Samantha Meigs participates in international College of Extraordinary Experiences

CollegeofExtraordinary500A 14th-century castle in Poland recently served as the backdrop for a unique conference with an intriguing name: The College of Extraordinary Experiences. Samantha Meigs, chair of the University of Indianapolis Department of Experience Design, was one of just 80 high-level experience designers to attend the peer-reviewed conference.

The College of Extraordinary Experiences is built on Experience Design techniques, with a focus on creating experiences that participants can use in their own professional settings, whether they are an event designer, a CEO or a filmmaker. Activities take place throughout the castle – in the dungeons, tower, secret passageways and courtyards, with a focus on immersive, physical world experiences.

“This conference was absolutely like no other that I have ever attended!” Meigs said. “You begin to get an idea of just how different when the bus picks you up at the airport to go to the castle. You are met by a group of goblins who make sure your name is on The List.”

After being sorted into “houses” à la Harry Potter, participants implement various design challenges, which are then prototyped to other participants. Meigs provided an experiential presentation on her “how to be a pirate” class and, as a member of the House of Engagement, created an experience based on the “The Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Campbell.

Learn more about UIndy’s Experience Design Program

Late night pop-ups throughout the castle included magic shows in the dungeon, a fire dancing performance in the courtyard, storytelling around a bonfire and a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in the Knight’s Hall. Participants had to rely on networking to find out what was happening and where each event would take place.

Samantha Meigs

Samantha Meigs

While Meigs was already familiar with the key concepts of co-creation, flexible focus and rapid prototyping, she said, “seeing the extent and types of settings in which these were demonstrated gave me a lot of new ideas for classes and a framework that is reasonably easy to explain to students. Immediately after I got back, we started intensive rapid prototyping for all the events we are doing this semester.”

Meigs said the enthusiasm she encountered at the conference is another example of the growing significance of experience design. As scholars have noted a shift from the service industry to the experience economy, the field of experience design is gaining steam. Meigs said experience design delivers the experiential component of education or entertainment that an increasing number of people seem to crave.

“There’s just a sense of exuberance of how the field is growing and how it is valued globally. It was immensely exciting to learn about what the other experience designers are doing, and interestingly, to note that many of them already knew about our UIndy program!” she said.

Meigs hopes that experience design students can appreciate the growing recognition of the field.

“The sheer experience of seeing and interacting with this collection of people who all identify themselves as experience designers was just amazing. It is so clearly a defined field, with shared theories and methods, with growing applicability across many industries. I hope I can use my experiences at this phenomenal conference to help students to see this!”

Related: UIndy Experience Design Program gains worldwide attention

Written by Sara Galer, Communications Manager, University of Indianapolis. Contact newsdesk@uindy.edu with your campus news.

Greta Pennell pursues study of toy design in opportunities around the globe

Greta Pennell and her husband Jim Pennell, professor of sociology, presented a paper at the International Toy Research Association (ITRA) World Congress in Paris, France in 2018.

Greta Pennell at the International Toy Research Association (ITRA) World Congress in Paris, France in 2018.

Greta Pennell, professor of teacher education at the University of Indianapolis, has devoted her life’s work to the service of children. That focus, combined with a passionate commitment to service-learning, drives her research and teaching, and has inspired her to pursue professional development opportunities around the world.

Pennell was selected to participate in the 18th International Symposium, Workshop and Exhibition on Toy Design and Inclusive Play in Berlin, Germany, in January 2019.

Pennell also was recently honored with a research fellowship at The Strong National Museum of Play and was elected vice president of the International Toy Research Association at the World Congress in Paris, France, during the summer of 2018, where she presented a paper with her husband Jim Pennell, professor of sociology. In August 2018, she was honored with the Teaching in the Core Award at the Faculty-Staff Institute for her first-year seminar, “Doing Gender in Toyland,” where she uses her expertise on gender identity, toy advertising and conceptual change processes to model the research process for students.

Pennell will be attending the Berlin symposium for the first time, and is one of just 20 participants selected to join a worldwide network of scholars, designers and educators dedicated to toy design and inclusive play.  

“The opportunity to work closely with such a diverse, imaginative and interdisciplinary team and to be part of a UNESCO-sponsored project is truly exciting,” said Pennell, who expressed gratitude to the the Sabbatical and Grants Committee for awarding her a sabbatical for the 2018-19 academic year.  

Through her work at the Berlin symposium, Pennell will focus on expanding her understanding of inclusive education, play and toys from intergenerational, intercultural and global perspectives. With her newly-gained insights, Pennell plans to develop new strategies to use playful learning in her teaching with pre- and in-service educators, including a new course planned for fall 2019 entitled “Developing Human Potential” as well as her “Doing Gender in Toyland” seminar.  

“I expect that I will be better able to support and foster my UIndy students’ ability to incorporate this kind of approach in their own classrooms and empower them to become creators and designers dedicated to expanding inclusive play and learning opportunities for all students and families, regardless of their ability status,” Pennell explained.

Students are already noting the benefits of Pennell’s approach to the first-year seminar. Kaitlyn Betz ’19 (exercise science) said the class made a huge impact on her outlook of freshman year.

“Many of my other courses were very cut-and-dry textbook definition courses. This FYS class allowed me to think outside of the box and gave me multiple opportunities to incorporate my knowledge learned outside of the classroom,” Betz said. She explained an assignment to visit a toy store to examine how girls’ and boys’ toys were marketed differently.

Pennell explained that as cultural artifacts, toys are imbued with symbolic content and meaning. “If play is the business of childhood, then toys, as one of the most ubiquitous aspects of children’s lives, serve as tools of the trade, helping socialize children into future roles,” she said.

Even small details can send powerful messages about what is and isn’t possible or appropriate depending on a child’s gender, age, nationality, race or ability status, Pennell noted. “This is why toy design that expands opportunities and possibilities, opens doors to new worlds and allows children to direct their own play is critically important.

Written by Sara Galer, Communications Manager, University of Indianapolis. Contact newsdesk@uindy.edu with your campus news.

Colleen Wynn publishes research on residential segregation

ColleenWynnprofileColleen Wynn, who joined the University of Indianapolis Department of Sociology as assistant professor in fall 2018, published research in a special issue of the journal Social Sciences on Social Inequality and Residential Segregation in Urban Neighborhoods and Communities. Samantha Friedman, University of Albany-SUNY, was co-author.

Assessing the Role of Family Structure in Racial/Ethnic Residential Isolation” found that that white married-couple families are the most likely to live in neighborhoods with people who are similar to them. The study included American families in 85 cities living in all types of housing, and used census data from 1990, 2000, 2010 and data from the American Community Survey from 2006-2010.

The research examined the residential situation of white married-couple families, white female-headed families, black married-couple families, black female-headed families, Hispanic married-couple families, and Hispanic female-headed families. The study found that in 2010, the average white married-couple family in the US lived in a neighborhood where 68 percent of families were white married-couple families. All other family groups lived in neighborhoods with less than 20 percent of families of the same structure and race/ethnicity.

“While these findings may seem like they could be explained by socioeconomic status differences or differences in other sociodemographic factors, we think a better explanation is discrimination,” Wynn said. “Even when we account for a variety of factors that have been shown to impact where you live – including income, we find that families are still more likely to live in neighborhoods with families similar to their own.”

Wynn said the research confirms that family structure can play a role in residential segregation. The findings create an inroad for communities to address inequality and encourage further research into the field.

“Now that we know it does matter, we can look at how policies can include family structure to better address residential segregation,” Wynn said. “A lot of policies are based on families or individuals on the lower end, but this study shows that at least part of the persistence of segregation we see in cities is actually white married-couple families choosing to isolate themselves from other families and that they are likely moving to in the ‘best’ areas.”

Wynn’s research includes housing issues such as residential segregation, housing turnover (e.g. who moves in after a family moves out of a residence), and neighborhood and housing quality factors.

“Seeing the redevelopment of public housing into mixed income housing when I was in high school first got me thinking about housing issues and eventually led me to sociology, but rather than specifically focusing on public housing – of which there is less and less in existence – I study housing issues more broadly,” Wynn said.

CAC’s Expressive Arts effort earns “Promising Practice” award

Painting ladyA program developed by the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community (CAC) is receiving recognition from the State of Indiana as an industry standard-setter.

CAC works to improve the quality of life for all people as they age. Many of those people live in nursing or long-term care facilities. In 2016 and 2017, CAC worked with the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) to use the expressive arts – drama, writing/memoir, dance, music, and visual art – to improve the quality of life for Hoosiers living in nursing facilities. That effort, called Expressive Arts for Long Term Care Professionals, has been recognized as the 2017 Promising Practice for Education and Communication by the Association of Health Facility Survey Agencies (AHFSA).

The program was funded by ISDH and coordinated by CAC. The CAC project team included Ellen Burton, MPH, senior projects director; Lidia Dubicki, MS, project director; and Kayleigh Adrian, MS and Kennedy Doyle, project coordinators. UIndy faculty Rebecca Sorley, Department of Music, and Sara Tirey, Department of Art & Design, served as faculty for the training workshops.  

Training workshops were conducted throughout the state of Indiana to teach nursing home personnel how to incorporate the use of the expressive arts into the daily lives of residents in a systematic and meaningful way. Participants were taught how to introduce and modify expressive arts activities based on the functional capabilities of the residents.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“This stuff works!,” wrote one participant.

Another said “A nonverbal resident…spent most of every day sleeping or quiet in a chair. When the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was played, he perked up, began to mouth the words, and then began to sing.”

Expressive arts programming in the nursing facilities benefits not only the residents, but also the staff. One workshop participant said, “I’ve been working in long-term care for 25 years and was burned out. Now I feel refreshed!”

In a letter to CAC regarding the AHFSA Promising Practice Award, Terry Whitson, ISDH assistant commissioner, said, “This is an outstanding and well-deserved recognition of your efforts and contributions to healthcare quality.”

CAC Senior Projects Director Ellen Burton presented “The Power of Expressive Arts in Indiana” at the LeadingAge Indiana Fall Conference in late September.

CAC also received an AHFSA 2016 “Promising Practice” award for another ISDH project, “Regional Quality Improvement Collaboratives.”

Written by Amy Magan, communications manager for the Center for Aging & Community and the College of Health Sciences.

Marc Milne discovers new species of spider in Indiana cave

Marc Milne, assistant professor of biology at the University of Indianapolis, outside the Stygeon River Cave in southern Indiana.

Marc Milne, assistant professor of biology at the University of Indianapolis, outside the Stygeon River Cave in southern Indiana.

Marc Milne, assistant professor of biology, has a knack for discovering new spider species. His latest publication, “A new species of spider (Araneae, Linyphiidae, Islandiana) from a southern Indiana cave” appeared in Subterranean Biology 26: 19-26. His work was covered by Fox News, MSN Australia and New Zealand, the CBC in Canada and highlighted in the Pensoft blog.

While it’s hard to put a number on the species Milne has discovered (some of these creatures belong to groups that haven’t been examined in 80 years), he said the most common group in which he finds new species is “Linyphiidae – sheet-web weaving spiders – the ones that build the webs that you can see early in the morning in your yard when the dew covers their webs,” Milne explained.

Milne’s work takes him from the sand dunes of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to the dark caves of southern Indiana, and many nature preserves in between. New species he’s focusing on now are Ceraticelus sp. from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – found in the sand in the leaves near the dunes of Porter County, Lophomma sp. from leaf litter at Glacier’s End Nature Preserve  in Johnson County and Agyneta sp. from leaf litter in Yellowwood State Forest in Brown County.

Although Milne’s spiders are just a few centimeters long, he said there’s much to learn from these tiny creatures, which tend to be understudied because they’re harder to identify.

“These small organisms often play critical roles in our environment such as decomposition and the consumption of dangerous vectors of disease – like how spiders consume tons of mosquitoes each year,” he said.

 Islandiana lewisi

Islandiana lewisi

Milne’s latest cave-dwelling discovery, Islandiana lewisi, occurred in a matter of hours exploring the Stygeon River Cave, thanks to his colleague, Dr. Julian Lewis, an independent isopod taxonomist who was familiar with the cave. The new species, named for Dr. Lewis, may be the only species of spider living inside the cave.

“Cave-dwelling spiders are poorly known because not many scientists are also cavers,” Milne said. “Also, many caves are rarely visited and therefore underexamined. Conducting research on cave organisms can oftentimes yield interesting findings.”

Milne’s work involves frequent collaboration with undergraduate students. One group is currently working on research to add more records of known spider species living in Indiana. (Officially, Indiana has 454 spider species. After the publication of the upcoming research, there will be over 550.)

“I enjoy working with engaged students, because they make the work fun for me. It’s also great that they learn new techniques, get the opportunity to present their research, and have a leg-up on competition when it comes to applying for grad school or professional school,” Milne said.

Lucas Frandsen ‘19 (human biology, physical therapy concentration) is one of the students collaborating on the spider records project.

“The hope is we can take this data and use it to conserve habitats,” Frandsen said, noting that the research is important to anyone working within environmentalism and conservation. He also said he’s gaining useful professional skills in the process.

“I’ve written manuscripts before, but the standard we’re pushing this manuscript to is much higher so we can get it published. Dr. Milne asked me to do a lot of the writing and he’s been providing feedback. It’s definitely been a new and exciting experience.”

Read more about Milne’s research projects with undergraduate students.

Written by Sara Galer, University of Indianapolis senior communications specialist. Send your story ideas to newsdesk@uindy.edu.

 

 

Sociology Chair Amanda Miller garners national attention with housework study

Amanda Miller

Amanda Miller

A new study by University of Indianapolis sociology faculty member Amanda Miller finds that not only are today’s couples sharing the housework more so than couples of the past, but how those tasks are divided could make all the difference in determining a happy relationship.

“Stalled for Whom? Change in the Division of Particular Housework Tasks and Their Consequences for Middle- to Low-Income Couples” by Daniel L. Carlson (University of Utah), Amanda Miller (University of Indianapolis) and Sharon Sassler (Cornell University) appeared in the April 2018 issue of Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World. The research, which focused on specific household tasks, followed up on the group’s 2016 publication that found couples who divide the housework tend to have better sex lives than those who don’t. Both studies received attention from national media, including Marie Claire and  The Chicago Tribune.

The new study asked couples about their attitudes towards the division of household chores like dishwashing, meal preparation, cleaning, shopping, laundry, home maintenance and bills. Researchers found that dishwashing mattered the most to women in determining relationship satisfaction, while men were more concerned about shared shopping. For couples who didn’t share the dishwashing, this chore was the biggest source of discontent among women.

Amanda Miller, associate professor and chair of sociology, said the study offers several important findings.

“Certainly over time, from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, conventional divisions of labor lead to less satisfaction and egalitarian divisions of labor lead to greater satisfaction,” Miller said.

For couples, it means that sharing chores does a lot more than just getting the task accomplished.

“What we think is happening is that it’s really fostering a sense of teamwork in the couple. Whenever you prepare meals together or do the dishes together, that’s time to reflect on the day and spend some time enjoying one another’s company. You feel like you’ve accomplished something together,” Miller said.

Learn more about the University of Indianapolis sociology program.

Another key idea is that shared shopping can stand-in for shared decision-making. Looking beyond day-to-day decision-making at the grocery store, Miller said there are implications for how financial power is divided within the relationship.

“Who gets to negotiate how much we’re spending, particularly on the larger purchases? When that’s mutually decided, perhaps that’s likely to lead to greater relationship satisfaction,” Miller explained.

The study included low- to moderate-income couples, a significant factor that demonstrates the division of household labor isn’t limited to college-educated, higher-income couples.

“This is really showing that gender egalitarianism is diffusing throughout the population,” Miller said.

As more couples divide household chores, Miller said there’s pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.” Women from previous generations who typically worked during the day would come home to face the chores without much help from their husbands, Miller said. At the time, the situation was the same for their friends. But today’s trend of sharing tasks creates a new set of expectations for couples.

Now when you look around and you see that many of your friends’ husbands are doing a big share of the housework and childcare, it feels particularly negative for you if you are the one who’s the outlier,” Miller explained.

She emphasized that there’s no “right way” of dividing household chores.

Quite frankly, the right way to do this is the way that both members of a couple want to do it. They need to make sure they’re on the same page of what they want this arrangement to look like,” she said.

Read more about the research here.

Written by Sara Galer, University of Indianapolis senior communications specialist. Send your story ideas to newsdesk@uindy.edu.

Institute for Postindustrial Leadership forges ties with local business

postindustrial750A new approach to leadership training is generating buzz at the University of Indianapolis. The Institute for Postindustrial Leadership presents a new paradigm for leadership in the 21st century, and local businesses are already reaping the benefits.

The Institute, led by School of Business faculty Terry Schindler, assistant professor of management, and Matthew Chodkowski, adjunct professor, conducts research, and offers training and consulting. On May 14th, the Institute will host the Leadership in the Twenty-First Century Breakfast Seminar designed for human resources professionals. Held at the Schwitzer Student Center on the University of Indianapolis campus, this event introduces HR professionals to basic concepts and research findings. (Contact Terry Schindler for more information.)

The seminar is just one example of how the Institute is engaging with the central Indiana business community. The Institute for Postindustrial Leadership supports a new paradigm of leadership principles – separating leadership from management by debunking traditional myths of leadership that have remained virtually unchallenged since the 1920s.

“Leadership is being redefined, reconceptualized, indeed revolutionized – and most people are not even aware of it,” said Chodkowski, who designed the Institute’s LEAD Program – The Journey of Discovery, a series of leader education and development workshops.

Today’s business world is complex, and in order to be effective, organizations need to look beyond the traditional model of management training. According to research conducted by the Institute for Postindustrial Leadership, it turns out that a leader’s style, which is highly regarded in the traditional leadership research approach, is not all that important. The leadership paradigm has a more direct effect on leader behavior, subordinates’ perceptions of leadership behavior and organizational culture.

“When you ask people about leadership, they’re really thinking about the leader’s traits and characteristics, not the process of leadership. This is a leader-centric view of leadership. We say the leader doesn’t equal leadership,” Schindler said.

“Our approach doesn’t focus on trying to change the leader’s behavior. It focuses on cognition and mental models and neuroscience. We want to change underlying assumptions about the way people think,” Chodkowski explained.

The Institute sets out to challenge those assumptions through its research and training programs. Their first research project was conducted at Caterpillar Remanufacturing Division in Franklin. Other clients include the Japanese firm Nidec in Shelbyville and Endress & Hauser in Greenwood.

At Caterpillar, the Institute worked with facility manager Don Kinsey and human resource manager Kevin Poad, who saw the partnership as an opportunity to engage their organization in an exciting research project and involve their managers in a unique personal growth and professional development experience. What followed was a nine-month project which included survey feedback, leader education, one-on-one leader coaching, and a master class customized specifically for Caterpillar to address the application of postindustrial principles, the integration of functions and departments, and the alignment of business strategy with organizational culture.

“The LEAD Program was certainly a journey of discovery for me and my team in Franklin,” Kinsey said. “This workshop introduced our organization to contemporary principles and practices that we have internalized as a daily practice.”

Related: New UIndy institute promoting a radically different approach to leadership (Indy Star)

The Institute, which was formed in 2017, is seeking to grow its partnership opportunities.

“We’re looking for more research partners and organizations who might want to investigate exposing their leaders to the postindustrial paradigm through a workshop methodology,” Schindler said.

In addition to building relationships with new community business partners, the Institute also welcomes nonprofits as well as University faculty and students who are interested in learning about the paradigm.

“We’re looking at all sectors for potential research partnerships. We’d love to form learning alliances in the service, finance, and health sectors, for example,” Chodkowski said.

Learn more here.

Enhanced summer class offerings accelerate student growth

canalsummer500The University of Indianapolis has a variety of summer classes on offer for 2018, and it’s not just UIndy students who can benefit. Students can choose from more than 200 classes in a variety of subjects, including general education courses eligible for transferable credit.

Summer term runs from May 15 to August 18, with options for face-to-face, online or hybrid classes. Most classes run for seven weeks over the Summer I and II sessions and cover a wide variety of disciplines, including English, history, biology, mathematical sciences and many more. The cost is $325 per credit hour.

Browse summer course offerings here.

Summer classes are an excellent opportunity for University of Indianapolis students who are looking to balance out their schedule or get caught up, or for visiting students home for the summer, said Mary Beth Bagg, Associate Provost for Academic Systems.

Bagg pointed out the advantages for student-athletes with tight in-season schedules or students who are anticipating a particularly challenging semester. Students participating in crossover programs, which combine the first year of graduate coursework with the student’s final year as an undergraduate, can accelerate their time frame by enrolling in summer classes.

“Students can budget time and credit hours in a way that considers the ebb and flow of their studies,” Bagg said.

Ellen Miller, Associate Provost for Research & Graduate Programs, explained that more students are taking advantage of summer classes to create the opportunity for double majors or an extra minor. She said academic departments examine summer enrollment data to make informed decisions about which classes to offer, including upper level as well as introductory courses.

“We’ve been looking at our constellation of offerings to identify key courses we should add. If a department knows there’s always a course with a waitlist, we might offer a section of that in the summer,” Miller said.

Miller noted that an increasing number of external students are enrolling in University of Indianapolis summer classes, providing UIndy students with the chance to gain perspective from new classmates. With a streamlined process for external students to apply for admission, those students should also check with their university’s registrar to determine which credits are transferable. (See details here.) Current UIndy students do not need to apply for admission and may register for classes via MyUIndy.

With more course sections available in an online format, there is even more flexibility. Whether a student is from Indiana or out of state, online classes are an option that can be accessed from any location. Miller observed that students from all over the country are participating in UIndy’s online programs during the summer.

“For UIndy students who are going home for the summer, wherever home may be, they can live at home and work, and still take an online class,” Miller said. She noted that online classes tend to fill up quickly, as do on-the-ground science labs.

Miller urged students to start thinking about their summer coursework and apply now before classes fill up.

“It’s a great way to catch up or get ahead,” she said.

Schedule and deadlines (for most classes):

Summer I start date:  Monday, 5/14
Summer I end date:  Friday, 6/29
Deadline to add a 7-week Summer I course:  Friday, 5/18
Deadline to withdraw from a 7-week Summer I with a grade of W: Friday, 6/8

Summer II start date:  Monday, 7/2
Summer II end date:  Friday, 8/17
Deadline to add a 7-week Summer II course:  Friday, 7/6
Deadline to withdraw from a 7-week Summer II with a grade of W:  Friday, 7/27

Browse summer course offerings here.

Nurse practitioner programs earn 100-percent pass rate from AANP Certification Board

For the third consecutive year, the School of Nursing achieved a 100-percent pass rate from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board for the Family Nurse Practitioner & Adult/Gerontological Nurse Practitioner programs.

Students must pass the certification exam after completing their coursework in order to work as a nurse practitioner. Norma Hall, School of Nursing dean, noted that University of Indianapolis nurse practitioner students far exceeded the 2017 national pass rate of 81.6 percent. She credited several unique aspects of the University of Indianapolis School of Nursing programs that contribute to outstanding student performance.

“It’s very much a hands-on program. Very little of the didactic content is done online, unlike many of our competitive programs. Students get a lot of interaction with faculty and there’s plenty of opportunity to learn and grow from faculty, who are all currently practicing nurse practitioners,” Hall said.

Karen Iseminger, professor of nursing, explained that students routinely observe faculty during their clinical rounds.

“It’s a nice balance between the scholarship of practice as well as pragmatic experiences,” Iseminger said.

Karalyn Jacobs ’14 (MSN) is currently enrolled in the nurse practitioner doctoral program, and has recommended it to several co-workers. She specializes in treating high-risk ob-gyn patients. She praised the benefits of the in-class setting.

“The ability to learn and grow with other students, bounce ideas off of other students, and build relationships with students and instructors is a more ideal learning method than online courses. Instructors are always accessible to help at any time during the program, which is why I chose to go back to UIndy for my DNP,” Jacobs said.

Nearly 160 students were enrolled in University of Indianapolis nurse practitioner programs for the 2017-18 academic year. Hall said the popularity of the profession is reflected in job rankings like the 2018 U.S. News and World Report, which placed nurse practitioner fourth in its list of 100 best jobs.

Nurse practitioner students participate in simulation experiences involving actors who play the role of patients. Students can assess, diagnose and prescribe treatment for a real person, the same way they would in clinical practice, Hall said.

“The program is not only steeped in clinical practice with real people, but we also have an educational strategy to provide simulation experiences for our students,” said Iseminger, who noted that School of Nursing programs follow an interdisciplinary approach featuring collaboration with students in the College of Applied Behavioral Sciences.

Current students in the nurse practitioner programs graduate with a master’s degree. Hall said by 2020, all nurse practitioner students at the University of Indianapolis will graduate with a doctorate as the School of Nursing aligns its programs with national guidelines for practice.

Educational psychologist makes global impact with “Just World” research

Kendra Thomas during her PSY 245 lecture class.

Kendra Thomas during her PSY 245 lecture class.

INDIANAPOLIS – When a child gets into trouble at school, a number of factors could be at play. For educational psychologist Kendra Thomas, a student’s perception of fairness is a factor that could be the key to understanding some adolescent behavior.

Thomas, assistant professor of psychology, focuses on social psychology theories such as Just World belief and systems justification theory. Her research, conducted in Brazil, Kenya and the United States, involves adolescents and how their beliefs about fairness can shape their worldview and school experience.

The data from her research can have several applications, from school discipline policies and cultural differences to understanding how different communities perceive the role of law enforcement.

“If I anticipate a level of fairness, I might be more motivated to work hard, but I also might be more motivated to blame the victim because I assume they must’ve received what they deserved,” Thomas explained.

Systems justification theory supports the idea that people tend to justify the systems they’re living in, and the more people are encompassed in the system, the more they might feel the need to justify it.

“I’m really interested with people’s interpretation of fairness and how that interpretation could drive their behavior,” said Thomas, who recently published research in Social Justice Research and Psychological Reports.

Psychology professor Kendra Thomas during her PSY (psychology) 245 lecture class in HEAL 407 on Monday, February 12, 2018. Pix taken for a story on her. (Photo: D. Todd Moore, University of Indianapolis)

Thomas’ current research involves middle school students, their assumptions about fairness and their well-being. Her goal is not about determining if those rules are fair, but rather how students’ perceptions of fairness affects their behavior and well-being.

“The student who says that the rules aren’t fair is also more likely to report disrespecting the teacher, or to report being bullied or to say they don’t do their homework. Those are the kinds of relationships I look for in the data,” Thomas explained.

Her findings can help educators and parents address behavioral problems and provide a window into how students’ worldviews are being shaped through the context they grow up in.

“We could sit down with a group of teachers and parents and say, ‘I know that you think the rules are fair, but the student does not. So how do we communicate it so that not only is it fair but the student feels heard? That perception is going to influence their lived experience and what rules they choose to buy into and what rules they reject out of rebellion,” Thomas said.

Learn more about UIndy’s psychology programs here.

During research conducted in Brazil and Kenya, Thomas found that students who perceive their school and community as fair also were more likely to buy into the school rules.

The University’s psychology program offers undergraduate students a research practicum featuring one-on-one sessions with faculty throughout the semester. Thomas has worked with several students on this basis, including Karli LaGrotte ’18, who presented her research, “Belief in a Just World Among Brazilian Adolescents: Differences Across Age, Race and Religion,” during Scholar’s Day in April 2017.

Courtney Shepherd ’18 also worked with Thomas on undergraduate research. Shepherd plans to pursue a master’s degree in gerontology and to work with the elderly population.

“Dr. Thomas taught me each step of the research process and allowed me to be actively involved in data processing. She provided me with constructive criticism so I could be better in the research process,” said Shepherd.

Thomas has also advised graduate and doctoral students, including Erin Hoolihan ’20 (PsyD, clinical psychology). Hoolihan’s dissertation investigates the potential socioeconomic and racial differences that exist in the connection between perceptions of justice, social capital and well-being.     

“Dr. Thomas has always made my research a priority, and it is a wonderful experience to have an advisor who cares as much about my research as I do,” Hoolihan said.

Written by Sara Galer, Senior Communications Specialist, University of Indianapolis. Contact newsdesk@uindy.edu with your campus news.

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