Fourth Annual Graduate Capstone Colloquium

More than 60 Merrimack graduate students in higher education and community engagement displayed their year-long research projects in the fourth annual Graduate Capstone Colloquium.

“Capstone project is really intended to be a culminating project of a student graduate’s career,” said assistant professor Susan Marine, who is program director for the higher education graduate program.

The colloquium was crowded with professors, coworkers, classmates and family but there is room for growth, said assistant professor Audrey Falk, who is the community engagement program director in the School of Education and Social Policy.

“I thought the colloquium went wonderfully this year,” she said. “Over time I’d love to see more students attend, more faculty, more members of the community.”

Students in the higher education graduate program spent the fall semester learning how to evaluating programming and to collect data.

During the spring semester they learned how to conduct and independently design research projects.

“That is all about learning how the functional areas she works in are working or not working and to improve the way they operate and practice,” Marine said. “The students are basically learning how their field works and how they can make a difference improving how that field works.”

Students in the community engagement graduate program work with community members on research projects to address local issues, Falk said.

Higher education graduate student Michaela Crossen, who spent the year working in Merrimack’s marketing and communications office, studied the best way to use social media to raise awareness of sexual assaults on college and university campuses.

During her research Crossen looked at the behavior of college students on social media, how activists use social media, and literary reviews. As part of her research, she spoke with nine professionals in the state, non-profit and private sectors who use social media to increase awareness of issues.

Her sources were enthusiastic and passionate in sharing their successful strategies.

“It was a really interesting project,” Crossen said. “It took me a full year.”

Four students in the community engagement program who were working at different sites for the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council’s Head Start Program used surveys and focus groups researching ways to help the underserved immigrants from Central America.

“That’s a good example of a real world problem and to response to actual needs,” Falk said.

Another group of three community engagement students in the service learning program teamed up to study whether the students in the program are meeting the needs of the area non-profits and how they can better meet the needs, Falk said.

Derek Mumford is in Merrimack’s higher education graduate program for student affairs.

His capstone project examined the perception among college students of physical disabilities in sports.

As part of his project he had volunteers from Merrimack’s student population play Paralympic sports and gauged their awareness of sports available.

“For awareness, I tried to visually display it,” Mumford said.

As a result of his work, he learned that participation in Paralympic sports significantly increased perception of the athleticism among disabled players.

No matter what their background and whether they ever hear of sports or participated, it didn’t effect the change in perception.

“So I thought that was great,” Mumford said. “So even if you already had a high awareness, by participation you increased awareness.”



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