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Eleven professors approved for research projects

headshotsEleven professors have had their sabbaticals approved for the 2019 – 2020 school year, during which they will conduct their own independent research projects.

Sabbaticals are periods of paid leave given to professors for research or travel. All full-time faculty with a minimum of six years of continuous service are eligible to apply for sabbatical leave.

The focus of professor of health sciences Marilyn Skrocki’s sabbatical will be learning how to best incorporate patient-generated health data into the legal electronic health record for current and future retrieval at a national level. Skrocki’s sabbatical will research how other countries, such as New Zealand, are accomplishing this goal.

“Daily, we learn of new mobile health tools and ways technology can assist in public health initiatives and population health,” Skrocki said. “Telemedicine, Amazon Alexa, smartphones, online platforms, wearables and other health technology applications have in many ways radicalized the way that healthcare providers communicate and provide care to patients. One of the obstacles to overcome is how to provide one home for all this medical data.”

Professor of English Kim Lacey will complete a book proposal for her manuscript tentatively titled “Disrupted Rhetorics: Techne, Manipulation, and Rhetorical Misuse.”

“The purpose of this project is to explore examples ranging from neurological issues, such as manipulated memory and challenges in our ability to accurately recall events, to technologically influenced manipulation, including Artificial Intelligence spoofing and manipulated photographs,” Lacey said.

Veronika Drake, a professor of English, will use her sabbatical time to work on a book proposal for a textbook tentatively titled “Grammars of American English Dialects,” together with a colleague at Western Kentucky University.

“The goal is to develop a grammar textbook that treats standard English on equal footing with non-standard dialects, such as African-American English,” Drake said. “Grammar textbooks so far might acknowledge, in their introductions or in footnotes, that non-standard English dialects exist, that they are systematic and that they have their own grammar, but then these books move on to only include grammatical features of standard English.”

Drake notes that non-standard dialects are often stigmatized, and those who use them are often told that there is only one correct usage of English, which is standard English.

“As soon as people hear a stigmatized dialect feature, such as multiple negation as in ‘I don’t got no time,’ the speaker will be judged socially,” Drake said. “ This often leads to discrimination, simply based on the way someone talks.”

Drake said she hopes that her proposed textbook will aid in education about non-standard forms of English and contribute toward a more equitable society.

Professor of sociology Elson Boles will finish the first edition of his digital textbook, “Introduction to Modern Society.”

“I began the work a few years ago to provide free content to students and replace a costly textbook,” Boles said. “… The project got a big boost last semester when I received a grant from the Center for Academic Innovation and Online Learning to develop the work as an open education resource.”

Boles’ textbook will advance beyond conventional texts by incorporating interactive and multimedia content that utilizes Canvas, and will “incorporate a world-systems perspective throughout its chapters and thus serve as a needed corrective to conventional sociology texts,” Boles said.

Gail Kantak, a professor of biology, will undertake one or two expeditions to the Peruvian Andes to collect moss specimens to study the biogeography of the mosses.

“The tropical Andes are among the most diverse regions in the world for mosses, but many geographic locations are poorly sampled and documented,” Kantak said.

Kantak’s project is funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Dr. Steven P. Churchill of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the moss collection will be done as a collaborative effort between the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis and the Museo de Historia Natural in Lima Peru.

Kantak will also enter biogeographic data on locality and taxonomy into the Tropicos database, an easily accessible research and educational website developed by the Missouri Botanical Garden.

“I am excited about this project because of the good things that will come out of it,” Kantak said.

“It will greatly expand my biogeographical, botanical and ecological expertise and enhance my teaching of Biology 483, Biogeography. By contributing to the Tropicos database, this project will also impact systematics, biogeography, conservation and education of new biologists.”

Professor of social work Mark Giesler will use his time on sabbatical to develop an information and training module that covers awareness and sensitivity of mental health disorders, which will be used for a three-hour training session of public library staff and administrators.

“Professional library organizations have in recent years brought attention to the problem of patrons who are mentally ill and their presence in public library facilities,” Giesler said. “The sabbatical experience will allow me to contribute to the literature about this topic, as well as tangibly address the issue in our community.”

Conor Shaw-Draves, a professor of English, will spend his sabbatical working on a book project tentatively titled “140 Characters: Twitter, fringe Radicals, and the Building of Political Empire.”

“This is a book project that looks at how social media gives fringe radical political groups such as the Alt-Right and white supremacist movements a platform for the dissemination of their ideologies and for attracting new membership,” Shaw-Draves said. “Specifically, I will be looking at how the restrictions of these platforms, such as Twitter’s limited character count, actually helps these groups gain traction in these environments and how these groups exploit these limitations.”

Other professors who have had their sabbaticals approved include Susan Hillman, a professor of teacher education, Garry Johns, a professor of mathematical sciences, Julie Keil, a professor of political science and Andrew Miller, a professor of geography.

Reporting from Brian Fox, Vanguard Reporter

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