First Voinovich Scholar Showcase celebrates achievements of three undergraduates

Daniel Kington
December 3, 2015

Voinovich School students, faculty and staff gathered on Dec. 1 for the first Voinovich Scholar Showcase, highlighting the accomplishments of three current Voinovich Undergraduate Research Scholars.

Holly Craycraft, research associate with the Voinovich School and coordinator of the Undergraduate Research Scholar program, hopes to facilitate monthly showcases to offer scholars the opportunity to engage with the School, connect with one another and understand the Scholars’ work. 

Haley Trottier, a senior studying communication sciences and disorders, presented her work with the Smoke-Free Families Project, which seeks to reduce smoking among Ohio women before, during and after pregnancy. Within a wider collaborative effort, the Voinovich School is focused primarily upon the facilitation of evidence-based smoking cessation intervention training for health care providers in Southeast Ohio. Trottier explained the project’s intervention method, called the five A’s (Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist and Arrange), and stressed the importance of saturating communities with messages from various sources advising people to quit smoking.

Trottier’s primary role in the project was initially the preparation of materials. “While this may not seem very important, I have found that everything is important when creating a successful presentation,” she said. “Especially when you’re doing a training, you want to make sure that you have all the materials to give to providers in the exact order that you’re going to go over them so that they can know what you’re talking about.”

She has become increasingly involved in research, including data collection, data entry and occasional fieldwork, which requires taking notes and answering questions for health-care providers. Through her research, Trottier said she has learned a great deal about the need for the Smoke-Free Families project.

“I didn’t realize how many pregnant women smoke and at what a high rate, which is almost frightening,” Trottier said.

Overall, Trottier said that she has really enjoyed working on the project. “It has been a creative experience and a huge learning experience for me,” she said. “I’ve learned which programs to use to analyze data and how to work with them, as well as learning about smoking in general and smoking cessation.”

The second presentation, given by senior journalism student Danielle Keeton-Olsen and Abdalah El-Barrad, a junior dual majoring in applied mathematics and economics, showcased a very different aspect of the Voinovich School’s work.

Keeton-Olsen and El-Barrad began working last semester to create a map of racial and ethnic minority population density in Ohio. The project demonstrates differences in minority population density through a color-coded scale, with dark blue representing the highest levels of minority population density and light blue/gray representing the lowest levels of minority population density. The map allows users to analyze differences in population demographics at both a large scale, comparing differences across Ohio counties, and a small scale, examining block-by-block demographics in individual counties.

Keeton-Olsen and El-Barrad demonstrated these uses of the map to the audience, drawing attention to the larger minority populations in Ohio’s urban counties contrasted with the smaller minority populations in rural counties. The presenters then focused in on Athens County, exploring differences in the demographics of distinct areas. 

“This is really cool for me as a journalism major because there aren’t very many people who dig into data journalism from this deep of a level,” Keeton-Olsen said. “There are so many hidden stories that are available and accessible online through census data. You can really dig down into the population in your community, which would be very interesting if I wanted to pursue investigative journalism or something along those lines. And then I can also make my research into a very pretty map and present it online.”

El-Barrad said he appreciated gaining the skills necessary to compile data into visual aids like the map on which he and Keeton-Olsen were presenting. “The hardest part was understanding the data and getting the data,” he said.

Although the map — which is intended to be published — could have a variety of uses, it was developed specifically to assist the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services as the department strives to provide targeted minority populations, particularly in rural areas.

Craycraft praised the scholars for their work and said that she plans to host the next Scholar Showcase at the end of January, featuring the work of other accomplished undergraduates in the program.