Would Sherlock Holmes have been the world’s greatest detective without Dr. Watson? Could Batman keep Gotham City safe without Robin? Could Frodo have made it to Mt. Doom without Sam? Could the Avengers have stopped Thanos without the help of countless sidekicks along the way like Falcon, Bucky, Iron Patriot and Wong?
Despite the fact that sidekicks have played an integral role for many of pop culture’s most famous heroes, they have remained underdeveloped in literary and critical study. University of Indianapolis assistant professor of English Stephen Zimmerly has examined how the role of the sidekick is ever-expanding in modern media in his new book “The Sidekick Comes of Age: How Young Adult Literature is Shifting the Sidekick Paradigm.”
For Zimmerly, this is a passion that started early in life. “I remember that even as a kid, I would always pretend to be Robin, not Batman,” he said. “From a professional standpoint, I became interested in sidekick characters when I realized that sidekicks very seldom received any focused attention as the main subjects of literary study.
“When it suited their purposes, scholars would mention or use sidekicks, but always as a means to illustrate some larger issue, and the sidekick would exist as a colorful footnote.”
Zimmerly has noted that young adult literature has embraced the sidekick – recognizing the way the character can reflect the importance of growth and finding one’s place in the world. In this type of literature, authors are finding ways to add complexity to sidekick characterization. Tactics used to accomplish this include letting sidekicks “evolve” over the course of multiple books or perhaps even using parallel novels telling the story from the sidekick’s perspective.
A specific story-type gaining traction in young adult literature right now is the superhero sidekick who tells the story from his or her point of view. These books often explain life as a sidekick, but also show how even potentially-superpowered teens experience ordinary teenage difficulties. “Very often, sidekicks are also on the cusp of moving from the ‘passenger seat’ to the ‘driver’s seat,’” Zimmerly explains, “just like the teenagers reading the books who face leaving home for the first time are on the cusp of independence.
Learn more about the University of Indianapolis Department of English.
“Because many sidekicks are young adults, it makes perfect sense for young adult fiction to tell these kinds of stories.”
So what is the appeal of the sidekick? What leads authors and their readers to want to explore how sidekicks fit in their narratives? Zimmerly has a theory. “It is almost easier to perceive ourselves as the sidekicks,” he says. “Maybe we’re not the strongest, or the fastest, or the smartest – and usually the sidekick isn’t either.”
Giving the readers the ability to place themselves in the story is how the sidekick was first utilized in comic books. Again, because most sidekicks were far younger than the main characters, it gave younger readers someone their own age to relate to.
Zimmerly sees young adult literature as the ideal testing ground to explore new ways to write and challenge norms. “Young adult fiction has historically given its authors a lot of freedom in what they write and how they write it,” he said. “These authors can play with any number of conventions more easily and with more freedom than an author writing for more conventional, adult audiences.”
As young adult literature continues to grow in popularity, more and more of these stories will likely be told, which will continue a growing emphasis on characteristically complex sidekick characters. For more information on Zimmerly’s book “The Sidekick Comes of Age: How Young Adult Literature is Shifting the Sidekick Paradigm,” click here.
Fathers who play with their young children are making an impact that lasts well beyond childhood, a new study from the University of Indianapolis has found.
The study, “Father-child play, child emotional dysregulation, and adolescent internalizing symptoms: A longitudinal multiple mediation analysis,” was published in Development & Psychopathology’s December 2018 edition. Jenifer Gregory ’17 (Psy.D., clinical psychology) ’14 (M.A., clinical psychology) authored the paper, with University of Indianapolis faculty Katie Kivisto and Neil Perdue as co-authors, along with David Estell of Indiana University. The paper was based on Gregory’s doctoral dissertation and is her first research publication in a scientific journal.
Gregory, who is now in private practice as a clinical psychologist at Continuum: Mental Health & Wellness in Indianapolis, said the research supports that “positive and supportive father-child relationships are very important for healthy child development.”
One way to measure those relationships is by the quality of father-child interactions during play time. The researchers found that children who have fathers who play with them “in a manner that is sensitive, supportive, emotionally attuned, attentive and challenging without being overstimulating are more likely to learn how to effectively self-regulate or cope with their emotions,” Gregory explained. This finding was true even after researchers accounted for factors like family income and quality of the mother-child relationship.
Father-child play also helps with long-term emotional growth, the study found, with the quality of those interactions predicting kids’ positive development through adolescence.
“The kids who had better quality play with their dads in first grade were better at emotion regulation in third grade and had less depression as 15-year-olds,” Kivisto said.
The study pulled data from a national data set of early childcare and youth development, commissioned by National Institute of Child Health and Development and conducted at various sites throughout the country.
“Based on our findings, fathers in particular (and parents in general) should encourage and engage in this type of positive, child-centered and child-directed play in order to support children’s emotional development,” Gregory said.
With state and national initiatives aimed at getting fathers more involved with their children, Kivisto said the research can be useful for agencies and community support networks that provide parenting advice.
“What dads are doing is making an impact and shaping kids’ development. We want to remind them that play is really important, and goes hand-in-hand with meeting basic needs and discipline,” Kivisto said.
Kivisto’s clinical and research background in parent-child attachment and emotional regulation development matched Gregory’s academic interests as she pursued a dissertation topic. Kivisto connected Gregory to Neil Perdue, associate professor of psychology, vice president and chief operating officer, to gain access to a database that proved crucial to the research.
“As we looked through the data that had become available to us, it became clear that we should utilize the study’s observations of father-child play as a measure of relationship quality because this type of observation is so rarely utilized,” Gregory said.
Gregory said her coursework, research and practicum training at UIndy prepared her for her current work with children and families.
“It guides my interventions with families in that I strive to involve parents, and particularly fathers, in the process of working with children. I emphasize the importance of the type of child-centered, child-directed, sensitive and supportive play that we found to be so important for child emotional development,” she said.
Kivisto points out that the sample used in the study happened to involve biological fathers, but the researchers are respectful of the fact that not every family has a biological father involved. The key takeaway for parents is to make sure that they take the time to play with children on a regular basis.
“Parents can feel stressed by the idea of adding one more thing to their to-do list,” Kivisto noted, “But research shows that even 5-10 minutes a day of this kind of play can improve child behavior and wellbeing.”
Written by Sara Galer, University of Indianapolis communications manager.
Second-year doctorate student Rebecca McCormic ‘22 recently published an article as first author in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. The article, “‘Me too’ decision: An analog study of therapist self-disclosure of psychological problems,” is based on her thesis.
McCormic’s research topic is self-disclosure, meaning how much a therapist should share about their personal experience with a problem. According to McCormic, the results of her study indicated that participants thought better of therapists when that therapist shared that they had a similar experience. Specifically, the level of disclosure most favored included the fact that the therapist had struggled with a similar issue and shared symptoms they had experienced.
McCormic is now working on a dissertation that focuses on improving the relationship between clients from multicultural backgrounds and therapists who are white. This is being done with the help of Dr. Michael Poulakis, assistant professor in the School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Indianapolis, who said McCormic is “really one of our best PsyD students.”
McCormic is also completing the first year of a practicum at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Marion, Indiana.
“I have done therapeutic work with veterans in the acute psych department, the residential substance abuse department, and the outpatient clinic for those struggling with severe mental illness. This typically involves one on one sessions, group therapy, or treatment planning meetings. Serving those that have served our country has been personally rewarding, since I have many family members who are veterans,” she explained.
McCormic says she is excited to continue her growth and development as a clinician and researcher at UIndy.
“I have many areas of interest, but right now I’m interested in ethical gray areas, multicultural support, improving patient/client care, and education,” she said.
A 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.
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.
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!”
Written by Sara Galer, Communications Manager, University of Indianapolis. Contact email@example.com with your campus news.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with your campus news.
Krista Latham, associate professor of biology and anthropology, and Jessica Miller ’19 (M.S., human biology), recently published a paper on advances in the forensic sciences. Latham is director of the University of Indianapolis Human Identification Center, which assists coroners throughout the country in identifying human remains. Latham’s work in identifying migrants who died while crossing the southern U.S. border has been recognized nationally.
“DNA recovery and analysis from skeletal material in modern forensic contexts” was published in Forensic Sciences Research in October 2018. Latham explained that the article “discusses developments in forensic genetics and focuses specifically on obtaining and analyzing DNA from human skeletal remains, as well as improvements in utilizing DNA for identification purposes.”
“Advances in DNA research have allowed for smaller quantities of DNA to be analyzed,” Miller said. “This will ultimately lead to more identifications. The article also discusses different databases that are available for comparisons of DNA from unidentified individuals to families of the missing.”
The faculty-student collaboration involved research on the newest forensic DNA technologies and collecting literature on the topic.
“Dr. Latham and I met weekly to discuss the material and work on the article. This included revising multiple drafts, creating a strong collaboration between the both of us that generated some great discussions, and inspiration that lead to my thesis research project on DNA transfer,” Miller said.
“It was a great experience working with Jessica on this publication,” Latham added. “A true benefit of the small program sizes at UIndy is the ability to work closely with students on research projects, presentations and publications that can have big impacts on the field of forensic science.”
Following graduation, Miller plans to develop her forensic and scientific skills by working in the local medicolegal community on death investigations, and hopes to pursue a doctorate in anthropology. She is grateful for the support of biology faculty.
“Dr. Latham and other human biology faculty have been very generous with their time and have always been present and active in my studies. They provide and supervise many extracurricular activities that make this program unique, like the ability to conduct research that I can present at conferences, the opportunities to publish in scientific journals and the ability to participate in forensic work through the Human Identification Center.”
Colleen 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.
A 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, 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.
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.