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Work-in-Progress: Social and Cultural Activities Integrated into an REU Site in the U.S. South

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Todd Freeborn University of Alabama

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Todd Freeborn is an Assistant Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). He regularly teaches courses in circuit analysis, circuit networks, and microcomputers. Through NSF funding, he has coordinated REU Sites for engineering students to explore renewable resources and speech pathology. He is also the coordinator for an NSF S-STEM program to prepare students for gateway courses across different disciplines of engineering to support and retain students in these disciplines. His research focuses on techniques to collect and analyze the electrical impedance of biological tissues and their potential applications.

Memorie M. Gosa, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-S is a pediatric speech-language pathologist and board certified specialist in swallowing and swallowing disorders.  She is an associate professor with the Department of Communicative Disorders at The University of Alabama and maintains a clinical caseload.   Her research interests include exploring the validity and reliability of common diagnostic and treatment techniques utilized in pediatric populations.

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Memorie M. Gosa University of Alabama

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Memorie M. Gosa is a pediatric speech-language pathologist and board certified specialist in swallowing and swallowing disorders. She is an assistant professor at The University of Alabama and maintains a clinical caseload at The University of Alabama Speech and Hearing Center and Druid City Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Dr. Gosa has published and presented nationally and internationally on the topic of pediatric dysphagia diagnosis and management. Her research focuses on establishing the efficacy of common diagnostic and treatment methods used in the assessment and management of pediatric dysphagia.

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Participating in a research experience for undergraduates (REU) site provides opportunities for students to develop their research and technical skills, network with other REU students/professors, raise their awareness of graduate studies, and understand the social context of research. In support of this mission, our REU site at the University of Alabama is exploring research at the intersection of engineering and communicative disorders. Beyond research training though, an REU site provides the opportunity for professional development, social activities, and cultural activities to enrich the student experience. These are important features of an REU, which typically range from 9-10 weeks. Students that participate in summer REUs are recruited from around the country and are brought together at a central research site. Each student brings with them their unique perspectives and lived experiences. To form a cohesive cohort from the individual students, it is important to facilitate shared experiences early in their 9-10 week REU. Supporting the development of a student community through shared experiences has a significant impact on student perspectives of the program. Shared experiences also provide the opportunity to increase the students’ understanding of the new city/state/region that is the setting for the REU. The 2019 iteration of our REU Site, which has a theme of developing technology to support clinical practice in the field of communicative sciences and disorders, aimed to increase the level of social and cultural activities of the cohort in comparison to previous REU sites on campus. This was achieved with multiple professional development, cultural, and social activities. For professional development, students participated in a Practicing Inclusive Engagement workshop to build skills for intercultural engagement that in turn foster a more inclusive REU cohort. Students participated in this workshop within the first three days of arriving on campus. This workshop focused on identity, inclusive language, and creative ways to invite and engage in diverse perspectives. For cultural activities, full-day field trips were taken to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL and The Legacy Museum / The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL. These trips engaged students in very different aspects of Alabama's history. One showcasing achievements of the U.S. space and rocket program and the other investigating the racial injustice in American history and its legacy. While many of the students were familiar with these histories, the museums and their compelling visuals and data-rich exhibits provided a far deeper insight into these topics and facilitated further conversation between the REU cohort. The REU cohort spent much of their summer learning with and from graduate students enrolled in the masters of speech-language pathology (SLP) program at the University of Alabama. At the end of the summer experience, a BBQ event was facilitated (food, yard games) to spur on friendly competition between REU and SLP students. This provided both groups an informal opportunity to debrief about the summer experiences. In this work an overview of the REU site will be provided with a focus on the logistical elements to pilot the social, cultural and professional development efforts, a summary of the student feedback from the written reflections and focus groups, experiences of the program coordinators, and future plans to refine and improve these elements will be presented.

Freeborn, T., & Gosa, M. M. (2021, July), Work-in-Progress: Social and Cultural Activities Integrated into an REU Site in the U.S. South Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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