Welcome to the rich and varied world of academic scholarship!

These are just some of the subjects that Mount Mercy students and faculty have delved into as they engage in research projects that cross multiple disciplines and academic majors.

Mount Mercy’s Pathways to Scholarship campaign showcases these projects, along with a variety of academic achievements, vibrant poster displays and interactive demonstrations, during the Scholarship Festival on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016. 



Panel 1: Creative Collaborations
10–10:50 a.m.
More info »
Panel 2: Growth in Organisms
11–11:50 a.m.
More info »
11 a.m.–1 p.m.
Sisters of Mercy University Center Commons
More info »
Panel 3: Poems & Stories
Noon–12:50 p.m.
More info »
Panel 4: International Issues 
1–1:50 p.m.
More info »
Panel 5: Understanding Trauma
2–2:50 p.m.
More info »
Panel 6: Learning About Learning
3–3:50 p.m.
More info »


MMU's annual Scholarship Festival celebrated student work and research developed throughout the year. So much #MMUPride...

Posted by Mount Mercy University on Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Panel 1: Creative Collaborations

10–10:50 a.m., Sisters of Mercy University Center 110
Moderator: Joe Sheller

Billie Barker (English), Todd Cross (English and Secondary Education), Taylor Zumbach (Public Relations) 

Iowa Watch: Statewide Journalism Projects 

Mentor: Joseph Sheller, M.A. // From covering the Iowa Caucuses through first-person accounts (Todd Cross and Billie Barker) to writing about the First Amendment’s application to Mount Mercy University as part of an investigation into free speech at Iowa college campuses (Taylor Zumbach), three Mount Mercy Times editors this year participated in statewide journalism coverage through Iowa Watch, a non-profit investigative news service located in Iowa City. Iowa Watch exists to promote important investigative journalism that many news outlets are now too thinly staffed to do well, and undergraduate college students at Iowa colleges and universities are occasionally invited to participate in some of the organization’s projects. Taylor, Billie and Todd will describe their experience with Iowa Watch and the stories they helped this group cover.

Lauren Brunson, Mariah Kidd, Moly Metz (Graphic Design); Emma Boroquez-Oldenburg,  Njenga (Art), Gabriel Acosta (Mathematics & Graphic Design) —

Putting the Goth in American Gothic

Mentors: Jose Clemente, M.F.A. & Kathryn Hagy, M.F.A. // Mount Mercy Art & Design students collaborated on the decoration of a sculptural rendering of Grant Wood’s iconic American Gothic painting for Cedar Rapids Overalls All Over project to commemorate what would have been Grant Wood's 125th birthday. The Mount Mercy version is one of two dozen unique interpretations of the famous American Gothic figures, which will be displayed throughout Cedar Rapids from May 1 through Labor Day

Stormy Hinton-Janda (Social Work) with April Dirks — 

A Faculty-Student Collaboration to Publish About the Invisible Problem of Human Trafficking

There is a significant gap in the literature on the topic of human trafficking and sexual abuse among undocumented children and, therefore, we know little about how to best serve this population. The prevalence of trafficking at the U.S./Mexico border will be reviewed as well as a comprehensive review of the types of trafficking that families and children endure. There has been a significant amount of difficulty finding empirical data and literature on this population because both undocumented immigrants and trafficked persons are very difficult to study. Both populations are essentially invisible or hidden from law enforcement and helping professionals alike. Therefore, this student presentation will focus on the issues collecting data on a difficult topic and the process of writing a professional paper for publication with a faculty member at Mount Mercy University

Panel 2: Growth in Organisms

11–11:50 a.m., Sisters of Mercy University Center 110
Moderator: TBD

Alysia Berns [Senior] & Jessica Hiney [Sophomore] (Outdoor Conservation & Biology)

Studies of Lichen Distribution on  a Linn County Hill Prairie

Mentor: Dr. Neil Bernstein // Lichens growing on trees in a Linn County hill prairie were quantified for distribution and species present. Species richness was greater on the east and west sides of trees than north and south face. Lichen coverage increased from the cliff face to approximately 21 m from the cliff, and then the coverage declined. Species richness peaked at approximately 8 m from the cliff face and again increased after 21 m. Species encountered and explanations based upon local microclimate will be discussed.

Virginia Brust [Senior] & Jessica Hiney [Sophomore] (Outdoor Conservation & Biology)

Age-related Changes in Home Range and Distance Moved in Ornate Box Turtles

Mentor: Dr. Neil Bernstein // Analysis of data collected in a wild population of ornate box turtles from 2011-2015 will be presented. Turtles of different ages from newly hatched to adult were followed daily or every other day by radio-telemetry. Data were analyzed for minimum convex polygons on weekly, monthly, and annual bases and compared to size of the turtle. Average distance moved between samples was also analyzed.

Jordyn Lehman (Biology & Chemistry)

Light Effects on the Growth of Raphanus sativus 

Mentor: Dr. Neil Bernstein // Knowing how frequencies of light affect Raphanus sativus (radishes) is of great interest in a world that is highly dependent on plants as a source of food. In order to examine how this species was affected by light, thirty-nine pots were planted, distributed equally, and exposed to red, blue, white, and fluorescent (control) lighting for thirty days. Once harvested, data were collected from each plant for the surface area, dry weights, and thickness of the leaves along with the volume, dry weight, and density of the roots. The leaves were evaluated first and the results showed that high levels of frequency produced more plant food, thus displaying larger leaves. The opposite was true with lower levels of light frequency, producing less plant food and smaller leaves; the same results were shown for the roots. These findings show that radishes are long-day plants, needing higher frequencies of light and smaller amounts of lower frequencies of light throughout the day. Frequencies of light will have a large impact on the amount of energy a plant will absorb and use to grow.


11 a.m.1 p.m.
Sisters of Mercy University Center Commons

Katrina Ashbacher (Management &Psychology)

The Impact Student Engagement has on Post-Graduation Success

Mentor: Dr. Nathan Klein // Previous research has shown a positive link between campus engagement (i.e., club involvement, athletics, internships, and service) and overall post-graduation success including job placement and starting salary rates.  While intuitively this makes sense, we wanted to test our hypotheses here at Mount Mercy University which would give us the opportunity to show empirically the positive impact getting engaged could have.  Katrina and Nate created a survey in order to research the link. We surveyed 2014-2015 Mount Mercy University alumni by partnering with the alumni office.

Katrina Ashbacher (Management & Psychology), Blakely Gardner (Philosophy, Religious Studies & Psychology), Randall Hixson, Andre Vicuna (Psychology), Jim Thornton (Psychology & Philosophy) —

Does Emotional Intelligence Mediate the Relationship between Dispositional Mindfulness and Dimensions of Psychological Well-Being?

Mentor: Dr. Ron Feldt // The study examined the relationship between each of five dimensions of dispositional mindfulness and each of six dimensions of psychological well-being. Mount Mercy Undergraduate students completed the Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, The Ryff Psychological Well-Being Scale, and a measure of trait emotional intelligence. Results indicated that some, but not all, relationships were mediated by emotional intelligence.  

Meleah Baloch (Biology)

Growth of Ornate Box Turtles

Mentors: Dr. Neil Bernstein and Dr. Robert Todd // Morphological measurements were taken on ornate box turtles of different ages during the summers of 2011-2015. Measurements of carapace length, carapace width, front plastron length, rear plastron length, plastron width, and height will be examined through mathematical models relative to estimated age of the turtles.  Preliminary predictive models of age compared to growth will be offered.

Jon Haezebroeck (Computer Science)

Valentine’s Day Carnation Website

Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Kleiman // Valentine’s Day Carnations website is built to assist the Science Club with a fundraising project of allowing people to give carnations in the spirit of Valentine’s Day holiday. In the last year students went around the campus to collect orders, which was inconvenient and inefficient because it required extensive labor. The website will allow faculty, staff and students to make their order online.  

Kayley Keller & Emily Mitchell (Nursing & Psychology) 

The Harmful Effects of Radon and its Levels in the Mount Mercy University Community

Mentor: Dr. Jen Lee // The purpose of this study is to raise awareness about the harmful effects of radon. Radon test kits were provided to members of the Mount Mercy community including faculty, staff and students. Participants took a quiz about radon and completed a survey gathering information about background knowledge of radon and conditions of the home and the occupants. We will present on the background information regarding radon and the harmful effects it can cause.   From the data collected in the study, information will be provided on the proper methods in which to decrease radon levels.

Katerina Kubanova (Biology) & Amanda Dolley (Biology & Chemistry)

Identifying Candidate Proteins that Cause Glaucoma by Determining the Specificity of Proteins Found in a Yeast Two-hybrid Screen that Bind to SH3PXD2B

Mentor: Dr. Alesia Hruska // To identify proteins involved with the development of glaucoma, an eye disease that often leads to blindness a yeast two-hybrid screen was performed to identify proteins that interact with a portion of the protein SH3PXD2B.  SH3PXD2B is a protein that is mutated in people with Frank-ter Haar Syndrome and one of their symptoms is the development of glaucoma.  Previous studies identified several hundred proteins that may interact with a portion of the SH3PXD2B protein.  Data will be presented to determine which of these proteins are specific for binding to SH3PXD2B and which are false positives.   

Miles J. Meyers (Nursing),  Alysia Berns [Senior] (Outdoor Conservation & Biology)

Analysis of Faunal Remains Recovered from the Middle to Late Woodland Bruggeman Cave Site in Jones County, Iowa

Mentor: Dr. Anna Waterman // In this research faunal remains recovered from the late prehistoric Bruggeman Cave site in Jones County, Iowa were analyzed in order to understand more about hunting strategies and dietary practices during this time. Based upon recovered material culture, the Bruggeman Cave site (site number 13JN12) dates minimally to the Middle to Late Woodland period (1-1000 CE). Excavations aimed at salvaging artifacts and restoring the cave surface where undertaken in the summer of 2013 under the direction of Bryan Kendall of the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist. It appears that this cave was primarily used as a location to process and consume large terrestrial mammals. 

Aly Schultz [Junior] (Computer Science) —

Kruskal’s Algorithm for MST

Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Kleiman // The Minimum spanning tree problem (MST) is given connected graph G with positive edge weights, find a min weight set of edges that connects all of the vertices. The problem has applications in network design and is used to approximately solve the traveling salesman problem. Kruskal’s Algorithm is a greedy algorithm used to solve MST. A serial software was created to implement Kruskal’s algorithm using C programing language. The next step of this project is to create a parallel software for Kruscal’s Algorithm. 

Andre Vicuna (Psychology) 

Collaborative Learning and Openness to Diversity

Mentor: Dr. Chad Loes // This study explores four things: a) whether the level of students’ openness to diversity changes during their first year at Mount Mercy, b) the extent to which students are exposed to effective educational practices during their first year at Mount Mercy, c) which (if any) of those practices are influencing gains in openness to diversity, and d) whether the effects noted in “c” vary by student background characteristics (e.g., race, sex, academic ability).  

Courtney Miller — "Use of Pseudomonas fluorescens and Bacillus subtilis to control Agrobacterium tumefaciens infections of Brassica rapa"
Christian Allen — "The effectiveness of disinfectants by brand name on E. coli"
Ashley Kerslake — "Effects of mouthwash on the survival of Streptococcus mutans bacteria"
Yik Chan — "Bacteria growth on poultry with hot water and cold water thawing method"

Panel 3: Poems & Stories

Noon–12:50 p.m., Sisters of Mercy University Center 110
Moderator: Dr. Mary Vermillion

Mentor: Dr. Mary Vermillion:

Natalie Deister (English) — "Growing Space"

Billie Barker (English) — "Fidget" & "Chapel of Love"

Courtney Snodgrass (English & Psychology) — "Same Moon"

Matt Howell (English & Political Science) — "Narrow Aisles" & "Writing"

Cassie Green (English & Secondary Education) — "Book" & "Lovers Dance"

Amber Downs, Abby Herb, Zachery Hooper (English), Abbey Konzen (Art)

Panel 4: International Issues 

1–1:50 p.m., Sisters of Mercy University Center 110
Moderator: Jane Junge

Lindsay Schaffer (Psychology) with Kathryn Hagy

American Education and Women from Nepal: a Qualatative Perspective

Mentor: Kathryn Hagy, M.F.A. // This study aims to reveal the significance of an American education on the lives of Nepalese women who have returned to Nepal after their studies. It utilizes the theoretical framework of education for public or private good determine if a balance is achieved between private educational benefits for social mobility and democratic educational aims for public good. A qualitative approach focuses on the meaning of participant college experiences, which are documented through interviews and content analysis of autobiographical writings. Does the phenomenological essence of American education’s meaning show how women in a developing country might define education for public and private good differently as they put their educations to use in Nepal?

Gabriel Acosta (Mathematics & Graphic Design)

Pal Norte: An Undocumented Journey

Mentor: Jose Clemente, M.F.A. // Acosta’s work is about his life as an Immigrant in the United States. He has researched a variety of articles, U.S. census, and interviews in the media about immigration. Through this process he has found data that shows all undocumented immigrants are not all from Mexico. In his work he uses this information to visually communicate his idea through installations, woodcuts & digital media. He has also developed an idea for an organization named Pal Norte, an organization where he has created an Identity system of logos, posters, and brochures, which would inform undocumented immigrants on how to acclimate into the United States.

Blakely Gardner (Philosophy, Religious Studies, & Psychology)

A Feminism that Cares

Mentor: Dr. Bryan Cross // As a movement, feminism has yet to put sufficient power behind addressing the lens through which we view one another, as well as the activity that we do. For women and men to reach true equality we need to address the values that we attribute to the work that we do. Limiting value to economic contributions affirms that we are a culture that recognizes value by an object’s productivity rather than its intrinsic dignity. We must actively seek a cultural conversion, one where the care that is needed for reproductive and sustainable work is recognized as just as valuable as the activity that directly influence our GDP.

Panel 5: Understanding Trauma

2–2:50 p.m., Sisters of Mercy University Center 110
Moderator: Belkis Suarez

Emily Holtz (Social Work)

Using a Trauma-informed Care Model for social Work Intervention with Youth in Residential Care

Mentor: Joni Howland, M.S.W. // Emily’s senior paper explores the importance of using trauma informed care interventions when working with youth in residential treatment. Her paper specifically highlights the compatibility of one TIC model, the Sanctuary Model, with the eight curricular themes present in social work education.  Because a presentation of her full paper would exceed the time limits, I envision her providing the audience with information about why TIC is critical to effective treatment with this population, an overview of the Sanctuary Model, and how BA level social workers can utilize this intervention in their practice.

Matt Howell (English &Political Science)

Less than Human, Less than Animal: A Study of Animal Comparisons in Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Mentor: Dr. Carol Tyx // The comparison of the characters to animals in Toni Morrison’s seminal work, Beloved, is difficult to miss. Throughout the novel, either by slave, former slave, or slave master, each character is compared to an animal in some fashion. This paper studies these comparisons through detailed analysis and scholarly research and concludes that Morrison uses such comparisons as a mechanism to illustrate the destruction of the human identities of those who suffered through slavery.

Molly Pruett (Biology)

Effect of Sound on Respiration  Rate of Xiphophorus maculatus

Mentor: Dr. Neil Bernstein // This experiment studied the effects of sound on the respiration rate of Xiphophorus maculatus, which could help determine how we approach marine habitats.  This experiment was designed to determine if Xiphophorus maculatus, or Mickey Mouse Platy, could hear the sounds they were exposed to, and if so which pitches caused the most stress, indicated by a change in heart rate.  This experiment was designed to become more aware of how construction in or near marine habitats affects the nearby organisms, specifically the fish. After the collection and analysis of the data, the experiment concluded that the Xiphophorus maculatus could sense the sounds they were exposed to, with an increase in respiration rate with the higher pitches. This conclusion leads into how we approach marine habitats.  Construction, drilling, and other disturbances are not only destroying habitat, but also disturbing the overall health of fish nearby.

Panel 6: Learning About Learning

3–3:50 p.m., Sisters of Mercy University Center 110
Moderator: Anna Waterman

Amanda Dolley (Biology & Chemistry) — 

Optimizing Preparation Conditions of Live Samples for Transmission Electron Microscopy

Mentor: Dr. Joseph Nguyen // Marek’s disease virus (MDV) is a highly contagious herpesvirus which induces T-cell lymphoma in chickens. Despite forty years of vaccination, the virus is still spreading and becoming increasingly virulent. Thus, it is important to better understand the replication and pathogenicity of MDV. New mutant viruses have been developed to help study the infection process better; however, infections by these mutant viruses can only be characterized using transmission electron microscopy (TEM). While standard procedures have been long established for the preparation of tissue culture samples for TEM, standardized procedures for live samples, such as feather follicles, are more difficult and less common. The presentation will discuss the efforts made towards effectively optimizing the preparation conditions of MDV-infected feather follicles and consequently the identification of infected cells.

Samantha Yorgensen (Art Education)

Connection to the Arts and Education

Mentor: Dr. Ellen Warrington // My presentation for the education senior seminar was over standard three and how it can be connected to art education. Included in the presentation are the subcategories of standard three, accompanied by pictorial examples. These examples include a lesson for fourth grade multicultural art, a diagram for students to visually assess their craftsmanship, the tool students will use in the lesson, local and district standards set for connecting visual arts and the lesson, an example of how I became more involved with the multicultural themed project (physically and through technology), and finally what can be taken away from this multicultural lesson (myself and the students). 

Katelyn Bishop (Marketing & International Relations) & Andy Scanlon (Marketing)

Marketing at the Indian Creek Nature Center

Mentor: Anne King, M.B.A. // This project analyzed raw research data in order to research and write a formal marketing plan that will be used by Indian Creek Nature Center officials as they open their brand new Amazing Space Center. Using the data provided by telephone and written surveys we uncovered opportunities and issues to improve marketing and communications. We presented our results to Center officials and now have moved into the second phase of researching and writing a formal marketing plan the Marketing Director will be able to use immediately. This plan will include ideas for the center’s grand opening in early September.

Riley Neil (Outdoor Conservation)

User Engagement in the National Park System

Mentor: Dr. Joy Ochs // User engagement within our national parks has been decreasing in recent years. Interpretation is one method to help increase user engagement.  I’ve looked at the work of naturalists like John Muir to examine the founding principles of interpretation.  In National Parks today, they are struggling with using all aspects of interpretation to get people interested visiting and using the parks.  I’ve looked at several models designed to draw users into the park, and they are violating some of the current principles of interpretation.  During my presentation, I will be going over ways to improve interpretation in National Parks in hope that it will draw more people to them.

Organizer: Dr. Joy Ochs, Honors Program Director
Graphic Design, Print Production, and Web Updates: Dixie Albertson
With Special Thanks to Mount Mercy Faculty Mentors: Dr. Neil Bernstein, Dr. Ryan Bezy Jose Clemente, M.F.A., Dr. Bryan Cross, Dr. April Dirks, Dr. Ron Feldt, Kathryn Hagy, M.F.A., Joni Howland, M.S.W., Dr. Alesia Hruska, Anne King, M.B.A., Dr. Elizabeth Kleiman, Dr. Nate Klein, Dr. Jen Lee, Dr. Chad Loes, Dr. Joseph Nguyen, Dr. Joy OchsJoe Sheller, M.A., Dr. Robert Todd, Dr. Carol Tyx, Dr. Mary Vermillion, Dr. Ellen Warrington, Dr. Anna Waterman
Panel Moderators: Jane Junge, M.A., Joe Sheller, M.A., Dr. Belkis Suarez, Dr. Mary Vermillion, Dr. Anna Waterman, TBD
And to: Dr. Jen Lee, Pathways to Scholarship, Mount Mercy Office of Academic Affairs, Mount Mercy University Copy Center, Mount Mercy Dining Services, Mount Mercy Events Services, Mount Mercy Facilities Department, Mount Mercy Office of Communication and Marketing

Aly Schultz