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Student Perspectives and Research Highlights

Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva

  • Presidential Research Scholar 2009-2010
  • B.A. in Theatre Performance & Dance, December 2009Jennifer Whitcomb Oliva

In my PRS project, I choreographed and produced APSU’s first full-length ballet, “Phantasos: A Nutcracker Story”.  The production ran December 4-6, 2008 and fused modern dance with traditional ballet technique.  Drawing from extensive research on the original as well as Greek and Roman mythology, “Phantasos: A Nutcracker Story” offered audiences an original and fresh perspective on the traditional story.  

For me, research is to about exploring possibilities.  The whole reason I started researching was because I had a question…could the Nutcracker story be told in a more modern way?  I took my question and I explored the possible answers.  The possible answers aren’t always right, just different.  It’s a lot of work to sort through those possibilities, but so worth it – I would definitely do it again! 


Jennifer A. Detwiler

  • Presidential Research Scholar 2009-2010
  • B.S in Education, Magna Cum Laude, May 2010

I conducted a survey in a 5th grade classroom to find out how students felt about their reading abilities and attitudes. I analyzed the information and found that students who have a negative view of themselves as a reader, also have a negative view of the relationship between themselves and their peers.

I recommend the continuation of the PRS program because it provides students with a chance to pursue something that interests them, while also having the support of a faculty member and the finances necessary to do a research project. I don't know of any other format that gives students the opportunity that this program does.


Riley Seth McCormick

  • Presidential Research Scholar, 2008-2010
  • B.S. in Biology, Cum Laude, May 2010Seth McCormick

In my research, I conducted ongoing surveys of the bat populations in Dunbar Cave.  Results suggest that as human activity decreases in the fall, the total numbers of bats per chamber starts to increase. This is some of the first research on how the white-nosed bats utilize their cave habitat.

My project allowed me to formulate an idea and to see it through, every step of the way.  The experience benefited me immensely in building confidence and to not fear the trials ahead, but to always embrace them as a learning opportunity.   Being a Presidential Research Scholar was a great honor and my research would not have been possible without it. 



James Bart Stykes

  • Presidential Research Scholar 2008-2009

B.S. in Sociology, Magna Cum Laude, May 2009

My project involved identifying those factors that predict gang membership. We studied a set of data collected from interviewing young adults in grades 7-12 and re-interviewing them between the ages of 24 and 32. Results indicate that sex, race, income, and family structure during adolescence significantly influenece whether or not an individual  will join a gang. 

This project was one of the best experiences in my undergraduate years and it made me a much more marketable candidate for graduate school.  It was great to work one-on-one with a faculty mentor and create my own research project.


Vanessa Cassidy  Vanessa Cassidy

  • Presidential Research Scholar, 2009-2010
  • B.A. in Music, May 2011

I highly recommend the Presidential Research Scholars program , which encourages creative thinking outside of the classroom. My project was the use of singing to enhance guitar instruction ages 7-9.  Two groups of children participated in guitar classes involving singing songs before playing them on the guitar.  One goal of the project was to reach out to children who would not have otherwise had an opportunity study guitar.  If the PRS Program did not exist, I would not have been able to purchase the guitars and supplies for the children without taking out a loan.

I have really enjoyed this research experience. I have met a lot of faculty and staff through this process and have felt the network of support that is in place. I also feel more confident and capable.



Have you been involved in undergraduate research and would you like to tell your story?  Contact the OUR GA, Laura Zahn (221-7625) to set up an interview - we would love to hear from you!