Woman gives thumbs up in front of large diorama

Annual symposium showcases student and faculty research

Apr 9, 2019
Kathryne Davis
Dean of Library Services Linda Kern speaks during the symposium. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University).

The eighth annual Brenau University Research Symposium was held Friday, April 5, at the Brenau Downtown Center, where Dean of Library Services Linda Kern observed that students are building themselves “rather than building somebody else’s company.”

“You all are different than we were and our parents were when we were starting out,” said Kern, who was part of the “Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zones” roundtable discussion that opened the symposium.

“Many of us thought nothing of starting a career at a company and finishing up at that same company 35-40 years later. It’s the way it was done. Instead, you all are building yourselves, rather than building somebody else’s company. You’re building skill sets and backgrounds and knowledge and information that you can put together in a unique format.”

Kern was joined at the roundtable — moderated by James Taylor, assistant professor of management in the College of Business & Communication — by representatives from each of Brenau’s four colleges: Kelley Brock-Simmons, assistant professor in the College of Education; Suzanne Erickson, professor of finance and entrepreneurship and dean of the College of Business & Communication; Stacey Hoffman, clinical psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy; and Barbara Steinhaus, chair of the Department of Music.

Junior Yanne Toussaint presents the “Extendable Shower Head.” (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

This year’s symposium, theme “Expand Your Horizons,” included more than 20 poster presentations and 68 presentations by 181 Brenau students and faculty members. New additions to the event included students panels and the first symposium book cover contest, won by junior studio art major Diana Quinones. Fashion and nursing students were also more involved in this year’s symposium than previous years.

Gale Hansen Starich, dean of the Ivester College of Health Sciences and the Sidney O. Smith Graduate School, presented results from phase two of the Hall Country adult community health snapshot, with results from 2016. In this second snapshot, there were about 20,000 more patient records than the first one for a total of 41,972. After taking time to analyze all of the information, the results showed that 72% of women are overweight or obese and 81% of men are overweight or obese. Only 27.8% of women are at a healthy weight and the number is even less, 19.3%, for men. The south had the highest prevalence of obesity at 32%.

The results also showed depression screening and opioid use for the first time.

“This is our first shot at this,” Starich said about depression screen results. “It’s now becoming the standard of care among our physicians because it is a vital sign of good health.”

Based on the results, mild depression increases with age. Severe depression peaks at ages 18-29 at 3.3%. Starich also said that depression and obesity are related. Out of 27,889 patient records, people from ages 30-54 had the most opioid prescriptions written.

Senior Devin Horan presents during the symposium. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Sophomore honors biology student Sophia Casey presented her research on the effects of the tourism industry in modern Yucatec culture. Casey said that the travel industry is the dominate job creator in the area. She described how the government paid more attention to the tourists and investors bringing in money than the Mayans who lived there. The government avoided uprisings by the Mayans by bringing in workers from other areas and having a strong military presence.

She also said that there is this view that the Maya are an ancient people and no longer exist. Casey added that the Maya are still there and tourists are sold on the idea of the mysterious Maya people, which makes them want to go to the region.

“We have a great opportunity today with this Brenau symposium to network in a way that we wouldn’t normally do,” Hoffman said. “When you see or hear a speaker or you see a poster about a research area that you’re interested in, look to see who’s doing that, what department is that and what would you and your department have to add to it. This happened last year where new kind of collaborations developed, and I encourage you to go through this afternoon with that in mind about what would you add to this topic area from your perspective.”