Inaugural IDEAward Recipients Highlight the Value of a Liberal Education

Miami’s dedication to undergraduate research and liberal education have inspired the creation of a new collaborative award through the Office of Liberal Education and the Office of Research for Undergraduates. The “IDEAward” (Inter-Disciplinary Engagement Award) was designed to inspire undergraduate students at all levels to conduct independent research and fully explore the unlimited possibilities of a liberal education. The IDEAward encourages students and faculty to seek collaborations among a variety of departments and colleges and challenges them to think beyond the confines of their chosen disciplines. Award recipients will present their findings in a Project Roundtable format, which is new this year during the Undergraduate Research Forum April 24, 2019.

Two teams were selected for this year’s award.

Abigail Wilette (2019- Microbology) and Callen Conroy (2020 – Kinesiology) will be working with Graduate Assistant Elizabeth Sohns under the direction of Dr. Kyle Timmerman (Kinesiology and Health), Wilette and Conroy’s research will explore the relationship between well-being, behavioral motivation, and inflammation among older adults. As adults age, chronic, low-grade inflammation is pervasive and psychological well-being, which predicts better health and longevity, typically declines. As the team explains it, “we are uniquely qualified to lead and conduct the present study with the combination of both students’ premedical coursework, Callen’s lab experiences in microbiology, Abbey’s experience with older adults, and Dr. Timmerman’s expertise in studying inflammation.

Brian Russo (2020-Anthropology and Education Studies) and Brendan Newman (2020 –Public Health) will be working with Dr. Cameron Hay-Rollins (Chair and Professor of Anthropology). Russo and Newman’s focus on the inclusion of transfer students within the Miami University community.They believe that their combined, multi-disciplinary experiences of social and biological sciences will help them “find ways to improve the transfer experience and foster belonging for students who transfer to Miami University.” For this team, Russo’s work in Cultural Anthropology and Newman’s knowledge of research strategies in Public Health will enable the team to analyze both qualitative and quantitative data.

For both teams, working across disciplines and colleges speaks to the heart of Miami University’s dedication to undergraduate liberal education. With a strong foundation in courses from Formal Reasoning to Intercultural Perspectives, the Global Miami Plan gives students the tools they need to deepen and expand their education in an infinite range of experiences. The IDEAward is the perfect example of the Offices of Liberal Education and Research for Undergraduates dedication to helping students develop a sense of social responsibility and strong intellectual and practical skills that will help them apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.