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IU School of Physical Education and Tourism Management Minority Students Excel When It Comes to Research

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January 6, 2012

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If necessity is the mother of invention, then Mom would be happy with the results of the IU School of Physical Education and Tourism Management efforts at IUPUI to guide minority students into research.

Alyssa Gutierrez is the latest in a line of minority students in the school who have excelled in research. She recently won second place in the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Conference oral presentation competition.

Gutierrez’ presentation dealt with the work she did with 16 families who have children with intellectual disabilities. She wanted to determine the effectiveness of an at-home based physical activity program for this population. All families were asked to work one on one with their child throughout the week on lesson plans that were provided by research investigators to help improve the motor skill abilities of the child. The families were randomly assigned into two groups: one that would get weekly visits from a personal trainer and one that would only receive a phone call once per week. An independent test was conducted comparing the scores from the pre- to post- assessments. There were no significant differences in the scores between the groups; however, the magnitude of the differences in the means showed there was a moderate effect.

Since enrolling at IUPUI, Gutierrez has participated in LSAMP, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Diversity Scholars Research Program (DSRP), funded by IUPUI.

LSAMP, funded by the National Science Foundation, is designed to broaden the participation of underrepresented minority students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. It places a strong emphasis on support for summer research. DSRP, funded by IUPUI, is an undergraduate performance-based scholarship program aimed at attracting academically talented minority students in a variety of majors who wish to pursue their education in a research setting. The program provides financial support, including full tuition and a stipend, and mentors to help students achieve academic success and graduate.

In 1997, the School of Physical Education and Tourism was one of the founding schools of the DSRP program. There are several reasons why the research programs for minority students have succeeded at the school, but perhaps none was more important than necessity, said Rafael E. Bahamonde, Professor and Chair, Physical Education Department.
Since the school did not have a big graduate program, professors did not have anyone helping them with their research, Bahamonde noted. “We started looking for ways we could do research and get some help.”

The DSRP program proved to be a perfect fit for the school, Bahamonde continued. “We found out it works. It was fun to do and that the students really could do the research. With the DSRP program, you have the students for four years. By the time they are a junior or senior, their research work is as good as a masters’ student.”

The school has supported some 16 students over the years, with an 80 percent graduation rate. Many of the students have gone on to pursue advanced degrees.

Many of the school’s students who have participated in DSRP and LSAMP had no idea about research when they enrolled at IUPUI, Bahamonde said. “When you have programs like LSAMP and DSRP, and put students with a mentor, you have a win-win situation. The mentor gets help, the student receives needed funds, and a long-term relationship develops.”

That was the case with Gutierrez and Kathleen Stanton, PHD, an Associate Professor in the Physical Education Department.

“I have worked with Alyssa since her freshman year at IUPUI,” Stanton said. “I have always been impressed with her academic ability and strong desire to pursue research excellence. However, Alyssa is a rare all-around student. She excels in the classroom but also outside the classroom. She has been a service-learning assistant since her sophomore year and routinely volunteers for community organizations. I will certainly miss our interactions but am inspired by her work and am looking forward to see her professional growth.”

Being involved in undergraduate research programs really helped develop my academic, social, and networking capabilities, Gutierrez said.. “The knowledge I have gained from developing research programs from the beginning to the very end has helped me with my critical thinking, time management, and problem solving skills. I have made many friends through my fellow scholars who have shown me resources that help me strengthen and develop my academic skills. These programs have allowed me to travel to national conferences where I was allowed to present my research in front of students and advisers from around the country. Finally, I believe the most important resource I have gained through my time in these programs is the extensive network of peers, mentors, advisers, and professionals that I have met.”