Research colloquia designed to refine range of academic ideas

April 07, 2015 / by / 1 Comment

By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau

The several presentations being made this week as part of Grand Canyon University’s annual research colloquia are not intended to be finished, polished academic research projects.

Rather, for some faculty, the colloquia may help them narrow the focus or redefine the approach of their research to make it more impactful.

Although the work being shared, by a range of faculty across disciplines, is at various stages of completion, all of the research topics being explored at sessions on Tuesday and Thursday are intended to spark conversation. Presentations are scheduled for 3-5 p.m. both days at Howerton Hall and are open to the campus community.

Kevin McClean

Kevin McClean

Dr. Kevin McClean, the Colangelo College of Business professor who oversees the colloquia, said the event is intended to be less formal than a traditional research symposium. Ideas to be discussed range from those where faculty are just beginning to explore methodology to others that are nearly completed or ready for publication.

The idea is to provide a group critique, which faculty can use as constructive scrutiny of their research or their investigations of an issue. Audience members may make suggestions about specific points presenters may want to address, or they can challenge their overall methodology.

“They might get a question they haven’t thought of,” McClean said. “The idea is that people put themselves out there with their research, hoping to get feedback that will help them produce an even stronger product.”

McClean, who oversees GCU’s chapter of the Delta Mu Delta business honors society, said the University has hosted a spring research colloquia since 2008. For the last several years, the University’s other academic honors societies have co-sponsored the events.

As GCU has grown, so has the colloquium concept. What began as a one-day event with a handful of presentations has since spilled over into a second day, which McClean attributed to GCU faculty’s continued commitment to analyzing the challenges in their core academic areas.

“The quality of the research in general is getting better and it’s of better academic quality … as an academic institution, we’re seeing more involvement across a broader spectrum of research,” McClean said.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:

Tuesday presentations

● Dr. Kennedy Amofa (Colangelo College of Business), “Faculty members’ acceptance of smart technologies: A study of apps technology acceptance and usage.” Based in Rochester, Minn., Amofa is an adjunct faculty member who teaches graduate courses in psychology. He earned his Ph.D. in Organization and Management from Capella University in 2013.

Presentation addresses: How recent technological advancements, namely with the mobility of personal devices, has “created a surge in demand” for mobile apps to “enhance both teaching and learning experience for students and faculty members.” Amofa said he’s interested in exploring a void in research about development of education apps’ acceptance by University-level faculty and the impact of current technology on students.

● Tina Salata (College of Science, Engineering and Technology), “Blended learning in environmental biology.” Salata is a full-time online faculty member who has taught environmental biology and life sciences courses in CSET. She has a master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy from Northern Arizona University.

Presentation addresses: A summary of experiences from GCU’s undergraduate blended learning pilot program, which provided students with the opportunity to attend class three days a week for one hour combined with two days a week when classroom time was combined with online posting requirements. “Students expanded their knowledge gained in the class via the technology used, student empowerment and student surveys,” Salata wrote. She is interested in comparing data on how the “asynchronous discussion format was used to meet the best practices of blended learning and environmental education.”

Salata, Dr. Bernise Charlton and Dr. Allen Spaulding (CSET), “Comparing effectiveness of integrated e-textbook and PDF textbook. Charlton and Spaulding are full-time online faculty and have taught environmental biology. Charlton earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Microbiology from the University of Arizona. Spaulding earned his Ph.D. in Biology from Utah State University.

Presentation addresses: The effectiveness of “integrated e-textbook and PDF textbooks in environmental biology,” measuring responses of students and faculty in GCU’s BIO 220 (Environmental Biology: A Global Concern) online course. Salata is seeking feedback about research design.

● Cindy Seminoff (CSET), “Lifetime wellness and stages of change.” Seminoff is lead faculty for GCU’s exercise science program. She has a master’s degree in Exercise Science from Arizona State University.

Presentation addresses: A research project Seminoff began last year to “evaluate the impact of a ‘Lifetime Wellness’ course on students’ motivation for physical activity.” GCU exercise science majors are required to complete a similar course, and other majors use the course as an elective. Seminoff is seeking feedback related to research of programs designed to promote health and wellness.

Thursday presentations

● Dr. Michael Baird (College of Theology), “Exegesis by story.” Baird is a longtime faculty member whose teaching focus is on Biblical studies. He has a Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Presentation addresses: A summary of key aspects of exegesis, or Biblical interpretation, which Baird has been researching. He is exploring how to present the research, possibly for a hermeneutics textbook.

● Dr. Renee Cooperman (College of Humanities and Social Sciences), “Understanding assignments as an indicator of online success.” Cooperman, a full-time online faculty member, earned a doctorate in Rhetoric, Composition and the Teaching of English from the University of Arizona.

Presentation addresses: An interdisciplinary approach to examine how students’ understanding of assignment instructions aligns with their preparedness for college online courses. “Successful students exhibit a very different relationship with writing assignments compared to students who struggle,” Cooperman wrote. Using a variety of data, she proposes exploring “the influences of a fluent understanding of metaphor on reading comprehension along with the culturally influenced tensions between writing that demonstrates thinking and colloquial communication that builds community in order to identify the roadblocks remedial students face in higher education as evidenced in the misinterpretation of assignments.”

● Dr. Daisy Savarirajan (CSET), “Faith and facts: integrating spirituality into scientific inquiry.” Savarirajan is an instructor of microbiology. She has a doctorate in Molecular Microbiology from the University of Madras in India.

Presentation addresses: The integration of Christian faith in GCU classrooms. Savarirajan has noted huge gains in student learning outcomes through the inclusion of prayer, including in the lab environment.

● Alison Pattison (College of Education), “The relation between social presence cues and online graduate student achievement.” Pattison taught elementary school for more than 20 years and has been a GCU online faculty member since 2010. She has a master’s degree in Education from Ottawa University.

Presentation addresses: With the rising demand for quality online education, how strategies are being developed to increase student outcomes. “The growth in online education has highlighted the necessity for specific strategies that online faculty can use to help students with the common challenges of the modality,” Pattison wrote. “Social presence is an example of such a strategy. Social presence, at a most basic level, is defined as the feeling of community that a student experiences in an online environment and the ability of students to build social connections in an online environment.”

Contact Michael Ferraresi at 602-639-7030 or

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One Response
  1. Timothy Young

    This is exactly the type of activity that is going to help GCU rise to the next level. A discussion of research and a focus on research by its faculty and student body will create a rich culture of learning and allow new ideas and approaches. Allowing GCU faculty to express their expertise in their field and involve their new PhD Candidates to partake in their respective fields as true academics who are able to interact and contribute to the larger body of knowledge. Way to go GCU! We are watching!

    Apr.10.2015 at 8:58 am
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