Student and Faculty Awards

Jason DeCaro with co-recipients of an Award for Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Effort, John Lochman, Ansley Gilpin, and Qshequilla Mitchell.

Numerous students and faculty were recognized for achievements and commitment this spring. Several undergraduates mentored by Anthropology faculty were recognized at the annual Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference as follows: Mark Ortiz, Honorable Mention for Oral Presentations in the Fine Arts and Humanities division (David Meek, faculty mentor); Taylor Lawhon, 4th Place for Oral Presentations in the Social Sciences division (Ian Brown, faculty mentor); Rachel Madey, 1st Place for in Emerging Scholars Fine Arts and Humanities Division and International Focus (Kathy Oths, faculty mentor), and Sommer Hallquist and Madeline Anscombe, 2nd Place in Emerging Scholars Fine Arts and Humanities division (Ian Brown, faculty mentor).

Lynn Funkhouser accepts her award from Ian Brown.
Lynn Funkhouser accepts her award from Ian Brown.
Jessica Kowalski accepts a DeJarnette Scholarship.
Jessica Kowalski accepts a DeJarnette Scholarship.
Greg Batchelder accepts the 2015 Maxwell Scholarship from Dr. Brown.
Greg Batchelder accepts the 2015 Maxwell Scholarship from Dr. Brown.

This year’s recipients of David and Elizabeth DeJarnette Endowed Scholarships in Anthropology are doctoral candidates Lynn Funkhouser and Jessica Kowalski. Doctoral student Greg Batchelder received the Allen R. Maxwell Endowed Anthropology Scholarship. The competitions were extremely tough, as always, so these honors are indeed great. For this year, each awardees will be receiving scholarships of $8,000 each to be used toward their research.

Achsah Dorsey, who received her M.A. in Anthropology in 2014, received the University of Alabama Outstanding Research by a Master’s Student Award for her thesis “Food Insecurity, Maternal Mental Health, and Child Well-Being in NW Tanzania.” This follows receipt of the same award in the Arts & Sciences in the fall 2014.

Katelyn Moss receives undergraduate honor from Dean Olin.
Katelyn Moss receives undergraduate honor from Dean Olin.
Taylor Lawhon, Jessi Mays, and Melinda Carr receive undergraduate honors from Cameron Lacquement.
Taylor Lawhon, Jessi Mays, and Melinda Carr receive undergraduate honors from Cameron Lacquement.

This year’s Honors Day allowed three of our outstanding undergraduates to be recognized. Katelyn Moss received a Dean’s Award of Merit, while Taylor Lawhon, Jessi Mays, and Melinda Carr were acknowledged as recipients of the “Smitty” and Hughes Awards. Taylor received the C. Earl Smith Award, which is given to the graduating senior with the highest GPA in Anthropology. Jessi and Melinda were co-recipients of the Lynn Hughes Award, which is given to students in Anthropology or Economics who capture the imagination of the faculty through potential, intransigence, inventiveness, perseverance, or a combination of qualities.

The following students received funding from the Graduate School for their proposals to the Graduate Student Research and Travel Fund: Mirjam HollemanLynn FunkhouserLessye DeMossDaniel LaDuRachel BriggsLisaMarie Malischke, and Paul Eubanks.

The Research Advisory Committee (RAC) selected Jason DeCaro as the 2015 recipient of the President’s Faculty Research Award for Arts & Sciences—Social Sciences. These awards, organized by the RAC and sponsored by our President and by the Vice President for Research and Economic Development, recognize select University of Alabama faculty members whose research or scholarship represents excellence in their field.

Chris Lynn receiving AS Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award from Dean Olin.
Chris Lynn receiving AS Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award from Dean Olin.
Jason DeCaro with co-recipients of an Award for Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Effort, John Lochman, Ansley Gilpin, and Qshequilla Mitchell.
Jason DeCaro with co-recipients of an Award for Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Effort, John Lochman, Ansley Gilpin, and Qshequilla Mitchell.

Dr. DeCaro and his collaborators Ansley Gilpin, Caroline Boxmeyer, and John Lochman were also recipients of the 2015 Center for Community-Based Partnerships Awards for Outstanding Faculty/Staff-Initiated Engagement Effort. In addition, David Meek and Sarah Morrow were recognized at the same event with a Community Engagement Fellowship Award.

Dr. Lisa LeCount was awarded a National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration grant for $21,412 and a College Academy for Research, Scholarship and Creativity Activity grant ($5,000). These grants were to support another season of the Actuncan Project—“Archaeological Research at Actuncan’s E-Group: Testing the Political Significance of Preclassic Lowland Maya Public Architecture.” E-groups are the earliest known public architecture on ancient Maya sites.  Multiple models have been proposed to explain their significance, the most recent of which suggests that Middle Preclassic (1000 to 400 B.C.) E-groups served as high-points on the geopolitical landscape to claim territory visible from them.  The proposed research seeks to test this model by excavating Actuncan’s E-group to discover the heights of early architectural stages and performing ArcGIS geospatial analyses (least-cost path and radial line-of-sight) to determine the territorial boundaries visible or walkable from contemporaneous E-groups within the upper Belize River valley.

Finally, Chris Lynn received the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award at the Undergraduate Honor’s Day celebration. This highly coveted award is issued each year by the Leadership Board of the College of Arts and Sciences and recognizes a single faculty member for his or her superior teaching ability and absolute dedication to students. This is a most deserving award for Dr. Lynn and a great honor for our Department.

Physiological Research at Head Start Creates Opportunities for UA Students

Students Ashley Daugherty, Caitlin Baggett, and Linnea Moran conduct an assessment on hat day at Head Start.

The past year marked the beginning of data collection for Dr. Jason DeCaro’s multiyear Head Start research project. This interdisciplinary project focuses on child development during the transitions from prekindergarten through first grade. Dr. DeCaro joins Drs. Ansley Gilpin and John Lochman of the Psychology Department and Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, as well as community partners from the Community Service Programs of West Alabama.

Students Ashley Daugherty, Caitlin Baggett, and Linnea Moran conduct an assessment on hat day at Head Start.
Students Ashley Daugherty, Caitlin Baggett, and Linnea Moran conduct an assessment on hat day at Head Start.

Funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), Power PATH is an intervention program designed to improve emotional, behavioral, social, and cognitive wellbeing. Included in Power PATH is PATHS, a supplemental preschool curriculum that offers children techniques for dealing with difficult emotions and processing emotions in appropriate ways in the classroom. The addition of parent intervention meetings, adapted from the Coping Power program, is a novel contribution of the UA project. Parents learn about the PATHS curriculum and can reinforce the lessons from PATHS at home, receive resources related to managing stress and improving their own wellbeing, and have an opportunity to network with other parents.

As one of only four grants funded by the ACF to study “dual-generation” approaches in Head Start that address the needs of the entire family, this is a fantastic opportunity to evaluate programs that could affect Head Start programs across the county. Children learning the curriculum are being compared to a control group of children not learning the curriculum to determine any differences between the two groups. Dr. DeCaro leads the portion of the project that evaluates physiological responses to stress in four-year-olds during their first exposure to the PATHS curriculum and again at the end of the study in first grade. Physiological assessments include ECG, skin conductance, saliva samples for the stress-related hormone cortisol, and basic anthropometric measurements. During the fall 2014 semester alone, the physiological teams were in contact with more than 100 four-year-olds.

This project has created many exciting opportunities for students. Graduate students Sarah Elizabeth Morrow and Edward Quinn of the Anthropology Department and Allie Nancarrow of the Psychology Department have led field research teams at nine different Head Start centers across West Alabama. This project has also afforded our Department the opportunity to expose an unprecedented number of undergraduates to real biocultural research. Forty-four undergraduate students were involved on the physiological side of the project in fall 2014 alone. Students majoring in a broad range of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, chemistry, premedical studies, environmental engineering, international relations, and computer science found roles within this study.

Students Steven Beall, Lauren Pratt, and Tiffini Taylor observe a child as he watches videos for his assessment.
Students Steven Beall, Lauren Pratt, and Tiffini Taylor observe a child as he watches videos for his assessment.

Student field teams work in groups of two or three, dividing up duties of interviewing, collecting ECG and skin conductance data, and keeping the study protocols on task and organized. Other students conduct lab work, analyzing ECG data, organizing and analyzing written data sheets, and checking video recordings to identify key events in the interview protocol. The third major aspect of student involvement is with lab management. Students work closely with graduate students and Lab Manager, Shanta Hardrick Burrell, to learn about informed consent management, file keeping, and how to maintain records in order to protect respondents.

One of the most exciting aspects for many students has been to simply interact with the children. From drawing pictures together to discussing their favorite birthday presents, assessments are special times when each child feels listened to and attended to by the field team. As a complex and important research project, Power PATH will continue to expand over the next few years. We look forward to continuing to work with a diverse and broad range of students (and community volunteers) in order to make this program a success. If you are interested in joining this project in some capacity, please contact Sarah Elizabeth Morrow, lead physiological graduate student at semorrow@crimson.ua.edu. Students are eligible for either ANT or PY credits; volunteers are also always welcome!

DeCaro, Collaborators Receive Head Start Grant

Dr. Jason DeCaro
Dr. Jason DeCaro
Dr. Jason DeCaro

Jason DeCaro is one of several recipients of a grant from the Administration of Children and Families who will implement and assess intervention programs to improve school readiness and child well-being among Head Start preschoolers in West Alabama. In partnership with the Community Service Programs of West Alabama (CSPWAL), he and the other grantees (Ansley Gilpin and John Lochman from Psychology and Caroline Boxmeyer from Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine) will follow children into first grade to assess the effectiveness of programs that teach children social and emotion regulation skills, and support parents and teachers in fostering positive home and school environments. DeCaro and colleagues are receiving $2.25 million over 5 years to assess these program, which a classroom curriculum for the children, and interventions to address broader challenges – such as parental mental health, job prospects, and financial obstacles – that influence family well-being. Dr. DeCaro’s involvement in the project centers around assessing child stress to determine what difference stress responses at baseline make in the effectiveness of the intervention, and how well the intervention does in mitigating stress over the long term.