Student Achievement

Students’ Research Recognized at National Honors Conference

Elisabeth Tavarez
Dana Sherr (right) and Emma Stark (left)

Research by Marist seniors Dana Sherr and Emma Stark came in second out of nearly 300 posters presented by students from across the country.

January 27, 2020—In November, a research poster by education students Dana Sherr ’20 of Brookfield, Connecticut and Emma Stark ’20 of Mahopac, New York came in second out of nearly 300 presentations at the 2019 conference of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) in New Orleans. 

The students’ winning presentation was entitled “The Impact of a Brief Mindfulness Intervention on Elementary School Discipline Referrals.” In it, Sherr and Stark discussed the results of a mindfulness study they conducted with first- and second-graders at a Poughkeepsie public school. Mindfulness is an up-and-coming topic in the psychology community, and the purpose of their project was to examine the effect of mindfulness interventions on disruptive behavior. Says Sherr, “The most rewarding part of the research was seeing the positive results we had expected.  The most eye-opening discovery was that mindfulness does appear to be extremely effective in managing the behavior of elementary school students.” She adds that she wasn’t sure the students would fully understand the concept of mindfulness, but they did because she and Stark were successfully able to explain it at the children’s level.

The results of the research study indicated that brief mindfulness interventions had moderate effects in decreasing disruptive behavior and reducing elementary school students’ behavioral referrals (those resulting in the removal of a student from the classroom). Says Stark, “Dana and I have been working on this research project since our sophomore year, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I liked how I was exposed to different types of classrooms among different grades and to see firsthand how the classrooms changed as the study progressed.” Sherr adds, “I am so excited that the NCHC judges were able to see our passion for this project and understand its importance. It was extremely validating because we’ve spent so much time and effort on this work.” Both Stark and Sherr intend to implement mindfulness practices into their future classrooms.

Dana Sherr (left) and Emma Stark (right)
Dana Sherr (left) and Emma Stark (right)

Sherr and Stark are enrolled in Marist’s five-year master’s program in education psychology, so they will return to the College this fall and graduate in May 2021 with an MA. They believe that their research, hands-on classroom experience, and first-rate faculty have prepared them well to be effective teachers. Says Sherr, who wants to teach elementary special education, “I’m passionate about teaching students who might be underestimated, and I love the challenge of finding the best method to help them learn. Marist has prepared me to succeed by providing me with amazing and experienced professors who can give me insight into managing classroom behavior and teaching content.” Stark also feels prepared for a career in education and stresses the importance of fieldwork: “The education program has students observing classrooms as early as freshman year. The vast amount of exposure I’ve received – ranging from general education classrooms to those serving students with severe needs – has definitely prepared me for life after Marist.” This semester, Stark will have the chance to put her mindfulness research into action during her student teaching placement at the Anderson Center for Autism.

The students’ research efforts have been guided and overseen by Mary Stone, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Interim Director of the Honors Program. Says Stone, “Engaging in independent research is central to Marist’s Honors Program. Presenting at the NCHC was an especially meaningful opportunity because it enabled Emma, Dana, and their fellow Honors students to interface with Honors students and faculty from across the country. The meaningful connections they were able to make not only broadened the reach of their past research, but also inspired them to take it further and in new directions.”

(L-R) Emmanuelle Farrell, Mallory Cannon, Ryan Stevens, Emma Stark, Dana Sherr
(L-R) Emmanuelle Farrell, Mallory Cannon, Ryan Stevens, Emma Stark, Dana Sher

In addition to Sherr and Stark, three other Marist students presented a wide variety of original research at the NCHC. Psychology major Emmanuelle Farrell ’20 of Plainsboro, New Jersey and psychology/philosophy double major Mallory Cannon ’20 of Kensington, New Hampshire co-presented “Relationships Among Social Anxiety, Self-Esteem, and Social Media Habits,” which found a positive correlation between social anxiety and the reaction to a post receiving atypical feedback, and a negative correlation between self-esteem levels and the reaction to atypical feedback on a post. Farrell also presented “The Relationship Between Adaptive Functioning and Quality of Life in Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Receiving Residential Care,” while Cannon shared her research on “Attitudes Toward Gluten and Gluten-Free Individuals.” History major Ryan Stevens ’21 of Midland Park, New Jersey presented a poster entitled “The Politics of (Dis)Respectability: American Hardcore Punk Rock’s Liability for the Skinhead Issue.” Finally, in addition to the award-winning poster, Stark also presented “Bridging the Gap of Educational Pedagogy into Educational Videos,” which detailed ways to create a more holistic experience for online learners.

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