EHDx Talks: A New Tradition

Culminating Event Celebrates Student Achievement

Undergraduate research is central to Bass Connections. So to recognize the students’ hard work and dedication, the Education and Human Development (EHD) Bass Connections theme gathered for the first annual EHDx Talks on April 13, 2016 at the Nasher Museum of Art.

The culminating event celebrated the achievement of students who had been working on interdisciplinary research teams within the EHD Bass Connections theme and provided an opportunity for students to discuss the research projects and their work.

The event, in the style of TED Talks, involved students from each team presenting a five-minute talk on his or her team’s work. A reception and poster session immediately followed the talks, giving guests the oppor-tunity to mingle and learn more about the projects, EHD as a theme within Bass Connections and the students who comprised the 2015–16 teams.

“We heard from students that they wanted more opportunities to present their work and that they were looking for some type of culminating event that would recognize and highlight their achievements throughout the year,” said last year’s EHD Theme Administrator Cecily Hardaway.

“We were happy to create this opportunity, so that students have a sense of accomplishment and can share their work with other Bass teams and the Duke community more broadly,” she said.

Research Projects from Local to International

Team members from all walks of academic life gathered at the Nasher, including members of the social sciences, humanities, engineering and the medical center. Because education and human development are somewhat open to interpretation, presentation topics were as diverse as team members’ backgrounds, ranging from local to international research projects.

For Nikita Gawande and Saumya Jain, human development research involved studying slums in Bangalore in an effort to help fill in gaps in scholarly knowledge on poverty in the developing world. Using survey research methods, they spoke with residents in Bangalore about their lives and living conditions.

“Our hope is that by clustering slums on their physical features, it will be easier to discover what underlying factors are most important in shaping different trajectories of development over time,” Jain said.

In time, their work could be used to make policy recommendations on poverty, health, education, housing and other related issues. And with a 2016–17 Bass Connections team continuing their work, they could be well on their way to helping NGOs and governments make informed policy changes.

For Brigid Burroughs, Jennifer Ling, Camila Vargas and Jaslyn Zhang, education and human development meant exploring gender discrepancies in STEM education.

Their team, titled STEM for All, modeled their data analysis off the National Girls’ Collaborative Project. They tracked how women and men handled academic obstacles differently in an effort to understand why women are more likely to switch out of a STEM major, even when controlling for academic ability.

In fact, Burroughs said, women are 50 percent more likely to switch out of a STEM major. It’s a startlingly high percentage that her team worked to help lower through active learning and self-efficacy techniques.
With a 2016–17 STEM for All team picking up the baton, their research will be expanded to also include theories regarding how race and ethnicity relate to active learning and self-efficacy.

For Giselle Graham and Xin Tong Lim’s project, education and human development meant working with the local nonprofit Voices Together. The organization offers therapeutic interventions for children with autism, particularly children with communication and social interaction deficits.

Last year, the EHD Voices Together team evaluated these therapeutic interventions. The 2016–17 team is expanding on the previous team’s efforts by developing a teacher-training model for special-education classrooms in North Carolina public schools. The teacher toolbox will help classrooms that would otherwise not be able to host a certified music therapist. Led by SSRI staff Lorrie Schmid and Jessica Sperling, the team exemplifies the ways in which EHD Bass Connections can positively contribute to the community through research partnerships.

A New Tradition

While some teams are continuing their work from last year and expanding on it, still more education and human development research projects have formed project teams this year. It’s just one reason why the EHDx Talks culminating event is so important, as it provides a platform for teams to share their findings, successes and goals for future work.

“I’m really looking forward to this year’s EHDx talks and poster session,” said Amy Finnegan, current EHD Bass theme administrator.

“It’ll be a great opportunity for our teams to take a step back, put their year-long EHD work in perspective and share what they’ve achieved with their peers in the Bass Connections community.”

As one of the newest traditions at SSRI, it promises to pack the house again this year, with members of the university and medical center as well as community partners and even, as was the case last year, some parents of EHD Bass participants in the audience.

For many, the culminating event is a time to both look back on the year’s work and ahead to what other work can be done.

“I hope that attending the event can be an energizing experience for project teams as they share their enthusiasm with each other,” Finnegan concluded. With more Bass teams this year than ever before, the EHD Bass Connections theme is brimming with energy.

Save the date for the 2nd annual EHDx Talks on April 19, 2017 in the newly renovated Penn Pavilion on Duke’s West Campus.

For more information about EHD Bass Connections and updates about EHDx Talks, visit our EHDx Talks page