Graduate Research Symposium Oral Presentations

This year, students submitted pre-recorded oral presentations on their academic and creative work. Oral presenters will join a live group discussion via Zoom, led by a WCU faculty member. The schedule for the live discussion sessions will be provided below, once final details are confirmed.

In addition, top graduate oral presenters will compete to participate in Graduate Education Day in Raleigh where they will meet with state legislators to share their research findings and encourage support of graduate education.

Discussion Sessions with Graduate Presenters

Graduate Oral Presentations By College and Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Biology – M.S.

An Examination of Introgression in the Trillium erectum Species Complex Using Microsatellite Analysis
Graduate Student: Austin Brenek
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Kathy Mathews, Dr. Beverly Collins, Dr. Anjana Sharma

Photosynthesis, water use, and biomass allocation of Princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa) and Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) first year seedlings across a light gradient and prescribed fire
Graduate Student: Hannah Dinkins
Faculty Sponsor(s):

Laricobius nigrinus Egg Releases and Oviposition Behavior: A Potential New Protocol in the Fight Against Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
Graduate Student: Lauren Gonzalez
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. James Costa, Dr. Angel Mech, Dr. Jane Dell


Chemistry – M.S.

Kinetic Studies of Biosorption of Copper from Ground Peanut Hulls
Graduate Student: Tolulope Alaye
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Carmen Huffman


English – M.A.

Sounds of Life in Ithaca, New York: Laura Kephart’s Letter to Leonard Kephart, 1946
Graduate Student: Zachary Sheppard
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Laura Wright

Horace Transcription Project: Laura Kephart’s Letter to Leonard Kephart February 18, 1953
Graduate Student: Steve Swilling
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Laura Wright


History – M.A.

The Reintroduction of Elk to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: an Environmental History Perspective
Graduate Student: Sharlene O’Donnell
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Andrew Denson

College of Education and Allied Professions
Educational Leadership – Ed.D.

Enhancing Mental Health and Self-Care through Student Mindfulness Training: The Case of the University of North Carolina School of Law
Graduate Student: John Kasprzak
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Jess Weiler

Increasing Exposure and Understanding of Post-Secondary Education:  Breaking Down Barriers to College During a Pandemic
Graduate Student(s): Erica Vandermore, Amy Wagner
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Jess Weiler

Out of Sight, Not Out of Mind: Transition Supports for Transfer Students Entering Fully-Online Programs at Western Carolina University
Graduate Student: Myra Watson
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Kim Winter


Elementary Education – M.A.Ed. – STEM

Engineering in STEM: Impact on Male and Female Elementary Student Engagement
Graduate Student: Tracy Hewitt
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Carrie Rogers, Dr. Frank Forcino


Psychology – M.A.

Adolescent Personality as Predictor of Success in Wilderness Therapy
Graduate Student: Madeline Adolf
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. David McCord

Differences in Stigma Consciousness in LGBTQ Individuals During the Coming Out Process
Graduate Student: Megan Moomaw
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. David Solomon


Psychology (Health Service) – Psy.D.

Suicide Assessment and Risk Among WCU Students
Graduate Student: Adam Hicks
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. David McCord

College of Engineering and Technology
Technology – M.S.

Feedback Control of a Rear Mountain Bike Shock Utilizing a Magnetorheological Damper
Graduate Student: Marshall Murphy
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Scott Pierce

Implementing AI on a Neural Prosthesis to assist Gait on People with Muscle Weakness
Graduate Student: Pablo Valenzuela
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Martin Tanaka, Dr. Paul Yanik, Dr. David McCord

College of Fine and Performing Arts
Fine Arts – M.F.A.

Watershed- a Pathway Connecting Communities with the Arts to Engage in Creative Ways of Addressing Issues Affecting People and the Environment.
Graduate Student(s): Jenn Gordon, Lori Park, Kate Chassner
Faculty Sponsor(s): Tom Ashcraft, Morgan Kennedy

College of Health and Human Sciences
Physical Therapy – D.P.T.

Creating an Online and Video Learning Adjunct for Didactic Education in Physical Therapy
Graduate Student(s): Cameron Green, Alison Plaisted, Christi Rowe, Sebastian Faundez, Shane Lohf
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. John Carzoli, Dr. David Hudson

Interdisciplinary Instruction And Perceptions Of Online Learning Among Doctor Of Physical Therapy And Physical Therapist Assistant Students
Graduate Student(s): Benjamin Houska, Dani Harris, Emily Schaul, Tim Levene, Mary Kelsey Trumps, Kelly Smoot
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Elizabeth Wark, Dr. Tim Eckard

Helping Hondurans Stay Active During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Graduate Student(s): Courtney DeDea, Hayley Gee, Kim Avalos, Kyle Donaldson, Alex Miller, Bianca Boieru, Fran Toler, Bailey Cloninger, Kaleigh Mathis, Madison Vaughn
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Todd Watson, Dr. Jessica Graning

The Effects of Focus of Attention on Functional Movement and Motor Learning in Individuals Post Stroke
Graduate Student(s): Anne Gallagher, Abby Murrell, Carly Reiman, Tyler Steele, Halee Wright
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Ashley Hyatt, Dr. David Hudson, Kim Hudson M.S.

What Balance Related Biomechanical Changes Occur in the Lower Extremity Due to Physical Fatigue?
Graduate Student(s): Blake Gereb, Connor Blanton, Cameron Dellinger
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. David Hudson

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction for the General Practicing Physical Therapist
Graduate Student(s): Daniel Jennings, Nina Whorton, Maureen Tray, Shannon Gerney
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Douglas Keskula

Feasibility and Psychometric Properties of Performance Measures in the Telehealth Environment
Graduate Student(s): Stephanie Smith, Allie Steinhoff, Clay Gardiner, Holly Hamm, Kelly McNamara, Maria-Adriana Rojas
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Lori Schrodt, Dr. Tammy Simmons

Clinical Benefits of Blood Flow Restriction Training in Patients with Musculoskeletal Impairments
Graduate Student(s): Mark Steele, Kyle Boraski, Dylan Wells
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. David Hudson, Dr. Josh Jones