feel honored to be able to tell a story about female attractiveness through dance.