University of Southern Indiana
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Liberal Arts Endeavor Awards

The Endeavor Research and Creativity Awards is a competitive program for undergraduates who are conducting scholarly research or creative endeavors at the University of Southern Indiana. Students are encouraged to apply for up to $2,500 through proposals that they write with help from their faculty sponsors.All successful award participants including students who have been graduated, present their research at the Endeavor Research and Creative Works Symposium. Find out more at

2018-2019 Endeavor Awards

Is Seeing Myself as an Object Stressful?

Elizabeth Boik, Abbey Huffine, Gabrielle Wy, Samantha Schnarr, McKenna Deem Blaylock, and Mackenzie Henrichs

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Urska Dobersek and Dr. Richard Bennett 

This study examined the possible correlation between self-objectification and stress. The group gathered thirty-two female students to participate. Each participant was considered healthy according to the American Heart Association (2018). The participants were first tested on their state self-objectification (SO) levels and provided saliva to assess their baseline cortisol levels, commonly known as the stress hormone. The groups were then asked to change into baggy (low SO) or revealing (high SO) clothing to manipulate their SO levels based on these new appearances. After 30 minutes, each participants’ cortisol level was reassessed through a second saliva sample to gauge whether the participants’ stress levels were affected by their new SO levels. The experiment was successful in the manipulation of the participants’ SO levels based on the fact that participants in the experimental group scored statistically higher on state SO compared to the control group. Their evidence showed that cortisol levels were higher before the manipulation of SO levels than afterwards. These results matched previous research that suggested the orienting response (OR), an organism’s cognitive response to stimuli, can result in immediate physiological changes such as heart rate deceleration. At the practical level, wearing more revealing clothing can potentially impact one’s performance because of the required cognitive attention of the OR.

The Impact of Family Communication Patterns on Student Academic Motivations

Riley Cornett 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jessica Rick

In this study, Cornett focused on how different styles of communication within families can affect students’ motivation and performance in school. This is a heavily debated topic in the field of communication studies, and previous research has shown that patterns in family communication can impact actions in higher education, such as the ability to assimilate into a college community and attitudes surrounding “college culture.” Despite the previous studies focused on this issue, little research exists concerning the impact family communication patterns have on students’ motivations to pursue higher education. The purpose of Cornett’s study is to identify the impact that family communication patterns have on students’ motivations to attend secondary education and how these patterns can determine what field the students may pursue. She is collecting data via an online survey to analyze and expects to find connections between family communication traits and academic motivations in hopes of proving the impact that communication patterns can have on the academic careers of students. The knowledge uncovered through her study will be valuable to the academic community, as it could be utilized in higher education to improve student retention.


The “MAGIC” of Senior Cohousing in the United States

Alexander Dandy

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Casey Harison

In this study, Dandy is looking to examine the question, “what do we do with our elders?” Assisted-living and nursing homes are common choices but have gathered criticism from seniors and their children as most seniors today seek to remain semi- or fully independent. This study looks into the option of cohousing, a relatively new concept. This movement has its origins in 1960s Denmark and was brought to the United States by Charles Durrett and his wife Kathryn McCamant in the late 1980s. This movement has exploded in popularity in the past twenty years, and alternative models of senior cohousing have developed: seniors-only communities, multi-generational communities, and “Green Houses” – senior communities with adjacent or onsite healthcare staff – are a few examples. The research will address other diversity related issues within these communities, giving special attention to ability, but also addressing race and gender.

The goal of Dandy’s research is to explain the growing popularity of cohousing (senior and intergeneration) in the United States over the past twenty years and examine the challenges that community members face. The purpose of this research was to provide a historical context for the MAGIC Project (Multi-Ability, Multi-Generational, Inclusive Community) on the University of Southern Indiana’s campus in coordination with the university’s Center for Healthy Aging and Wellness and Center for Communal Studies.

The Effect of Facebook and Instagram on Depression

Zoe Meuth

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Trent Engbers

The purpose of Meuth’s study was to examine the potential connections between social media use and general depression, both of which have been on the rise. Since sites tested for social comparison, such as Facebook and Instagram, have been linked to higher levels of depression, these were the sites used for the study. The study also focused on young adults since they, along with adolescents, are the most well represented age groups on these sites. Since there is an existing link between social comparison on social media and depression, Meuth hypothesized that her experiment had a high chance of finding increased rates of depression among users of Facebook and Instagram. Using three groups – one spending time on Facebook, another on Instagram, and the third avoiding social media altogether – she was able to collect data from her participants through surveys, including their depression levels through the use of the Beck Depression Inventory-II. The experiment found that Instagram did indeed seem to cause a greater likelihood of depression, which was in line with previous studies. However, Facebook actually seemed to decrease that same likelihood, which was an unexpected outcome that defied past research.

Social Media Usage and Its Relationship to Depressive Symptoms

Taylor Quackenbush

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Srikanth Dandotkar

In this study, Quackenbush explores the possible correlations of social media use and mental health. Though social media has only been around for a few decades, it has become an integral part of modern life. Sites like Myspace and Facebook opened new communication opportunities the world had never seen. However, they also created new risks such as cyber bullying, social media addiction, and other real-life problems. These are a few of the reasons Quackenbush is studying the effects of this digital world on our lives and health.

Quackenbush’s study examines specific uses of social media and the ways they could influence one’s self-esteem and self-image. For example, watching others socialize through a screen may lead to feelings of loneliness. Moreover, considerable amounts of time invested in social media could increase the risks of experiencing these negative feelings. This study looks at connections between these specific patterns of social media use and depressive symptoms, especially in the college-aged population. Participants in this study will be taking surveys to assess social media usage and depressive symptoms. The exploratory variable will be social media usage and the response variable will be depressive symptoms. No direct correlation was found.

UNFair Trade: The History and Meaning of the Fair Trade Movement 

Teresa Rynkiewich

Faculty Mentor: Ms. Audrey Hillyer

Teresa Rynkiewich is a long-time advocate of the Fair Trade Movement. With this project, she plans to present (1) the history of the global Fair Trade Movement, (2) an awareness of the social justice issues of Fair Trade, such as poverty, hunger, lack of education, safe drinking water, or housing, and (3) increase community involvement and pave the way for the learning process of developing a Fair Trade organization on campus.

In 2015, the World Bank statistics stated that 736 million people were living on less than $1.90 a day, which was 10% of the world’s population. The World Bank’s goal is to reduce this number to less than 3% by 2030. Rynkiewich plans to introduce these facts with the hope of encouraging more people to advocate for social justice programs.

Along with presenting the history of the Fair Trade Movement, Rynkiewich’s goal is to educate USI faculty, students, and local communities of the need for future programs. It is her hope that she can stir community involvement and awareness for this cause and potentially get a Fair Trade organization started on campus.

Rynkiewich is doing everything she can to keep pace with the continuing need to provide up to date information of the Fair Trade Movement. She believes with a strong push and emphasis on Fair Trade, the University of Southern Indiana could be the leading university in the Midwest to train, educate, and graduate students who will become strong leaders in the Fair Trade Movement.


Making Sense of Body-Worn Cameras: An In-Depth Examination of Special Units across Two Agencies

Gabrielle Wy

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Marthinus Koen

The focus of Wy’s study is to understand the police perceptions and attitudes towards body-worn cameras, specifically special police unites. The reason Wy’s primary focus belongs to special units is because existing research provides insight into patrol officers, but usually overlooks how officers belonging to special police units feel about this technology. She is drawing from forty interviews conducted with special police units from small and mid-sized departments to study how these units perceived and adapted to the implementation of body-worn cameras over time. She also highlights the factors that helped shape these perceptions across the two police agencies.

Radio Dramas - Communication in Play

Ben Anderson and Kat McIntire

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Leigh Anne Howard

This research project consisted of writing, producing, and recording radio dramas. The participants were tasked with finding a local (Evansville, IN) historical figure and writing a radio drama around their life, gaining information about them through the University of Southern Indiana archives using old letters, pictures, books, and any other available avenues. After selecting a historical figure, they started scripting the radio drama around the character’s life, and began casting roles, as well as selecting a producer for the radio drama. The producer then arranged for the radio drama to be performed and recorded. Recording was done via Zoom digital recorders, and to maintain true historical form, minimal post production was used. The hardest part of this project was aiding the audience in “seeing” what was going on, rather than just hearing through speakers. This project was selected to be presented at the National Communication Association annual conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the fall of 2018.


The Effects of Background Music on Memory and its Influences on Gender

Mackenzie Cross

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Srikanth Dandotkar

During this project, Cross explored the idea that background music (or noise) could potentially effect students while they study or complete homework. The topic has been debated by researchers for years. Cross decided to seek the answers herself, specifically looking at the possible differences between males and females when listening to music while trying to memorize words, pictures, or working on their academic work. She believes it is important to address this issue because it could lead to new specific learning ways and techniques that could help students excel even more in their academic endeavors.

Art's Influence on Anxiety for Male and Female Undergraduate Students

Samantha Haas 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Srikanth Dandotkar 

Haas’s main goal with this study was to test if art related activities are an effective tactic for college students to reduce or cope with anxiety, specifically investigating if there was a difference depending on gender. An anxiety questionnaire served to measure the participants’ anxiety score, which was used as the dependent measure. Participants’ were then split into two groups: the experimental group, assigned to an art activity, and the control group, assigned to a reading activity. To avoid bias, the participants were told they were participating in a study about professors. Haas’s results did not indicate a significant difference between the two groups, though her results showed that both activities significantly reduced anxiety, especially for female participants.


Music Rotation at a Formatted Radio Station

Colin McDuffee

Faculty Mentor: Mr. John Morris

Members of the Management Team of USI’s own radio station 95.7 The Spin traveled to Seattle, Washington to take part in the College Broadcasting, Incorporated National Student Electronic Media Conference. At the conference, Program Director Colin McDuffee presented on how The Spin schedules and formats its music for radio play. At The Spin, they play Alternative music. Many other college radio stations are “free format,” this means the on-air personality at the time gets to choose what music is played. The Spin takes a professional approach to radio, using a clock that has specific categories of music that feed into this. The presentation focused on the reasoning and science behind the clock format that The Spin uses, the music categories they choose, and the overall effect their music schedule has on listenership.

It was a rewarding experience to everyone who presented. Many other college stations do not follow a specific format or operate remotely like The Spin does. They were able to explain to other schools why they choose the format, hour clock, and music rotation that they do, and why those choices make their listenership tune in. The work was received well by the other students in attendance, some even asking for more information on the clock formatting and music rotation.

Radio Websites: More than Just a Blog

Crystal Phillips, Kalekidan Yeshiwas, and Charles Messina

Faculty Mentor: Mr. John Morris

Crystal Phillips traveled with 95.7 The Spin to Seattle to present on how websites can work for other radio stations. She partnered with two other web directors from different schools who presented their versions of their website. Through this presentation, as a team, they were able to showcase different ways to utilize a website for a college radio station. They discussed how to maintain the websites and different ways of passing along the information to future team members. They also showed two different ways of putting websites together: coding vs. plug ins and templates. Through discussion they were able to offer advice to other potential web directors about what they can put on their website, where to put their information, and different analytic websites to use to help better cater their website to their audiences’ needs.

Designing a website requires an eye for detail. Placing articles on the home page vs. within a different page, what color scheme and fonts are used, and in what order the pages are placed are all key parts when it comes to designing a website. Web directors can use their analytic reports to determine the best placement for their tabs, articles, videos, and more. This presentation was used to inform audience members on why websites are important as well as how to effectively build them.

Interactions Affected by Space at a College Campus’s Third Place Lounge

Dacie Lindner

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Leigh Anne Howard

Building upon Oldenburg’s (1999) work in third place, this study seeks answers to how space, specially third place, affects the interactions occurring at a 4-year university in the Midwest. By ethnographically observing a college lounge for several weeks, this study considers the use of space and its attributes in the communicative patterns of professional, social, and independent interactions. By understanding spaces within a college campus, one will gain a better understanding of the college and of culture at broad. Additionally, improved understanding of these interactions provides greater comprehension of how spatial attributes such as furniture, windows, music, and technology contribute to the use of and communication within the space. Students and others seek areas of third place for various reasons, and college campuses may do well to incorporate more of these areas for the use of their students and staff.


Analysis of Middle Woodland Projectile Points from the Mann Site, Posey County, Indiana

Sarah Parker and Sam Monsen

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael Strezewski

The Mann site, noted as a large Middle Woodland site boasting at least 15 earthworks and covering 175 hectares, has been largely inaccessible and unstudied by archaeologists since fieldwork conducted by Indiana University in the 1970s. Unfortunately, the results of these investigations were never fully published, leaving the archaeological community with relatively little information on the material culture at the site. This lack of data is particularly stark with regards to the hafted bifaces (i.e., projectile points and knives). The University of Southern Indiana has a collection of over 500 previously undocumented projectile points and knives originating from the Mann site, which forms the basis for the present analysis. Data on raw material, projectile point type, and heat treatment were collected for the 408 projectile points in the collection. Our findings indicate that certain clear patterns exist in terms of chert usage and projectile point types present at the site. We compare our results to those determined in concurrently undertaken studies of the blades and knives in the university’s collection from the Mann site. One clear pattern of note is that while the knives and projectile points varied greatly in the types of raw material used, very high percentages of the blades were of one specific chert, Wyandotte. These patterns may help to indicate geographical origin and trade networks associated with different types of points made and used at the Mann site.

The Effect of Aromatherapy on Focused Attention

Jamie Schuetter

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Srikanth Dandotkar 

The goal Schuetter’s study was to determine the effect that aromatherapy has on one’s focused attention and if it is different for males and females. Participants were randomly assigned to either peppermint oil or water conditions. After arriving to the study session, participants used a computer to complete the Stroop Task. This task was used to record each participant’s reaction times. One of the independent variables was aromatherapy with levels as peppermint oil and water. This was a between-subject variable. The second independent variable was gender with levels as male and female. This variable was also between-subject. Participant’s average reaction times served as the critical dependent variable. There is not enough evidence to prove that aromatherapy affects the focused attention of males and females differently. The results for male and female participants reaction times were different, specifically females responded faster than males. Although females had quicker responses, the p-value was .065, therefore it did not reach statistical significance. There was not a significant interaction effect for aromatherapy and gender as well as aromatherapy alone. More research with peppermint oil and attention is suggested.


3D Modeling Using a CNC Router Indexer

Brian Simpson and Patrick Bennett

Faculty Mentor: Mr. Rob Millard-Mendez 

In this study, Simpson and Bennett worked together to integrate the ever-evolving world of technology into traditional shop classes. Wanting to honor and uphold the tradition that shop classes carry, the two desired to bridge the gap between those traditions and the technological world as a way to keep shop classes relevant in school programs. On top of that, introducing new technology into classes can help students develop new problem solving skills.

Working together to discover how this technology can be integrated into the classroom, they were able to find that the use of this technology expedited their work time. Their ability to use this technology to design outside of the shop allowed them to work more efficiently while they were in the shop. They claimed that having some of this technology was almost like having a third collaborator on the project. Both presenters have hopes of being educators, and this study was helpful for their future endeavors to bridge the gap between tradition and technology.

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