Elizabeth Summerall, left, and Kyle Leineweber talk with Gnimbin Ouattara, associate professor of history and international studies in the College of Fine Arts & Humanities, after their presentation during the Brenau University Research Symposium. Each spring for the past six years, Brenau students and faculty have showcased the university's continually growing focus on research at the annual Research Symposium.
Elizabeth Summerall, left, and Kyle Leineweber talk with Gnimbin Ouattara, associate professor of history and international studies in the College of Fine Arts & Humanities, after their presentation during the Brenau University Research Symposium. Each spring for the past six years, Brenau students and faculty have showcased the university's continually growing focus on research at the annual Research Symposium.

Annual Symposium Highlights Student, Faculty Research Efforts

Mar. 27, 2017
Kristen Oliver

The 2017 Brenau University Research Symposium Friday, March 24, covered issues ranging from demographics in the Mediterranean to childhood obesity rates in Gainesville, Georgia.

Every spring for the past six years, Brenau students and faculty showcased the university’s continuously growing focus on research. At this year’s symposium, 114 undergraduate, graduate and faculty participants presented 43 unique submitted abstracts.

The symposium began with a roundtable discussion featuring professors from each of the four colleges at Brenau: Dr. Irma Alvarado is a professor in the School of Occupational Therapy, College of Health Sciences; Kenneth K. Frank is the director and professor of conflict resolution and legal studies, College of Fine Arts & Humanities; Janet Grier is an assistant professor of education, College of Education; and James Sennett is the professor of business ethics and the coordinator of business programs, College of Business & Mass Communications.

Moderated by James Taylor, assistant professor of management in the College of Business & Mass Communication, and Gnimbin Ouattara, associate professor of history and international studies in the College of Fine Arts & Humanities, the panel discussed the issue of “Free Speech Versus Safe Space” drawing on their experiences and research.

“We had such positive feedback last year to our first faculty roundtable, we decided we would do it again,” said Dr. Gale Starich, dean of the College of Health Sciences and the Sidney O. Smith Graduate School. “Dr. Ouatarra and Dr. Taylor brought this subject to us very early, so we might be in ‘Conversation not Confrontation,’ which is our university’s theme for the year.”

The 2017 symposium set a record for the greatest number of faculty research papers and student projects. One presentation by Starich and nursing professors Sandra Davis and Sheral Page focused on childhood health indicators among low-income children involved in the Real Interactive Summer Experience Program, a community partnership of the university and other Gainesville, Georgia organizations.

The RISE program, run by Brenau College of Education students and faculty, aims to limit learning loss for low-income children through interactive educational experiences during six weeks each summer. Last year, it included an evaluation of pediatric health indicators through measurements of waist circumference and calculation of the body mass index, or BMI.

Starich used these BMI calculations to categorize the 107 students in the program into five categories: underweight, normal, overweight, obese, and overweight or obese.

Starich said when she began her work, there were very few obese children in the United States and even less with type-two diabetes.

Both locally and nationally, that statistic has changed, however. Of the total 107 surveyed children, an unfortunate and remarkable 61 were in the final category, “overweight or obese,” making up 57 percent of the surveyed children. Of that number, 39 were obese and 22 were overweight. A total 44 children were in the normal weight range for their ages and heights, and only a couple were underweight.

Starich said this research is more than a presentation or piece of paper, however. The proposed changes are already slated for the summer 2017 RISE program, meaning more than 100 local children will be impacted by these results.

Meanwhile, Ashley Motes, senior studio art major with a concentration in museum studies, presented her research on the history and future of curatorial roles in museums.

She said the role of the art museum curator developed from an academic and custodial occupation at the beginning of the Restoration to a more community and service-based position today. Developments in museum practice, technology, programming and the variety of media being used by artists suggest that curatorial practices will change as well.

In 15 minutes, Motes succinctly and efficiently summarized the history of the role of the art curator, identified recent trends and disruptors in the evolution of curatorial practice and predicted the future of art museum curators and curatorial practice.

“The symposium is a forum for presenting and discussing the wide variety of research being conducted by the students and faculty at Brenau, from looking at the microcosm of Brenau and Women’s Colleges to environmental issues that impact the entire globe, and a wide range of topics in between,” said Kelly Peters, dean’s assistant for the College of Health Sciences.

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