DeStefano Fund reception showcases undergraduate research

From left, top row: Lisa Russell, Edgar Martin del Campo, Rebeka Merson, Elisa Miller, Alicia Kristen Roberts, Anne DeStefano, Bob DeStefano, Andrew Mignacca, Ashley Malenfant, Kay Israel, Valerie Endress, Steven Fisher. Bottom row: Daniel Reeves, Tara Crawford, Lindsey Beaudreau, John McCaughey, and Ashley Efflandt.

From left, top row: Lisa Russell, Edgar Martin del Campo, Rebeka Merson, Elisa Miller, Alicia Kristen Roberts, Anne DeStefano, Bob DeStefano, Andrew Mignacca, Ashley Malenfant, Kay Israel, Valerie Endress, Steven Fisher. Bottom row: Daniel Reeves, Tara Crawford, Lindsey Beaudreau, John McCaughey, and Ashley Efflandt.
“They were like pure colleagues during the course of this research,” Valerie Endress, professor of communications, said of the student researchers. Endress was a faculty mentor to the students, who were conducting a study that examines citizen response to campaign debates, a project made possible by the Anne and Bob DeStefano Fund for Undergraduate Research.

Her statement spoke volumes to the benefits of the DeStefano Fund to both students and faculty. Students supported by the fund disseminated their research projects to Nancy Carriuolo, RIC president, Ron Pitt, vice president of academic affairs and the DeStefanos, at a reception held on Thursday, Sept. 24, at the President’s house.

The Anne and Bob DeStefano Fund for Undergraduate Research is fostered by the RIC Foundation and began last fall. The fund provides financial support for students to conduct undergraduate research that will give students an intense learning experience by working side-by-side with a faculty researcher, and allow them to further their academic achievement.

Pitt, who guided the successful establishment of the DeStefano Fund, said that research is, “a very powerful way to delve into the subject matter and learn to love what you are doing.”

The first summer grants of the Anne and Bob DeStefano Fund for Undergraduate Research, which follow, were awarded to eight students through six different projects in the areas of English, history, biology, communications and art, during the summer of 2009.

Ashley Efflandt and
Ashley Malenfant
Ashley Efflandt and Ashley Malenfant, both communication majors, conducted a longitudinal study that examined citizen responses to presidential, vice-presidential, and midterm campaign debates. The study began in 2004, repeated in 2008, and will continue through 2020, allowing many generations of students to participate. Through surveys, focus groups, and statewide polling, they were able to gauge the value of method triangulation as a mean to uncover issues such as the effectiveness of citizen DebateWatches, political efficacy and the influence of televised political debates.

Endress said that Efflandt and Malenfant saw patterns and themes that as communications professors, she and Israel may not have seen.

In November, Efflandt will be traveling to Chicago with faculty mentors Kay Israel and Valerie Endress of the communications department, to discuss findings at the 2009 National Communication Association annual convention.

Lindsey Beaudreau

Lindsey Beaudreau, a bachelor of fine arts major, completed a project called “Changing Roles: An Exploration of the Relationship between the Observer and the Observed in Portraiture, and How the Awareness of the Subject Changes and the Experience of the Viewer.” Beaudreau said she explored the intimate relationship between the subject of portraiture and the painter. She also explored the idea of finished versus unfinished zones as an avenue for focus. Beaudreau used graphite and charcoal lithography to create her works.

John McCaughey
John McCaughey Jr., a bachelor of fine arts major and art history minor, began his research this summer and will continue the project for honors credit. The research, called “Urban Dystopia,” looks to capture the common themes evoked through city life such as poverty and race, and the exploitation of them. In McCaughey’s research statement he wrote, “Art is a reflection of one’s inner self, the things you love and believe in.” One of his art pieces is a lithographic sketch of the inside of a community bus with a poster of President Obama, who he calls a symbol of hope.

Beaudreau and McCaughey’s faculty mentor, Steven Fisher thanked the DeStefanos, saying, “This was a wonderful opportunity for students to buy good materials and enough so that one piece of paper isn’t so precious that they can’t take a risk on it.”

Andrew Mignacca
Andrew Mignacca, a bachelor of fine arts major, concentrating in painting, worked with larger pieces of art for his project, “Exploration of the Figure, Its Presence and Meaning.” Mignacca said he was able to purchase good materials such as Baltic birch plywood for his nearly life-size paintings. His drawings and paintings expressed the ideas of space, body and flesh color and tone as well as the surrounding area.

Tara Crawford

Tara Crawford, a history major, studied the Ideology and Tactics of the national Woman’s Party in the early 20th century. Crawford spent a number of hours at the library of Dartmouth College, which holds the national Women’s Party microfilm collection. Crawford says she talked extensively about her research in her admissions essay to Dartmouth College, where Crawford will be studying history as a graduate student in January. Her faculty adviser was Elisa Miller.

Daniel Reeves

Daniel Reeves, a biology major, worked on a project called “Evolution of Diversity in Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptors in Sharks,” which focuses on the evolution function in a family of receptors know as Aryl Hydrocarbon receptors, known for their ability to bind to environmental hydrocarbons. A newly discovered member of this family, temporarily named AHR1X, is the focus of Reeves’ project, because its function and relationship to three shark AHRs are unknown. Reeves used cDNA cloning and sequencing, which was then inserted into a molecular expressions system to test the ability of the receptor to bind to environmental chemicals. The end result will allow scientists such as Reeves to understand how toxins and pollutants within the environment bind to proteins and cause physiological changes to a shark, and eventually human health.

Reeves faculty adviser for this project was Rebeka Merson, assistant professor of biology.

Alicia Kristen Roberts

Alicia Kristen Roberts, an anthropology and English double major, worked on a project called “Tutor’s Tales: Narrative and Identity Formation.” Working in the writing center during the summer with new and old tutors, Roberts focusing on the tutor’s perspective and asked the question, how exactly do the tutoring and personal stories shared between tutors affect the way they perceive themselves, their tutoring community, and the world?

Robert's faculty mentors were Edgar Martin del Campo of the Anthropology Department, Claudine Griggs, director of the writing center, and recently retired Meg Carroll, former director of the Writing Center.

“I am blown away,” said Anne DeStefano after listening to each student present his or her project. “It’s exciting to be able to hear and see you. As former teachers, we will do whatever we can to continue this as a part of your education.”

Bob DeStefano said, “Learning inside the classroom in necessary, but you learn a lot on the outside.”

“I am extremely proud of all the students. I look forward to more projects,” said Carriuolo.