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U of M alum, coach, teacher, and pro basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

A U of M alumnus, coach, and physical education instructor, a basketball Hall of Fame member, and one of the top coaches in NBA history has died at age 101.

John Kundla graduated from the U of M in 1939 and in 1941 became assistant basketball coach for the Gophers. Other pursuits intervened, including teaching and coaching at DeLaSalle High School, service in WWII, and coaching the Minneapolis Lakers professional basketball team, but Kundla returned to the U in the 1959-1960 season to become the first alumnus to serve as Gophers basketball coach.  He was the first U basketball coach to offer scholarships to African-Americans. Bobby Bell, who played on the Gophers football team that went to the Rose Bowl in 1961, became the first African-American to play for the basketball team. In the mid-1960s, future NBA All-Stars Archie Clark and Lou Hudson played for Kundla’s Gophers.

After the 1967-68 season, Kundla stepped down.  He continued to teach in the U’s Physical Education Department (now the School of Kinesiology) until retiring in 1981.

Read the complete obituary here.

 

 

 

Kohli, colleagues receive grant for first treatment study of gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer

Nidhi Kohli headshot
Dr. Nidhi Kohli

While prostate cancer treatment can make sex more difficult for straight men, almost nothing is known about its effects on gay and bisexual men. Nidhi Kohli, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s quantitative methods in education program, is part of an interdisciplinary team that has received a $3.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study the effects of prostate cancer on the sex lives of gay and bisexual men. The goal of the project is to develop a rehabilitation program to help such men overcome these challenges and improve quality of life.

Kohli is co-investigator on the grant and will lead the quantitative methodology for the study, Restore. Specifically, she will be in charge of all data management, including analyses of research hypotheses. The group includes colleagues from the School of Public Health, Medical School, School of Nursing, College of Liberal Arts, and College of Science and Engineering.

“Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer among all men including homosexual men. I am very excited to contribute and learn from this large-scale study that will involve developing and evaluating the effects of a rehabilitation program via randomized clinical trial,” Kohli says. “The study has the potential to make a difference in the quality of life of gay and bisexual men who have been treated for prostate cancer, and this gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

Learning Technologies Media Lab releases climate change documentary on PBS

Professor Aaron Doering and his team of explorers and educators trek across the unforgiving arctic landscape by dog sled in order to deliver a real-time educational program to millions of students who follow along on the adventure. Their efforts have been captured in a documentary, “The Changing Earth: Crossing the Arctic,” co-produced by the Department of Curriculum and Instruction’s Learning Technologies Media Lab (LTML) and Twin Cities’ Public Television (TPT).

The Changing Earth project was conceived and led by Doering as a way to engage students in a real-world adventure by broadcasting from wherever they find themselves along the journey—on sleds, in tents, and across frozen treks to Inuit villages. “We focus on a culture, we focus on an environmental issue, and now we focus on a social issue,” says Doering of each new adventure-learning expedition.

The first arctic expedition in 2004 took six months. By the end of the trip, Doering was excited to see that they had over three million learners watching from around the world. The program introduces students and viewers to the challenges of the Arctic and the impact of climate change on its indigenous people in a way that resonates with young learners.

The Changing Earth documentary is now available for free on PBS for anyone interested in learning more about the hardships and thrills of crossing the arctic.

Consider supporting the work of LTML to continue the work of documenting the impact of climate change for all learners.

Find out more about the degree programs available in Learning Technologies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, which houses the LT Media Lab.

ICI’s Gulaid among panelists for Voice of America town hall on autism and vaccines

 

ICI's Anab Gulaid (in blue headscarf) is interviewed on camera at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs on July 8, 2017.
ICI’s Anab Gulaid (in blue headscarf) is interviewed on camera at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs on July 8, 2017.

Anab Gulaid, a public health expert in CEHD’s Institute on Community Integration, was a panelist for Vaccine and Autism: Myths and Facts, a recent town hall forum held to address Somali parents’ concerns about the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine, autism, and the measles outbreak affecting the Twin Cities’ Somali community.

Held on July 8 at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, the forum was hosted by the Humphrey School and the Voice of America news network, which broadcast the two panel discussions – one in Somali and one in English – to its worldwide audience. The gathering, which was covered by numerous media (e.g., Minnesota Public Radio,  Fox 9 News), was prompted by the measles outbreak tied to low MMR vaccination rates among Minnesota’s Somali community.

See video of the panel discussion in English (which includes a short segment on autism research by CEHD faculty Jed Elison and Jason Wolff) and the other panel discussion in Somali (which includes Anab Gulaid).

Family social science degrees reimagined for fall 2017

Students interested in a family social science major will be able to choose from three concentrations. Photo by Erica Loeks.

 

Students considering a family social science degree will have new options for fall 2017. Following a redesign of the curriculum, the Department of Family Social Science has created three concentrations for the family social science undergraduate major that create clear career paths for students interested in improving the lives of diverse families.

“We wanted to help students focus and create a roadmap to careers or an advanced degree in family social science,” said Lynne Borden, department head. “It’s a degree that gives students a great multidisciplinary foundation with the opportunity to be mentored by some of the country’s top researchers in the field.”

Family social science degree concentrations

The family and community engagement concentration is designed for students aspiring to work directly with families in community settings. The family therapy option prepares students for entry-level clinical positions or for advanced study in marriage and family therapy or a practitioner certification, such as the parent education teaching license. The family financial studies concentration is designed for students who are interested in becoming a family financial counselor or coach or other similar career paths.

“Our alumni use their FSoS degrees in a variety of careers,” said Jodi Dworkin, associate department head, professor, and extension specialist.  “Alumni are working as mortgage counselors for banks, program case managers at non-profits and in a variety of teaching positions in K-12 education and in the community.”

For more information contact Jill Trites, director of undergraduate studies,  or visit the FSoS website.

CEHD alumni honored with Outstanding Achievement Award

David Metzen, Eric Kaler, and John Haugo

 

CEHD alumni John Haugo and David Metzen received the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Achievement Award (OAA)  on June 19 at an evening reception at Eastcliff.  They were recognized for their significant contributions to Minnesota’s educational system and given their awards by President Eric Kaler. The OAA is the University of Minnesota’s highest award for graduates.

John Haugo was an innovative tech entrepreneur before it was cool. After working as a teacher for many years, Haugo went on to earn an M.A. (’64) and Ph.D. (’68) from CEHD. He had a specialty in information systems and, after finishing his doctorate, led the implementation of computer networks across Minnesota State University campuses.

He was later appointed to a governor’s task force to study the potential use of computers in education, which led to his position as executive director of the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, or MECC. Early on, Haugo realized the educational potential of personal desktop computers and the importance of teaching students how to use them. Because of his efforts at MECC, all public schools in Minnesota had Apple computers with instructional software, and teachers were trained how to incorporate them into their lesson plans. Haugo eventually moved on to launch his entrepreneurial career and founded several software companies focused on health care delivery and resource management. One of his colleagues said, “John could have used his entrepreneurial skills in any type of business, but he wanted to improve the world.”

David Metzen went from being a U of M hockey standout to having an exemplary career in the field of public education. Metzen has a B.S. (’64), M.A. (’70) and Ed.D. (’73) from CEHD. He started his career as a teacher in his hometown of South Saint Paul, soon advancing to the position of principal and later superintendent. A parent from that time shared, “On the first day of school, Dave took our daughter by the hand and walked her to her classroom, all the while telling her how great school was going to be. She not only believed him then, she is now a 9th grade English teacher in the Minneapolis public schools.” As a lifelong resident and passionate supporter of his community, Metzen realized the importance of strong public schools as a civic point of pride. To ensure the ongoing health of the district, he established one of the first school foundations in Minnesota, the South Saint Paul Educational Foundation.

The University of Minnesota was influenced by Metzen’s thoughtful leadership as a Board of Regents member for 12 years, including two years as chair. He wanted to ensure that college education remained affordable for all students. During his time as a regent, the board oversaw the reorganization of General College and the College of Human Ecology, bringing together several programs under the umbrella of the new College of Education and Human Development. After his regents term ended, Metzen continued his leadership for college affordability as Minnesota’s Commissioner of Higher Education.

In their acceptance remarks, both Haugo and Metzen acknowledged the importance of the University of Minnesota to their lives and to the state. We are proud to have such distinguished alumni affiliated with CEHD!

All college alumni are invited to stay connected through the CEHD Alumni Society.

CEHD embeds educational equity skills in teacher education curriculum

The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) created the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative (TERI) in 2010 to better prepare teachers for the challenges they face in a 21st century classroom. In the seven years since TERI began, CEHD has made important changes to the teacher preparation curriculum. One of these changes is a new emphasis on teaching “dispositions,” which describe the relational skills that teachers need to connect with their students, families, and communities.

By teaching relational skills, helping teachers understand the impact of their own racial identity on their students, CEHD helps teacher candidates develop the knowledge, skills, and mindsets they need to foster educational equity in their classrooms.

Learn more in this blog post from Misty Sato, associate professor and Campbell Chair for Innovation in Teacher Development.

Tucker Center releases report honoring 45th anniversary of Title IX

image of report coverThe Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport has released a report, “Gender, Race & LGBT Inclusion of Head Coaches of Women’s Teams: A Report on Select NCAA Division I Conferences for the 45th Anniversary of Title IX,” in honor of the 45th anniversary of Title IX. This special report is a partnership among LGBT SportSafe, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida, and the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota.

Race and gender data for head coaches of women’s teams were collected for eight select NCAA Division I conferences including: American Athletic Conference (AAC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, the Ivy League, Pacific-12 (Pac-12), and Southeastern Conference (SEC). The conferences selected for this study were chosen to include the “Power 5” (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC). Conferences were assigned a grade for race, a separate grade for gender, and recognition was included for LGBT inclusion practices at the institutional and conference level.

See also:

CEHD researchers use brain scans to predict autism in high-risk, 6-month-old infants

L-R: Jed Elison, Jason Wolff

College of Education and Human Development researchers contributed to a new study that suggests that patterns of brain activity in high-risk, 6-month-old babies may accurately predict which of them will develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at age 2.

The new study was published in Science Translational Medicine and led by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Jed Elison, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Institute of Child Development, and Jason Wolff, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, were study co-authors. The study was conducted by the IBIS Network and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Approximately one out of 68 school-aged children in the U.S. has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and their younger siblings are at a higher risk of developing the condition. “These findings need to be replicated, but that said, we are very excited about the potential to leverage cutting edge technology to advance the search for the earliest signs of autism,” Elison said.

For the study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure the brain’s functional connectivity – or how different brain regions work together – in high-risk, 6-month-old infants. The infants were considered high-risk because they have an older sibling with autism. Overall, 59 high-risk infants were included in the study. Eleven of the infants were diagnosed with ASD at 2 years old and 48 were not.

The researchers applied machine learning algorithms to the infants’ brain scans to identify patterns that separated them into the two groups. They then applied the algorithm to each of the infants to predict which infants would later be diagnosed with ASD. The algorithm correctly predicted nine of the 11 infants who were later diagnosed with ASD and all 48 of the infants who were not later diagnosed with the condition.

According to the researchers, if replicated, the results could provide a clinically valuable tool for detecting ASD in high-risk infants before symptoms set in. This in turn would allow researchers to test the effectiveness of interventions on a population of high-risk infants who have been identified as having a greater risk of ASD based on their brain scan at 6 months of age.

“The researchers will now try to confirm their findings in larger groups of children. But they already have provided proof of principle that it’s possible to detect ASD long before children show the first visible signs of the condition,” NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., wrote in a blog about the study. “The findings could pave the way for developing more cost-effective mobile neuroimaging tools, which might be used in early ASD screening.”

In February 2017, Elison and Wolff contributed to a separate study that used MRI scans of high-risk infants conducted at 6 and 12 months of age to accurately predict which infants would later meet criteria for ASD at age 2. The method used in the new study would only require one scan at 6 months of age.

“This is really interdisciplinary science at its very best, and I anticipate it will eventually lead to improved outcomes for children and families,” Wolff said. “The ability to predict autism in infancy opens the door for something that has long been improbable: pre-symptomatic intervention.”

Leo McAvoy, professor emeritus in the School of Kinesiology, wins U of M Outstanding Achievement Award

Leo McAvoy, Ph.D., professor emeritus of recreation in the School of Kinesiology, has been awarded the University of Minnesota’s prestigious Outstanding Achievement Award.

Dr. McAvoy earned a Ph.D. in 1976 in Recreation, Park, and Leisure Studies from the College of Education and Human Development and taught and conducted research for over 30 years in the School of Kinesiology. He has been honored numerous times nationally for his contributions to the parks and recreation field, and early in his career was elected to the Academy of Leisure Sciences, one of 55 such scholars in North America at the time. In 2004 he received the Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research, his field’s highest award.

During his career, Dr. McAvoy focused his research on populations often overlooked in the field–access for individuals with disabilities and initiatives with American Indians related to their relationship to outdoor recreation and recreation resources. He pioneered efforts in the 1980s and ’90s to create opportunities for access to the outdoors for all people, and to achieve inclusion and inclusive programming.

Mary Jo Kane, Ph.D., School director from 2005-2011, says, “Deeply committed to issues of diversity and social justice, Professor McAvoy was one of the first scholars in the country who placed at the center of their work the various and important ways individuals with disabilities interact with the outdoor environment. He is one of the most dedicated and passionate people I know, an individual who has had a profound impact in both his personal and professional capacity.”

The Outstanding Achievement Award may be conferred only on graduates or former students of the University who have attained unusual distinction in their chosen fields or professions or in public service, and who have demonstrated outstanding achievement and leadership on a community, state, national, or international level. It is the highest honor bestowed by the University outside of the Honorary Doctorate degree.

A college ceremony honoring Dr. McAvoy is planned for late summer or early fall.

STEM education group forms partnership with educators in Japan

Gillian Roehrig, professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction (C&I), led a team of STEM educators to Japan for a one-week visit funded by 3M to initiate STEM education partnerships in Japan. The team included Assistant Professor Julie Brown, Ph.D.; candidate in STEM education Jeanna Wieselmann; Doug Paulson, Minnesota Department of Education STEM Specialist); and Tom Meagher, Ph.D. , the Owatonna K-12 STEM Coordinator and C&I alumni in Science Education.

The group was hosted by Professor Yoshisuke Kumano and Dr. Tomoki Saito of Shizuoka University. Dr. Saito spent time as a Ph.D. student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction as a visiting scholar last year. Professor Kumano’s team had recently visited the STEM education center to learn about K12 integrated STEM curriculum and research. This visit cemented the partnership, as the STEM education experts from the department presented research on integrated K-12 STEM education and provided a K-12 STEM workshop for principals and teachers from local schools.

The UMN STEM delegation also visited the RuKuRu STEM student camp at the Shizuoka Children’s Musuem,  the Shizuoka Prefectural High School of Science & Technology, and Sagano Super Science and Global High School Kyoto to explore possible exchange opportunities for STEM high schools students and teachers.

This fall, Wieselmann will spend three months studying at Shizuoka University as a visiting scholar, where she will be extending her research on gender issues related to STEM teaching and learning at the elementary level in Japan. Roehrig will also be returning in August to present with the Shizuoka STEM group at the Japan Society for Science Education. In addition, a research project has been established with Dr. Takahiro Kayano that explores argumentation in K-12 STEM classrooms in Shizuoka and Owatonna, cementing the fruitful partnership between the two the STEM education area in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and their colleagues in Japan.

Learn more about the STEM education Ph.D. program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Consider making a gift to support ongoing partnerships in STEM education.

CEED to establish international center for reflective practice

The Center for Early Education and Development (CEED) in the Institute of Child Development has received a $1 million grant from the Lynne & Andrew Redleaf Foundation to establish a center that will focus on reflective practice in infant and early childhood mental health.

Reflective practice is a professional development approach that encourages individuals to pay attention to relationships as they examine behavior and their responses to behavior. In the infant and early childhood mental health field, reflective practice asks practitioners to explore how they relate to the children and families they work with, who may be facing multiple challenges and risks. Practitioners engage in reflective practice in partnership with a supervisor or consultant.

The new CEED center will serve as an intellectual home for high-quality, cutting-edge research in reflective practice. It will also disseminate knowledge about reflective practice, help professionals incorporate reflective practice principles into their work, and inform policy dealing with infant and early childhood mental health. The center will be the first of its kind internationally.

“We are grateful to the Lynne & Andrew Redleaf Foundation for their support as we work to impact infant and early childhood programs and providers, both in Minnesota and across the country,” says Christopher Watson, Ph.D., IMH-E®[IV], director of the new center at CEED. “This generous gift will allow CEED to bolster its work in reflective supervision and to better support staff who serve families facing complex challenges. We look forward to carrying out this work in an effort to improve developmental outcomes for infants and young children.”

CEHD in top ten on student satisfaction for education schools

A new report from SR (Student Review) Education Group has the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at the top of the college rankings in student satisfaction for education schools. Based on the reviews of current and former students, CEHD was rated 8th best among 19 ranked education colleges offering master’s of education degrees in the United States.

SR Education has created a standardized method to assess institutions based on student satisfaction data. The goal of SR Education is to help prospective students find a college suited to their individual needs.

Read more.

C&I’s Marek Oziewicz receives inaugural Award for Faculty Contribution to Honors Education

Marek Oziewicz,  Marguerite Henry Professor of Children’s and Young Adult Literature in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, has received the first annual Award for Faculty Contribution to Honors Education from the University Honors Program (UHP).

The award recognizes Oziewicz’s many and significant contributions  to Honors education at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. Those contributions include teaching an Honors Seminar, anchoring UHP’s first curated Honors experience, and offering samples of Honors teaching at recruitment events.

“Professor  Oziewicz’s Honors Seminar, ‘Fantasy: A Ghastly Wicked Introduction,’ has quickly become a student favorite,” says UHP Director,  Matt Bribitzer-Stull, adding that  Oziewicz anchored the program’s “Dracula in Multimedia” Honors Experience and taught mini-seminars at spring recruitment events to give prospective students a taste of what UHP has to offer.

Oziewicz studies the transformative power of literature for the young reader and teachers. He teaches several courses within the literacy education program area in the department, covering topics such as speculative fiction (especially fantasy), global and multicultural books, and literature-based cognitive modeling for moral imagination, global citizenship, environmental awareness, and justice literacy.

Learn more about literacy education programs and courses in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

 

 

 

Marion Barber Jr., Gophers Hall-of-Fame running back, earns his degree at age 57

Marion Barber Jr. at commencement ceremony

Marion Barber Jr. is persistent.

As an All-Big Ten running back for the Golden Gophers football team in the late 1970s, Barber was a record-setting player. In 2017, at age 57, Barber’s determination off the field culminated May 11 when he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota as part of the commencement ceremonies for the College of Education and Human Development. He graduated with a major in youth studies from the School of Social Work.

Barber finished his Gophers football career as the all-time record holder for rushing yards (3,094), rushing touchdowns (34), and 100-yard rushing games (12). Those records have since been broken, but he still ranks sixth all-time in program history for total rushing yards.

All of Barber’s sons have played football for the Gophers, including former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber III, former Houston Texans safety Dominique Barber, and current Gophers linebacker Thomas Barber.

In fall 2015, Marion Barber Jr. started back on his academic career at the U of M, knowing he would need two years of credits to complete his degree this spring.

“Once I saw the commitment required, I decided it would be worth it,” Barber said. “And, believe it or not, the time has gone by fast and been enjoyable. I have really appreciated all of my classmates, professors, and advisers who made me feel welcomed.”

Marion Barber Jr. with his grandchildren

Barber, a Maple Grove resident, is particularly proud of his perfect attendance in all of his classes, as well as his record of mostly A’s (and a few B’s). Outside the classroom, Barber worked as an educational intern at Armstrong High School. He now has a full-time position as a special education assistant at the school. He is also an assistant football coach there.

Barber said he has always been interested in youth development and children. After nearly 40 years since beginning his time at the U of M, he feels that he has something to offer young people — especially lessons about reaching high for goals and maintaining perseverance.

See more on Marion Barber Jr. in the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press, and on KARE 11KSTP TV, and CCX Media.

China Champions Program celebrates third year of hosting students at Foundation Ceremony and Graduation Celebration

2016-17 China Champions
Graduates from left: Lu Xiudong, Haixia Liu, Xue Kong, Ziyi Wang, Chunlu Wang, Lin Meng, Di Mu

Participants in the third annual China Champions Program (CCP) were celebrated at their Graduation Celebration on Friday, April 28, at Burton Hall Atrium.

Six Chinese Olympic and world champion athletes and a coach enrolled in the China Champions Program (CCP) arrived last fall to attend specially designed courses in the School of Kinesiology. CCP provides academic courses, seminars, workshops and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to accomplished athletes from China as a collaborative educational project with Beijing Sport University (BSU).

This year’s participants, the third class since 2014, enjoyed a wide range of educational, cultural and social activities in addition to their formal courses, such as meeting former Vice President Walter Mondale at Regent Peggy Lucas’ home, attending all major sporting events at UMN and in the Twin Cities area, and visiting local schools to share their experiences with students.

From left: Zhang Yanyang, Rayla Allison, Meredith McQuaid, Maud Meng, Ken Bartlett, Li Li Ji, He Wenyi

At the celebration, Ms. Maud Meng, President and CEO of Infinite Media Co. Ltd. in China, presented the University of Minnesota Foundation with a gift of $100,000 to benefit the CCP. Kinesiology Director Li Li Ji met with Ms. Meng on a recent trip to China and shared the CCP’s mission and goals. “Ms. Meng pledged to provide financial support to the CCP to expand the participants’ careers and to share their skills and experiences with Chinese society,” said Ji.  Ms. Meng’s generous support also helps to advance University, CEHD and School of Kinesiology international initiatives.

Participants in this year’s China Champions Program were: Lu Xiudong, national taekwondo coach and professor at BSU; Chunlu Wang,  Xue Kong and Lin Meng, all short track speed skating Olympic gold medalists; Haixia Liu, World Champion and record holder for weightlifting; Di Mu, World Champion in bicycling; and Ziyi Wang, World Champion in sailboating.

Link to Flickr slideshow

Karen Miksch wins President’s Award for Outstanding Service

Karen Miksch, associate professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development (OLPD), is one of 11 people honored with the 2017 President’s Award for Outstanding Service from the University of Minnesota.

This award recognizes exceptional service to the University, its schools, colleges, departments, and service units by an active or retired faculty or staff member. Recipients of this award have gone well beyond their regular duties and have demonstrated an unusual commitment to the University community.

Miksch’s contributions to the college and University have been extraordinary through her work and consultation on legal issues, academic freedom, student admissions, and fostering diversity and inclusion in graduate education.

She will be honored at a reception at Eastcliff on June 15, and the Board of Regents will recognize her at their meeting on May 12. See all of this year’s winners.

ICD doctoral student Elizabeth Sharer awarded fellowship from Autism Science Foundation

Elizabeth Sharer Headshot
Elizabeth Sharer

Elizabeth Sharer, a Ph.D. candidate in the Institute of Child Development, has received a $25,000 one-year, pre-doctoral fellowship from the Autism Science Foundation (ASF).

This year, ASF awarded three pre-doctoral and six post-doctoral fellowship grants to student and mentor teams conducting research in deep brain stimulation, gene and environmental interactions, epigenetics, pain response, neurobiology, and sex differences in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“Each of the projects selected for funding has the potential to improve the lives of people with autism,” said Autism Science Foundation President Alison Singer. “We are pleased to support the work of this impressive group of young scientists and look forward to the progress that will be made as a result of their efforts.”

For her research, Sharer will examine the female protective effect in infants with ASD. Four times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with autism, and evidence suggests a “female protective effect” as one explanation for the sex bias.

Sharer’s study will be the first study to investigate the female protective effect in infants who show behaviors of concern, compared with those who develop typically and those who are later diagnosed with ASD. Sharer will be mentored by ICD Assistant Professor Jed Elison, Ph.D.

Ambit Network releases simple, accurate trauma screening tool

The Ambit Network works to improve access to quality care for traumatized children by giving practitioners the skills and resources they need to address mental health issues with evidence-based practices.

One of the common requests Ambit receives from practitioners is a tool to quickly and accurately screen children for possible child trauma. With that in mind, Ambit developed and released the University of Minnesota Traumatic Stress Screen for Children and Adolescents (TSSCA) that:

  • Has high sensitivity (it screens in those children and youth with trauma symptoms)
  • Has high specificity (it screens out those children and youth who do not have trauma symptoms)
  • Is brief and easily administered by professionals and paraprofessionals in child serving systems.

The screening tool is already in use at agencies within and outside Minnesota. It is available to clinicians, case workers, educators, and any other staff who work with children ages 5 to 18 that may have experienced a traumatic event and are in need of services. Learn more and download the tool here.

An extensive review of existing trauma instruments went into developing the tool, combining common criteria and distilling down into the five most powerful and predictive items. For more information on the methodology behind the tool, contact ITR’s Chris Bray at bray0021@umn.edu or (612) 624-3748.

Ambit Network is housed within CEHD’s Institute for Translational Research in Children’s Mental Health, one of the several ways ITR is working to bridge the gap between research and practice in children’s mental health.

Billington collaborates on NSF-funded grant to create interactive science education games

Barbara Billington, a science lecturer in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, will collaborate with University of Minnesota colleagues and educational technology company Andamio Games on a project funded by the National Science Foundation to produce a series of tablet-based lessons and challenges to help high school students master concepts related to photosynthesis and cell respiration. This project will enable students to learn difficult science concepts using a collaborative gaming approach that aims to significantly increase student engagement and understanding.

As part of the grant, Billington will partner with life science teachers from Saint Paul Public Schools to conduct a classroom study in the second year of the project. Lessons will be designed and research directed by both Billington and her colleagues Sehoya Cotner, associate professor in the College of Biological Sciences, and Christopher Desjardins, research associate at the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement.

“Science teacher feedback in Phase I of the project reconfirmed the value of our multi-player approach and also led us to the addition of a virtual biology lab,” said Andamio Games president Adam Gordon. “Teachers wanted their students to get a practical experience of scientific experimentation — including when it doesn’t go quite as expected — independent of the usual costs and time commitments for conventional lab experiments.”

Billington has a unique understanding of science classrooms after seven years teaching high school biology. She earned both her teacher licensure and Ph.D. in science education from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, where her current research focuses on training pre-service teachers and gender equity in STEM education.

Find out more about the science education programs in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.