University of Kansas graduate student Beth Rankin’s research examines traumatic stress experienced by novice elementary teachers exposed to the emotional ups and downs of their students.
She found evidence of transmission from student to teacher in a high-poverty Wichita school based on a 30-item survey of positive and negative effects of working with people who experienced extreme stress. She plans to follow educators who quit the profession to ascertain whether exposure to students’ suffering produced symptoms akin to post-traumatic stress disorder and triggered their resignation.
“There are teachers out there who are unable to sleep at night, having nightmares, wondering about what their students are going through when they’re out of the classroom,” said Rankin, a doctoral student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
Rankin was among 50 graduate students from six state universities in Kansas to participate last week in the 17th annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit at the Statehouse. The Capitol Insider podcast, a project of The Topeka Capital-Journal, captured an admittedly unscientific sample of research insights from graduate students.
Army gender bias
Holly Speck, mass communications graduate student at Kansas State University, explored how gender was visually and verbally framed in U.S. Army television commercials aired from 2008 to 2018.
She came away with a tip for marketers responsible for attracting volunteer recruits to the Army: Stop stereotyping women.
Speck said “Warriors Wanted” and “Army Strong” ad campaigns depicted men in combat and women in noncombat roles, such as health care. This bias exists despite authorization for females to serve in combat positions.
“Are they actually shown in these combat roles in these commercials? I found they were not,” Speck said.
In the advertising, she said, 420 men and 95 women characters were featured. All narration was masculine. In the commercials, 97% of combat roles were filled by males and 68% of medical jobs and 88% of civilian spouse roles depicted women, she said.
Dulcinea Rakestraw, a psychology graduate student at Wichita State University, was drawn to evaluation of new screening tools for identification of substance misuse among patients at a federally qualified health center in Wichita. Her goal was to figure out if doctors were gathering a fuller picture of patients’ risk for misuse of opioids and other drugs.
Some health professionals are hesitant about asking patients about drug abuse. New screening can open lines of communication in Sedgwick County, which recorded 22% of opioid fatalities in 2017 despite representing 17% of the state’s population, she said.
“So that we can appropriately get the individuals that are in need of higher level care to those appropriate services before the problem becomes too big,” Rakestraw said.
Prescribed burns of tallgrass prairie in Kansas occur each April, filling the sky with smoke as fire sweeps away plant debris, curtails woody vegetation and encourages growth of grass favored by grazing livestock.
Bethany Roberton, an Emporia State University graduate student in biological science, is exploring potential of grassland burns during other seasons in terms of promoting restoration of native grasses. Her two-year project at Ross Natural History Reservation in Americus is looking at response of plants and behavior of pollinators following burn treatments in spring, summer and fall.
She believes the research could be of interest to crop farmers keen to restore prairie around their fields.
“Pollinators are so essential for crop fields and I think people are beginning to see that as the prairie habitat is dwindling,” Roberton said.
Conviction of innocent men and women, specifically those who confessed to criminal acts under questioning by law enforcement officers, inspired research of Tatiyanna Ray, a graduate student in criminal justice at Fort Hays State University.
“There is this misconception that you don’t confess to something you didn’t do,” she said. “Once you confess to something, that’s kind of like a smoking gun.”
Ray said factors contributing to false confessions and wrongful convictions included the interrogation subject’s age, mental health and education, as well as their level of stress, hunger and substance abuse.
She said all law enforcement interviews with suspects should be recorded and officers ought to be trained to identify issues making individuals vulnerable to false confessions.
Pittsburg State University communications graduate student Sakshi Bhati said people who voluntarily travel from North or South America to India or China for medical procedures were exposing themselves to grave health risks.
Her analysis of media reports on “medical tourism” fatalities from 2009 to 2019 showed the majority of deaths were among middle-aged women undergoing cosmetic surgery. Many turn to brokers to connect them with clinics or physicians overseas, she said.
“You don’t know what the medical institution is like,” she said. “You don’t know if the doctor is capable enough.”
Another problem is desperate patients sign documents full of jargon or text written in an unfamiliar language, she said.
“They just say, ’Yes,’ because they’re saving money,” she said.