Researcher Insights: A Thriving Researcher

SMU Undergraduate Researcher Hannah Webb is currently a member of the Academic Initiatives Research Team presenting the results of the study Developing a Thriving Student Experience at the Texas Undergraduate Research Day in February.

Hannah has been a part of the team since October 2019, and is currently working on A Sequential Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study: Motivations of Undergraduate Students to Pursue Multiple Majors. Previously, she participated in the research project A Thematic Analysis of Conference Programs for Residential College Professional Associations. In addition to participating in research, Hannah is a Resident Assistant (RA) in Armstrong Commons, a Senior Editor of SMU’s Journal of Undergraduate Research, and a Risk & Operations intern for NTT Global Sourcing. 

Now that Developing a Thriving Student Experience is in its final stages of development, the research team – comprised of fellow peer Nikita Kulkarni, and Dr. Dustin Grabsch, their faculty mentor – is working on publishing and presenting their work. During the project, Hannah worked on interviews and the people side of the research. 

“During the course of the project, I was responsible for conducting a literature review, interviewing participants, and writing portions of our manuscript,” Hannah said. “When we submitted our manuscript for publication to the Journal of Student Affairs Research & Practice, I served as the corresponding author.” 

As a result of the project, Hannah received a Summer Research Fellowship from the Office of Engaged Learning. This allowed her to present the research at SMU’s Fall Research Symposium. 

“Outside of the Symposium, I have also presented results from this study at two professional development sessions: one session was with the Division of Student Affairs professional staff, and the other was with the Armstrong Commons RA staff,” Hannah said. 

In addition to the symposium, Hannah, Nikita, and Dr. Grabsch would like to release their long-term research into the broader world of student affairs. 

“The Thriving research has been occurring since the fall 2019 semester began,” said Hannah. “We have submitted our manuscript for publication to the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, and we are continuing to publicize the results of our research to the campus community.”

Hannah says that this research has helped her to connect more as an RA with her residents in Armstrong Commons, and has bettered her overall as a student at SMU. 

“I have become more sensitive to the conflicts that underrepresented students face,” Hannah said. “As someone who is not a member of the underrepresented student groups we researched, I did not have any insight into these conflicts before starting the research. However, I am grateful to have learned about the experiences of underrepresented students so that I can use what I have learned in my other campus positions and help improve our campus for all students.”

The team intends to use their research to improve the collegiate experience of underrepresented students at SMU, according to Hannah. 

“We have drawn three key implications from our research that we hope SMU’s administration will consider: (1) SMU should provide support to underrepresented students through unexpected, external events; (2) SMU should employ identity-conscious programming; and (3) there is a clear need for interventions related to social connectedness of underrepresented students,” Hannah said.

Hannah and her peers plan to present the results of Developing a Thriving Student Experience at the Texas Undergraduate Research Day, a showcase for collegiate student research in Texas. 

Want to learn more? Head to the RLSH research webpage to read more about our individual research projects.

 

Developing a Thriving Student Experience (SMU IRB: H19-112-GRAD) 

The overall purpose of the study is to understand the thriving of underrepresented college students. For the purposes of this study, underrepresented students include transfer students, international students, and first-generation college students. This study uses a sequential exploratory design consisting of two distinct phases. In this design, quantitative, numeric data will be collected using the Thriving Quotient instrument. These data will aid in purposely sampling participants for the second phase. The second phase of the project will help explain or elaborate on the quantitative results obtained in phase one. Individual interviews will be used to elaborate on the quantitative findings for each of the underrepresented student groups. 

 

A Sequential Exploratory Mixed-Methods Study: Motivations of Undergraduate Students to Pursue Multiple Majors (SMU IRB: H21-004-GRAD) 

This project seeks to understand the motivations of undergraduate students to pursue multiple majors. Utilizing a sequential, exploratory mixed-methods design, in phase one we will interview students who are currently pursuing multiple majors to determine themes in their expressed motivations. Following the development of themes, we will issue a brief survey instrument to undergraduate students with multiple majors to determine the prevalence of each motivation theme within the student body. Findings will aid undergraduate general education curriculum committees, academic departments, and higher education institution administrators. 

 

A Thematic Analysis of Conference Programs for Residential College Professional Associations 

With this study, team members will review past conference program materials for two leading residential college conferences, the Collegiate Way and the Residential College Society (RCS). This content analysis will reveal topics covered each year, and analyze repetition and importance of the material covered at each conference. This analysis will hopefully provide insight into common struggles of residential colleges nationwide.

 

Hannah can be contacted at hnwebb@smu.edu. If you’d like to learn more about the Academic Initiatives Research Team, please email academicinitiatives@smu.edu.

 

By Laura Bell, Sarah Venables

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