Four SESP Students Receive Undergraduate Research Grants

Four SESP Students Receive Undergraduate Research Grants

Jordyn Ricard, Imani Wilson, Jared Zvonar, Hannah Whitehouse

Four budding researchers in the School of Education and Social Policy were awarded summer Undergraduate Research Grants from the Northwestern University Office of the Provost to study everything from marital conflict to paranormal folklore podcasts.

Grant winners include Jordyn Ricard, human development and psychological services; Imani Wilson, social policy; Jared Zvonar, learning and organizational change; and Hannah Whitehouse, music education and social policy.

The students will receive a $3,500 stipend to cover living and research expenses to pursue academic and creative works for eight weeks under faculty supervision. Information about grants and deadlines is available on the Undergraduate Research website.

Jordyn Ricard

Ricard, a freshman, will study conflict and the relationship between stonewalling -- refusing to consider or listen to another perspective -- and marital satisfaction among couples of socioeconomically diverse backgrounds.

Past research in this area of human emotion has focused on predominantly white, middle-class couples. “This raises the question of whether the relationship between stonewalling and marital satisfaction differs or generalizes across different socioeconomic backgrounds,” Ricard said.

Working with Claudia Haase, assistant professor of human development and social policy, in the Lifespan Development Lab, Ricard will test whether stonewalling is negatively related to marital satisfaction and whether the relationship is particularly strong for couples from lower-SES backgrounds due to the extra financial stresses. 

She’ll also be working with undergraduates David Huang, Olivia Shay, Mable Je, and Lizzy Injung Jang and mentored by graduate students Emily Hittner, Ryan Svoboda, and Jacquelyn Stephens.

Imani Wilson

Wilson, a social policy major who plans to work in education and youth development, will be interviewing black teachers to better understand the relationship between teacher identity and racial identity.

“Attrition rates for black teachers across the nation are extremely high, which is concerning due to the positive effects that black teachers have on their students and schools,” Wilson said.

Wilson said she was partially motivated by her third-grade teacher, an “incredibly impactful African-American woman” who was one of only a few black teachers in the school district and taught several generations of families at her elementary school.

“She challenged me academically and gave me and my classmates quite a bit of responsibility even though we were only in third grade,” Wilson said. “I plan to teach or otherwise work directly with students at some point in my career, so this work is personal to me.”

Currently enrolled SESP’s Advanced Research Methods class, Wilson will use the summer to collect data for her senior thesis. Her faculty adviser is Lilah Schapiro, assistant professor of instruction.

Jared Zvonar

Zvonar, a freshman who is studying learning and organizational change, plans to explore ghost stories and paranormal folklore of New England with journalism student Sarah Walther. The duo will spend six weeks driving to five unusual New England locales, ranging from a supposedly haunted asylum in upstate New York to an allegedly cursed river near coastal Maine. 

By combing through archives and interviewing historians and local residents, Zvonar and Walther hope to better understand regional folklore and ghost stories in New England. They plan to create a five-part podcast summarizing their findings and release it in the fall.

“We want to give the history and explanation behind each story,” Zvonar said. “By the end of our project, we hope to also respond an ongoing debate within both ghost stories and recent media pieces: What makes a story believable?”

In today’s modern political climate, “examining qualities of believability of stories is becoming increasingly vital," Zvonar said. “We think a completely non-politicized topic such as ghost stories will allow us to take a new angle to this age-old question,” Zvonar said.  

Sarahmaria Gomez, a lecturer at Medill and multimedia freelance journalist, will serve as faculty adviser.

Hannah Whitehouse

Whitehouse, who is interested in how music education impacts the lives of low-income families, will be working with the nonprofit People’s Music School, which provides free music education to hundreds of low-income students across the Chicago area.

The model used by People’s Music School, called El Sistema, has been growing in the United States since the early 1990s. People’s is the oldest of the 62 El Sistema-inspired programs across the country. But it’s unclear how effective El Sistema-inspired programs have been in the U.S. and how they affect their targeted communities.

Through observations and interviews, Whitehouse will create a case study on People's Music School and describe how the organization has impacted the greater Chicago area.

Whitehouse is enrolled in the dual-degree program and studies music education at the Bienen School of Music and social policy in the School of Education and Social Policy. “My research project allows me to further solidify the connection between my studies, explaining the intersection and interaction of music education and its impact on the lives of low-income families in Chicago,” she said.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 5/2/17