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Faculty share work during CELEBRATE!

From the effects of exercise on the brain’s ability to function, to the patterns found among women who killed their husbands, research by Elon University professors took center stage Tuesday in the first ever “Celebration of Faculty Scholarship” as part of CELEBRATE! 2008.

Megan Conklin shared her research April 29 in a presentation titled "Cyberinfrastructure Models for Research Collaboration."

More than two dozen professors held presentations around campus on April 29, 2008, in the hour leading up to the official start of the Student Undergraduate Research Forum. SURF is an annual event that highlights student research from throughout the past academic year.

“It’s to kick off the whole undergraduate research experience,” Steven House, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Science, said of the new  faculty component to this year’s CELEBRATE! week. “One way to do that is to get students together and show them the kind of scholarship faculty are doing.”

Three examples of that scholarship include the following:

“The Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Function: Past, Present and Future”
Eric Hall, associate professor of sports medicine

Through research at Elon and during a 2007 sabbatical at the University of Illinois, Hall studied the relationship between physical exertion and cognitive abilities.  Low to moderate-intensity workouts increased respondents’ cognitive abilities after exercise.

“This is equivalent in my mind to a kid who goes to recess, and then comes back and is able to respond better and more accurately,” he said.

Subjects who were asked to exercise to the point where they could no longer continue demonstrated an opposite reaction. These subjects consistently tested lower on tests of cognitive ability and introduced more errors in their responses during and immediately after high-intensity exercise.

“There can be are real-world implications with this kind of research,” he said. “In the military, you’re talking about life and death when you think about exertion to the point where it becomes counter-productive.”

“Finally Hearing Their Cries: The Lives and Struggles of Battered Women Who Killed Their Intimate Partners”
Angela Lewellyn Jones, associate professor of social justice

As part of a project for the North Carolina Council for Women/Domestic Violence Commission, Jones interviewed 46 female inmates convicted of killing their husbands, live-in boyfriends or other intimate partners. Several patterns emerged.

“The turning point for most of these women was their children,” Jones said. “They could deal with an incredible amount themselves … when they saw their children being threatened, that’s when they would take matters into their own hands.”

The women tended to come from families where domestic violence was common, Jones said. And they still cared for the men, even speaking about them in the present tense during interviews.

“These women still loved the people they had killed,” Jones said. “They still loved their intimate, abusive partners … they just wanted the abuse to stop.”

“Sharing the Sacred: The Paradox of Revelation in Contemporary Mormon Culture”
Tom Mould, assistant professor of sociology and general studies

Mould’s presentation looked at the way members of the Mormon faith share stories of revelation, moments where they believe they are taking part in divine communication and are receiving signs of guidance.

What, exactly, is the paradox? Sharing these personal stories is an important aspect to taking part in the church, Mould said, but Mormons do not want to appear to be “self-aggrandizing.”

He said that Mormons must also weigh the costs and benefits of sharing revelations with others. While doing so may bolster their standing in the church, it may also open them to ridicule, and the sharing of revelations could cause confusion or hurt feelings.

His research relied on dozens of interviews and a review of church literature and documents in Utah. Not everyone wanted to share revelations, he said. Nor did he expect them to do so. Said Mould, “There are some I will never hear, never should hear, and that only a spouse will hear.”

"Valued Voices" (an original play on difficulties faced by some minority high school students)
Jean Rattigan-Rohr, assistant professor of education

Rattigan-Rohr examines the complexities of learning faced by minority students in American public high schools in a play she wrote and had read by students during a workshop during SURF.

School successes and failures for many minority students involve issues rooted in several factors. Pedagogy of poverty, parental involvement, unequal distributions of inexperienced teachers, racial concentrations in schools, dropout rates, low college-enrollment and completion rates, education reforms, low expectations, student apathy, student high jinks, and the valuing of minority students’ social and cultural experiences.

Valued Voices” takes up the challenge of looking at the educational experience of some minority students and one African American male student in particular. At the conclusion of the reading, students and faculty engaged in an intense and powerful discussion as they deconstructed the  issues the play raises.

Eric Townsend,
5/5/2008 8:02 AM