Zan Gao, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Kinesiology and director of the Physical Activity Epidemiology Lab (PAEL), was reappointed as a high-end foreign expert on Physical Activity and Health by the People’s Republic of China for summer 2017. During his appointment tenure, Gao was based at Hunan Normal University (Changsha, China) and stayed in China for one month over the summer.
During his stay, Gao delivered a series of lectures on physical activity and health, helped the university establish the discipline in physical activity and health, offered a number of workshops to faculty and students, as well as trained the faculty and graduate students in conducting a cutting-edge research project. Gao is an alumnus of Hunan Normal University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in physical education.
In addition, Gao was selected as the Foreign Outstanding Instructor by Hunan Province of China in summer 2017. He was based at Huaihua University, where he delivered a course titled “Advances in Physical Activity and Health,” as well as mentored the faculty and students in conducting two research projects in the university and local rural communities. Gao’s lectures have been well-received by the students and faculty members at Huaihua University.
This program prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory and to accelerate basic-research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization. The aim of this grant is to move forward the lab’s robotic rehabilitation technology that is jointly developed with partners in Italy and Singapore. As part of this grant, a team consisting of postdoctoral researcher Naveen Elangovan (entrepreneurial lead), Jürgen Konczak and Pat Tarnowski as a business adviser is formed. Pat is a trained PT with an MBA and is currently the Senior Director of Clinical Health Solutions at BCBS of Minnesota. The team will work closely with NSF staff and advisers to explore and understand the U.S. market.
The award for the project, “Graduate Training Program in Sensory Science: Optimizing the Information Available for Mind and Brain,” was granted jointly to the Center for Cognitive Sciences and the Center for Applied and Translational Sensory Sciences. The grant will enable the centers’ teams to initiate a new interdisciplinary graduate training program that unites a fundamental understanding of basic sensory science (vision, audition, motor control, speech and language) with deep technical expertise in engineering, computer science, and other related fields. The project will explore the development of effective assistive technologies for people with sensory deficits that have a major impact on an individual’s quality of life.
Konczak is a member of the faculty of the Center for Cognitive Sciences and director of the Center for Clinical Movement Science. Colleges providing support on the grant are the College of Education and Human Development, College of Liberal Arts, and College of Science and Engineering. More information about the award is available here.
An independent evaluation study by Maureen Weiss, Ph.D., professor in the School of Kinesiology, shows that Girls on the Run, a national physical activity-based positive youth development program for elementary-age girls, has a profound and lasting positive impact on girls’ confidence, competence, connection to others, character, caring, and life skills.
Girls on the Run is a nonprofit organization that uses running as a vehicle for teaching life skills to girls in third through fifth grades. The intentional life skills curriculum and mandatory annual coach training set Girls on the Run apart from other activity programs. The three-part curriculum teaches understanding of self, valuing relationships and teamwork, and exploring one’s connection to the world.
Weiss’s study revealed that:
Girls on the Run participants were significantly more likely than girls in organized sport and physical education to learn and use life skills including managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others or making intentional decisions.
97% of girls said they learned critical life skills at Girls on the Run that they are using at home, at school and with their friends
Girls who began the program with below-average scores dramatically improved from pre- to post-season on all outcomes—competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring. This shows that girls who might need a positive youth development program benefited most from their participation.
Girls who were the least active before Girls on the Run increased their physical activity level by 40% from pre- to post-season and maintained this increased level beyond the program’s end.
The video and the website illuminate the study findings through an interactive format. The study has also been publicized on Globe Newswire.
“Girls on the Run participants scored higher in managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others, and making intentional decisions than participants in organized sport or physical education,” said Weiss. “Being able to generalize skills learned in the program to other situations such as at school or at home is a distinguishing feature of Girls on the Run compared to traditional youth sports and school PE, and suggests that the intentional life skills curriculum and coach-training program can serve as exemplars for other youth programs.”
Cohen and Kaiper are both Ph.D. candidates studying comparative and international development education. Cohen’s dissertation research, funded by a Fulbright Fellowship, employs ethnographic methods to examine the ways in which educational programs foster inclusive environments for Syrian refugees and country nationals in Jordan. Kaiper’s dissertation surrounds the English language learning of South African domestic workers drawing from both a postcolonial and poststructural framework.
Joan DeJaeghere, associate professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (OLPD), recently presented on her new book to faculty and graduate students of Agricultural Economics and Business Studies at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania. Morogoro is one of the sites for the study discussed in her book, Educating Entrepreneurial Citizens: Neoliberalism and Youth Livelihoods in Tanzania (Routledge). Her presentation and the book ask the question of how global discourses related to entrepreneurship education that aim to reduce youth unemployment and poverty get adapted and reshaped in local social and economic contexts of Tanzania. It examines how entrepreneurship education is reshaping the purpose of education for citizenship – that of engaging in work that allows youth to supposedly get out of poverty. But such entrepreneurship education doesn’t necessarily ensure these youth get out of poverty; however, additional education/training for marginalized youth can change the social relations that exclude them because they haven’t completed their education or worked in the formal labor market. We found in this study that it gives marginalized youth additional credentials to be “skilled people” and allows them to contribute, even minimally, to the economic wellbeing of the community. The book is based on research in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation’s Learn, Earn and Save Initiative, for which Joan serves as PI.
Daheia Barr-Anderson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Director of the Behavioral Physical Activity Lab, was quoted in two online magazine articles for Highlights Magazine online. Barr-Anderson’s research interests focus on physical activity, sedentary behaviors, and obesity prevention in children and adolescents, and she used her expertise to answer questions and advise parents on how to aid their children in living an active lifestyle and combat the couch-potato culture.
His Hungarian hosts comprised researchers with backgrounds in mathematics, physics, and cognitive neuroscience with an interest in modeling human movement and translating this knowledge to help patients with spinal cord injuries to regain function. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Magyar Tudományos Akadémia) is the most important and prestigious academic society of Hungary. Its main responsibilities are the cultivation of science, dissemination of scientific findings, supporting research and development and representing Hungarian science domestically and around the world.
On June 20 and 21, roughly 500 of Minnesota’s education leaders, researchers, policy makers, and nonprofit organizations gathered at Educational Equity in Action II. This was the second convening hosted by the University of Minnesota. Its focus: improving educational equity by “Working across schools and communities to enhance social emotional learning.”
Dr. Martin Brokenleg, Co-author of the book Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Our Hope for the Future and co-developer of the Circle of Courage model,explained that trauma from oppression, like that experienced by the American Indian community, can span generations.
“Our culture is plagued by intergenerational trauma,” said Brokenleg, whose mother’s family was among those imprisoned at Fort Snelling. He cited the incredibly high suicide rate among Native people, especially in the 18-30 age group, and among people in Ireland and Scotland after generations of oppression by the British, whose methods not coincidentally were adopted by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. “We’ve had a normal human reaction to an abnormal history.”
Brokenleg described his Circle of Courage model which supports character building or “teaching the heart” through generosity, belonging, independence, and mastery. Brokenleg finished his talk with practical strategies from Circle of Courage attendees could take back to their schools and communities to help young people—especially those suffering from intergenerational trauma—learn and grow.
Dr. Michael Rodriguez, professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, Jim and Carmen Campbell Leadership Chair in Education and Human Development, and co-director of the Educational Equity Resource Center and the covening, led a plenary discussion on the results of the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS).
Rodriguez explained, although at a high-level the MSS tells a positive story about the developmental skills and supports of Minnesota youth, a closer look at the data demonstrates the reality of the inequities some students experience in Minnesota’s education system. This is particularly apparent for students identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB); students who skip school; students who receive disciplinary action in school; and students who have experienced trauma.
“Ninety-nine percent of our youth say their goal is to graduate from high school—and 65 to 85 percent across demographic groups also want to go to college,” said Rodriguez. “That’s a lot higher than our state’s high school graduation goal for them, which is now about 90 percent by 2020!”
He emphasized that students’ own goals are higher than those we’ve set as a state.
Following the plenary, students in Rodriguez’s Minnesota Youth Development Research Group (MYDRG) led detailed discussions on the MSS results for some of these groups, including: American Indian students, Hmong students, students in special education, LGB students, and students experiencing trauma.
Throughout the convening, participants selected from 28 smaller group breakout sessions on social-emotional learning led by University of Minnesota researchers, youth engagement groups, school districts, the Minneapolis Department of Education, and more. Several sessions included youth as presenters and/or focused on youth participatory action research projects.
Small group discussions
Before the final keynote, attendees participated in a process called TRIZ. They met in small groups—dividing themselves up based on the different developmental skills and supports students need to be successful (identified in Rodriguez’s work). Participants started with the unusual task of listing actions communities might take to destroy the skill being discussed in youth. Then, they shared opportunities they had to remove some of these destructive activities and developed action plans for their schools, communities, and organizations.
Dr. Muhammad Khalifa, associate professor in Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, closed out the convening by challenging the group to practice culturally responsive school leadership (CRSL). He asked that school leaders promote schooling that addresses the specific cultural and learning needs of students by focusing on the perspectives of parents, students, and community members.
“Change in schools can be promoted and fostered by ‘leaders,’ but culturally responsive school leadership is practiced by all stakeholders,” said Khalifa. “Community-based based knowledge informs good leadership practice.”
In this statement, Khalifa connected his keynote to Rodriguez’ and Brokenleg’s work. Each of the speakers stressed the importance of listening to all members of our community to improve educational equity.
Khalifa ended his talk by sharing strategies to help attendees to achieve CRSL in their own schools, organizations, and communities.
“Our IGDILab team is pleased to partner with SPPS on such an important venture. We jointly recognize the importance of Hmong language development to the local community and look forward to learning how early language development affects young Hmong-English bilingual students’ language and literacy development,” said McConnell.
Wackerle-Hollman and Erickson will co-lead the project, focusing on the community’s expertise in Hmong language to understand how the language develops. St Paul is home to the largest urban Hmong population in the nation and nearly a quarter of enrolled SPPS students are Hmong. They’ll use these findings to develop a Hmong language version of the Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs)—brief, easy to use measures of early language and literacy designed for use with preschool children. The new measures will be used by educators to assess Hmong preschool children’s early language and literacy skills.
“IGDILab continues to pursue the development of meaningful measures for communities that are underserved, including bilingual students,” said Wackerle-Hollman. “This began with early language and literacy measures for Spanish-speaking students and continues through our partnership with St. Paul public schools to develop high quality measures for Hmong students.”
IGDILab is a research lab at the University of Minnesota led by Wackerle-Hollman and McConnell. The lab researches, designs, and tests IGDI measures to support data-based decision making by teachers, early childhood professionals, parents, and others to help improve early childhood outcomes. IGDILab has secured over $5 million in funding in the past decade to pursue complementary research including the assessment of English and Spanish language and early literacy development for children three, four, and five years of age as well as supporting resources to facilitate data-based decisions using scores derived from IGDIs.
“I’m particularly interested in student outcomes as they relate to community engagement, service learning and building civic identity. I want to understand how students experience service learning and community engagement and how their educations are shaped by their work in communities. This will help us improve the programs and experiences we provide. We’re finding that the environment we create for service learning really matters in how the students and communities are affected. An extremely positive – or negative – experience can have a lifelong impact on students’ sense of engagement.”
Kinesiology professors Juergen Konczak, Ph.D., and Michael Wade, Ph.D., addressed over 700 attendees of the Suzhou International Conference on Child Health Development. The conference centered around themes of how early childhood education best promotes cognitive, social, sensory and motor development. Suzhou is a city of about 10.5 million people in southeastern China. Kinesiology professor Li Li Ji, Ph.D., also attended the conference.
“Why would anyone pay $600 for something that makes you toss your cookies?” Stoffregen asks in the article. He argues that companies who sell VR games are not dealing with changing the designs of the games, but are simply changing their liability rules should consumers become ill.
The article discusses Stoffregen’s research extensively, as well as studies being conducted by the Mayo Clinic, which may provide answers to the problems with nausea and sickness related to VR and VR applications across a broad spectrum.
Beth Lewis, Ph.D., School of Kinesiology director and professor, is a co-investigator on an NIH/National Institute of Nursing grant (R01 NR016705-01), “Community-based intervention effects of older adults’ physical activity and falls.” The purpose of this study is to identify behavioral change strategies that lead to increased physical activity and in turn lead to a reduction in falls and improved quality of life (QOL) among older adults. She will be working with PI Siobhan McMahon and other co-investigators to refine and consult on the intervention implementation and physical activity assessment. The grant will run through January, 2022.
Thomas J. Smith, Ph.D., adjunct lecturer for the School of Kinesiology, is first author on a paper presented at the recently concluded 12th International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health, “Work, Stress and Health 2017: Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities,” that convened in Minneapolis June 7-10. The paper is titled, ‘The Productivity Paradox – A Distracted Working Hypothesis.’ The paper also will be published in the conference proceedings.