Category: Undergraduate

Student Highlight: Hunter Malinowski

Reading about Hunter Malinowski, a psychology and computer science major at Michigan Tech University, it’s hard to believe a student could accomplish so much during their undergraduate studies. But what is really amazing is the fact that Hunter began her dual degree programs just two short years ago.

Starting with her first semester, Hunter was awarded third place in the Bob Mark Business Model Competition and received a MTEC SmartZone Breakout Innovation Award and honorable mention in Central Michigan University’s New Venture Challenge for her start-up idea “Recirculate – The Future of Sustainable Fashion”. (See YouTube video below where Hunter describes her waste-reduction business model.)

Utilizing what she had learned in her first-year research methods class, Hunter applied to and received a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) grant from Pavlis Honors College (PHC). Each REU site receives funding from the National Science Foundation to support the research and contributions of many undergraduate students allowing students to work in a group of ten or so while conducting research at the host institution.

In her second year, Hunter continued her research work under the direction of CLS associate professor Dr. Shane Mueller after receiving a grant from Pavlis’ Undergraduate Research Internship Program (URIP). Her project, titled “Assessing the Effectiveness of the XAI Discovery Platform and Visual Explanations on User Understanding of AI Systems,” was part of the university’s 2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium. This spring, Hunter was also selected by PHC as a University Innovation Fellow and, in conjunction, attended the Stanford University Hassos Plattner Institute of Design (d_school) program in March. 

Hunter also devotes time to the campus community, currently as VP of Finance for Delta Zeta and as a member of the Order of Omega Honor Society. Past positions include Vice President of Public Relations for the Panhellenic Council, and member of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) as their representative on the Well-being Advisory Board Team. Hunter’s academic achievements have earned her a place on the Dean’s list each semester as well.

We caught up with Hunter during Week 14 to find out more about her life at Michigan Tech.  

Q: Looking back, what were the deciding factors that led you to select Michigan Tech for psychology and computer science? Has your experience met or exceeded your expectations?

A: When I first toured Michigan Tech, I was solely interested in psychology. I visited the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department and was able to see all of the research labs, which was a large deciding factor for me in choosing Michigan Tech. I ended up taking a computer science class my junior year of high school, and loved it. I went on to do summer programs with Kode with Klossy, as well as the Women in Computer Science Summer Youth Program (SYP) at Michigan Tech, and that was the experience that solidified that I felt like I really belonged here. 

My experience at Michigan Tech has absolutely met my expectations; I was able to get involved in research during my first year and I love the environment that the psychology classes have. With the smaller size department, you end up knowing everyone very well and it makes classes a lot more comfortable. 

Q: What interests you about the combination of Psychology and Computer Science?

A: People are always surprised when I tell them that I’m majoring in Psychology and Computer Science because they don’t see how the two fit together. But there are so many interesting intersections between the two. First and foremost, if you know how to code and create a piece of technology, it’s not very useful if the user interface is poor. You could have a perfect technical design, but without understanding the psychology of the users, your app probably won’t get used. However, the most interesting aspect to me is artificial intelligence and its applications, which is what I plan to go into after graduating.

Q: With so many accolades over the past two years, what has been the highlight for you so far?

A: The trip to Palo Alto through University Innovation Fellows was 100% my favorite experience since being here. We attended a conference at Stanford; the campus was so beautiful and there were so many amazing speakers at the sessions I attended. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do.

Q: What are your future plans for your time remaining at Michigan Tech and when you complete your undergraduate degrees?

A: I am returning as a Ford IT intern this summer. Other than that, I think I will mostly be focusing on my classes and getting involved on campus where I can. When I complete my undergraduate degrees, I plan on staying here at Michigan Tech for one more year to complete my Accelerated Masters degree!

Q: What do you like to do in your “spare” time in the local area?

A: I love hanging out with my friends, going on adventures, and doing crafts (I love to crochet). One time, my friends and I were volunteering at Treat Street, passing out candy to local children. Afterward we decided to go and watch the sunset at Breakers Beach, which was happening in like 20 minutes. So we went in our Halloween costumes since we didn’t have time to change. That’s probably one of my favorite memories since being here. I love the Keweenaw because you’re so close to so many beautiful sights.

Q: Would you like to share any “Words of Wisdom” with high school juniors and seniors deciding on their college career?

A: I think my best advice for students making their college plans is just to do what feels right. You have so many options, and it can be hard to decide between them all, whether it’s the college you’re deciding on or what major you want to do. But at the end of the day, you know yourself best, so don’t overthink it too much. If something doesn’t feel right, you can always change it. Which is probably one of the hardest things for me because I feel like I want to do everything. And sometimes you have to admit to yourself that something isn’t working out, or else you’ll get overwhelmed.

For more information on our Psychology and Human Factors programs, and the student opportunities highlighted in this post, please contact us at cls@mtu.edu. For our latest happenings, follow us on Instagram @clsmtu or Facebook


The Psychology of Nature


Psychological research is advancing our understanding of how time in nature can improve our mental health and sharpen our cognition. From a stroll through a city park to a day spent hiking in the wilderness, exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, better mood, improved immune system, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation. [Source: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature]

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences has blended these wellness findings with the area’s abundance of outdoor activities and endless beauty into its new course – Nature Psychology. The course was developed by Dr. Samantha Smith, CLS assistant professor, with noteworthy contributions from several other faculty at MTU.The new course centers experiential learning and takes an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to helping students explore how our mental experience is connected to the natural environment. 

The course also featured a significant service learning component. In collaboration with Jill Fisher, program manager at the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT), the students designed a pamphlet explaining many ways that spending time in nature is good for mental health, physical health, and cognitive performance. The pamphlet will be placed at various KLT trailheads and around the local community. The class also created a family-oriented activity with the aim of getting more people exploring the great outdoors, and the KLT-protected lands in particular.

This year’s course culminated with a weekend nature retreat in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, allowing students to directly experience and reflect on concepts they discussed throughout the semester. The retreat, facilitated by Dr. Smith and Dr. Erika Vye, included hiking, outdoor cooking, nature-themed discussions and crafts, and time for interpersonal connection and reflection.

Complementary Research and Curriculum Development 

In addition to learning about traditional psychology themes, like the impact of time in nature on cognitive performance and mental health, the new course introduced students to a variety of other perspectives on the human-nature connection. Brigitte Morin (BioSci) illuminated the human body’s physiological response to spending mindful time in the natural world, and Dr. Mark Rhodes (SS) led students on an exploration of human geography, political ecology, and what the word “nature” really means. Dr. Chelsea Schelly (SS) engaged students in an exciting examination of environmentally responsible behaviors, and our interdependent relationship with the biophysical world from a sociological lens. Lisa Gordillo (VPA) spoke to some of her own and others’ work at the intersection of art and ecology to facilitate community engagement and conversations about environmental justice and human rights. Dr. Erika Vye (GLRC) introduced students to the importance of varied personal values for geologic features, the wide-ranging connections people have with landscape, and the value of geoheritage as a geoscience communication tool affording place-based learning experiences that nurture our sense of place. Dr. R.J. Laverne (CFRES) shared his expertise on urban forestry, and the consequences of becoming too disconnected from the natural world that we evolved to thrive in.

The takeaways to keep for life

Throughout the course, students gained a greater understanding of:

  • how nature impacts human psychology and physiology,
  • how an understanding of psychology and the human-nature connection can be used to promote positive social and environmental outcomes,
  • how to engage in and promote environmental stewardship efforts and become more environmentally responsible citizens of the Earth.

There’s More

The Nature Psychology course is not the only experiential learning opportunity provided by the CLS department. Course offerings also include Environmental Psychology, where students go outside the classroom to observe psychological principles and practices at play in various real-world settings. For example, during the course, students conduct a walkability survey of Houghton, and conduct a scavenger hunt at the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum to explore the design of educational environments.

In the fall semester, during the Upper Peninsula’s famous “color season”, the department also organizes a “Psych Hike” – a group hike on one of the area’s beautiful trails. This is a great way to calm the mind, move the body, and enjoy time together in nature.  

For more information regarding our Psychology and Human Factors programs, please contact us at cls@mtu.edu. And for the latest happenings, follow us on Instagram @clsmtu or Facebook

Photo credit: Hannah DeRuyter


Undergraduate Research Symposium

On Tuesday, April 19, the PSY 3001 Research Methods class hosted a poster session presenting the research they completed during the last semester as part of the course. The course instructor and research advisor for these undergraduate students is CLS associate professor Dr. Shane Mueller.

There were seven posters from 15 students in the symposium with faculty staff and students attending the event.
The abstracts for each poster is listed below the photo gallery.

Peer Evaluation Study of a Women’s Reproductive Health Course: A Synthesis of a Qualitative Study of Medical Professionals.  
Erin Brooks
The education of young women has transitioned from health and sex education to what it implies to “get your period” and how to actively avoid pregnancy (Schmitt et al., 2021). Young women have the right to be taught the basics of their reproductive system and the skills to identify and understand their own health. In an effort to combat this lack of knowledge, studies have researched the knowledge of fertility awareness in individuals and where they received their education (Chowlowska et al., 2020; Armour et al., 2021). The goal of this two part study is to identify a gap in the knowledge of young women about their reproductive health and to design a course that would educate women about the information that was not taught to them. The study was of a two part design: the first was semi-structured interviews with women’s health professionals, and,the second part was a peer evaluation of a course that addressed this gap. The results of the first study came to a conclusive identification of an educational gap on the natural signs and patterns of a woman’s cycle, including misconceptions women have held about their own bodies. The peer evaluations also held a high rate of correlation in the direction that the knowledge presented in the short course was beneficial to them as individuals. These studies helped to bring to light the knowledge gap there is in the education of young women today and where there is room for growth, providing the basis for courses for future classes.

Failure to Replicate: The Influence of Post-Event Information on Situation Recall.
Kaitlyn Baccus, Gabby Bosley and Makenna Nuttall
The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of post-event information on situational recall. We hypothesized  that when given leading post-event information after viewing a dashcam video, participants will be less likely to accurately describe and remember the event than those who are not given leading post-information. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two Google surveys with questions to assess their knowledge of a dashcam video of a car accident they watched. Questions about the accident included filler questions and one key question about car speed. The results of the data did not support our hypothesis and showed that the non-leading group reported a higher average speed than the leading group. These results encouraged us to conduct a second study, this time a within-subjects study. Four surveys were created using older car accident videos and an attention-check video of a mountain bike accident. These videos were counterbalanced with leading and non-leading questions regarding the event that occurred in the videos. The key questions were again related to the car’s speeds. The results of this study showed that there was not a significant effect of verbiage on vehicle speed estimates between the conditions.

Comparing the Perceived Effectiveness and Difficulty of Memorization Strategies in Different Age Groups.
Trenton Laramore, Abby Morley, and Samantha Walker 
Previous studies on the use of mnemonics as a study technique have found that deeper analysis and longer processing time of material will enhance memory performance (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). However, there has not been much research on the comparison of mnemonic strategies. It is hypothesized that the Story Strategy (SS) would be more effective in free recall compared to the First Letter Strategy (FLS). An online randomized questionnaire assigned participants into four groups that watched two videos testing both strategies. After recall, participants were asked to assess difficulty and effectiveness. Results show that participants recalled more words using the SS compared to the FLS and thought the SS was more effective and difficult overall. These results suggest that deeper levels of processing are linked to better performance. This study leads to further research in our second study about how age impacts perceived difficulty and strategy performance. Participants were randomly assigned into two groups and watched four videos where both strategies were tested. Participants were then instructed to recall words utilizing the strategy they were given. After recall, participants were asked to subjectively assess effectiveness, difficulty, and usefulness.  Results show that FLS was considered more difficult, while SS was considered more effective, but memory performance was not impacted by age for either strategy.  Results suggest that use of memory strategies may successfully counteract organic mild effects of memory loss as we age.

Sexual Education Comprehensiveness As It relates to Comfort and Suggested Material for Grades 6-8.  
Keighley Blindauer, Cat Madish, and Katie Ulinski  
The teaching of sexual education is currently under scrutiny by many and the value of teaching the topic is under question. Previous research has shown that students retain knowledge better when the class is comprehensive and inclusive as well as that students want that kind of instruction (Narushima et al., 2020). It is therefore the goal of study one was to discover if there is a correlation between comprehensiveness of past sexual education and comfort level when discussing sexual topics. The data showed that there was not a correlation between comprehensiveness and comfort level (Perarson’s correlation, p=0.886, p > 0.05). Despite this finding, it is the goal of the second study to suggest a new course in sexual education that is more inclusive and comprehenesive than pervious standards. To do this, current standards were compared and a new syllabus was suggested. A specific lesson plan was also suggested. Based on the first study and suggested materials, the teaching of sexual education is a constantly shifting field that needs to respond to what students learn best to.

The Perception of Self-Esteem Levels and its Effect on Mental Disorders.
– Jayden Middlecamp and Caity Weirick 
Self-esteem and mental illnesses are two things that often go together, and the presence of mental illnesses can create low self-esteem over time through feelings of anxiety, depression, and many other common mental health conditions. There is often a stigma surrounding mental illnesses in the United States that everyone who suffers from them will have low self-esteem, and those who have higher self-esteem are not as prone to developing or suffering from mental illnesses. Previous research has investigated these stigmas of mental health, as well as addressed the ways in which mental illnesses impact self-esteem. However, our interest lies in investigating whether or not levels of self-esteem (low or high) will impact someone’s perception of that individual’s mental state. Two surveys were created in order to assess this and included four different scenarios with common, easily-identifiable mental disorders. Each scenario was accompanied by statements from the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale in order to imply low or high self-esteem without directly stating it. This allowed participants to get an impression of the person in each scenario. Following up, they were asked if they believed their self-esteem impacted their mental disorder. Results of this study were computed in a paired-samples t-test, giving a result of 0.008. Since the p value is less than 0.05, the null hypothesis is rejected and the results are statistically significant, showing that participants were more likely to say that high self-esteem impacted mental disorders compared to those with low self-esteem.

Change Blindness: Recognizing Facial Change and Comparing Confidence.
Alyssa Everett & Kallie Weecks 
Past research has shown that small changes often go undetected, which introduced a phenomenon known as “change blindness.” Research has also been done to show that the brain has a specific area called the Fusiform Face Area for recognizing facial features. However, little research has addressed which parts of the face changes often go unnoticed or how confidence affects detection. Utilizing the flicker paradigm, videos were developed to test if relevant changes were more easily noticed in faces and less susceptible to change blindness. The results from Study 1 showed that there was a significant difference between big and small changes, but irrelevant and relevant changes were not statistically different. This shows that the materials used in this study were well made to have big and small changes indicating that these videos could be used for further research. Study 2 used the materials from Study 1 to compare confidence to the ability to detect changes. This was done by showing a short clip of a video and asking participants to rate their confidence in identifying a change in the longer video. This found that there was a statistically significant correlation between the confidence and the accuracy of detection. This implies there may be the ability to detect a change before identifying what the change is.

Identity Formation Among Undergraduate Engineering Students at Michigan Technological University.
Emily Grant 
Sixty percent of Michigan Technological University (MTU) students are enrolled in an engineering program. Identity within one’s career has been a researched topic for many years and it shows that there is a high correlation between one’s success in their career and how much one identifies with their career choice. Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) theorizes that an individual’s interests, choices, achievement, and satisfaction all interact with each other (Lent et al., 1994). To test and further understand this research two studies were conducted involving engineering students at MTU. These studies’ main goal was to understand and conceptualize how much identifying as an engineer can impact one’s success throughout their time at MTU as well as their success after graduating when thrust into the professional engineering world. Throughout this research, I take a look into the opinions and feelings of MTU engineering students to discover what it is that led them to pursue a degree in engineering. Using the Critical Decision Method (CDM) interview process involving 6 participants which preceded a survey/questionnaire that expands the sample size to 94 engineering students, I’ve Developed a qualitative model of students perceive themselves as engineers, whether any role models led them to this point, and finally, a sense of how MTU either supports or neglects the needs for engineering students to succeed and create a strong identity with their chosen field of engineering.

To learn about the latest in our undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research – follow us on Instagram and Facebook @clsmtu!


Top Six Things to Consider when Choosing a University

Top Six Things to Consider when Choosing a University

By Beth Williams, Director of Admissions, Michigan Technological University, April 2, 2022

From Michigan Tech News. Read the original article.

The move from high school to college is a really big deal — but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Knowing the basics will help you get ready. To make the process of finding the right school a little less stressful, here are six key things to consider in your search.

1.) Outcomes

An education must be a smart investment in your future — and one that pays you back. Look beyond cost and consider the outcomes. Student loans are manageable (and often less costly per month than mandatory state tax withholding) when you have an outstanding resume to build on and lock in a high starting salary.

Gather data and compare placement rates within six months of graduation, median early career pay and return on investment. Ask about on-campus career fairs and the companies that visit campus to recruit students — for full-time jobs as well as co-ops and internships. How you’re able to distinguish yourself during college often adds to your success after graduation.

“Gerdau views the students of MTU as having a level of dedication and fortitude that isn’t easily found. Combine those values with the approach that MTU takes with its hands-on labs, highly educated professors, diversity initiatives and abundant leadership opportunities through project work and student organizations? Those are the reasons Gerdau is one of hundreds of employers that make the trek to the UP every year.” – Julie Soderberg, Gerdau

Amazon, IKEA, General Motors, Kimberly Clark, Los Alamos National Laboratory and more than 200 other companies and organizations make Michigan Tech a recruiting destination for our spring Career Fair. They know the talent tomorrow needs can be found at Michigan’s flagship technological university.

See how Michigan Tech pays you back.

2.) Class Size

A university’s average class size is important. Too big and you are just a number. Too small and you may not have access to the opportunities you’ll need to get ahead. Find a close-knit campus where you can learn — a place that provides opportunities to stand out on campus, so your education lets you stand out in the workplace.

You’ll have some larger lectures at Tech, but the average class size is 25 and our student-to-faculty ratio is 13 to 1. You’ll know professors and they’ll know you by name. Ask questions and engage in discussions. Get more out of your classroom experience.

3.) Support

It’s a fact. College is hard. To be successful, it’s critical that you maintain your health and overall well-being as you navigate your college experience. It’s okay to ask for help — from academic support to mental health and disability services. Be sure to review the resources and programming available on campus (or while working or taking classes remotely) to help you be well and thrive physically, mentally and academically.

Support resources to consider:

4.) Safety

On-campus safety and policy are major factors when considering a school — and so is the safety of the surrounding area. The greater community is directly connected to a university. What kinds of safety resources does a school have in place? Knowing the school’s policies and procedures concerning student safety can be useful in deciding whether or not it is the best fit.

Michigan Tech is proud be ranked as the safest public university in Michigan by Niche.com.

5.) Location

Location plays a major role in your college experience and it’s important to consider a school’s city, town and community. Do you want to see city lights or the northern lights? The way the community interacts with the college — and its students — is also important. Finally, consider the location’s opportunities to expand your interests and explore new activities and hobbies.

“The campus is located on Michigan’s most beautiful playground — the Upper Peninsula — and borders the Keweenaw Waterway, which connects to Lake Superior. Huskies spend a lot of time outside exploring, skiing, swimming, hiking, biking and even dogsledding.” – Chrissy Grotzke, Associate Director of Admissions

6.) Fit

How you feel at a school is perhaps the most important factor in your decision. The excitement of game day fades, so make sure your day-to-day experience is truly rich and rewarding.

Make time for a campus tour so you can walk around the campus. Watch how students interact with each other and consider if the atmosphere seems more collaborative or competitive. Schedule a time to talk with a professor or academic advisor for your intended major. Ask students what they like — and don’t like — about their school. Look for student organizations and activities you might like to join. Find a place where you feel a sense of belonging — where you’ll be an integral part of the community and can explore and grow with others who will support you.

“Michigan Tech is known for providing students with access to the support, care and resources they need to be successful. We’re here to support students and ensure they stay on track to graduate. That’s what we do — and we’re good at it. We work with faculty, academic advisors, academic department chairs, MTU college deans and other colleagues on campus to assist and support students through degree completion.” – Wallace Southerland III, Dean of Students

Most importantly, look for things that matter to you most and trust your gut. If it feels right, you’ll be that much happier at your new college home.


Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.


BASIC Computer Tutoring Resumes at Portage Lake District Library

From WLUC-TV6. Published March 26, 2022.

HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) – Since 2018, Michigan Tech University senior Mitchell Eckstrand has come to the Portage Lake District Library to help people in Houghton with computers. It is something he has enjoyed doing almost every weekend.

“If I can do my part to help other people feel more comfortable with their devices or other tasks that they’re doing on their computer, {then} it’s rewarding for me,” said Eckstrand.

These tutoring sessions are part of BASIC, which stands for Building Adult Skills In Computing. For at least 11 years, MTU professors and students have helped community members understand technology.

MTU faculty members Charles Wallace (CS/ICC-HCC, CompEd) and Kelly Steelman (CLS/ICC-HCC) direct the volunteer program.

“Sometimes, it’s questions they don’t know about,” said Chuck Wallace, an Associate Professor of Computer Science. “Sometimes, it’s problems with existing technology. But, we take them on one-on-one and work together with them.”

Saturday, marked the first in-person session in two years.

Besides regular computers, people get help with their tablets, phones, and even Chromebooks.

“Having some Chromebooks here for people who don’t have those is a really great way for people to be able to try out some more portable technology,” said Kelly Steelman, an Associate Professor of Human Factors and Psychology. “So, they might consider whether they want to get something like that for themselves.”

The program also helps those who are anxious about asking technological questions.

“As the pace of technology progresses,” Steelman explained, “it’s more of a common discussion that everybody needs help and will need help at some point.”

Eckstrand says those he and his peers help are not the only ones who learn something new.

“A lot of times, I’ll get questions that I don’t know the answer to, and then we’ll work together to figure out the problem,” he stated. “I learn a lot of things, too that I probably would have never known had I not been involved in this program.”

The BASIC sessions will continue helping others gain technological knowledge until the end of April, before starting again in September. They are open to anyone in the community, and no sign-ups are necessary. The free sessions are on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Portage Lake District Library’s Community Room.

Copyright 2022 WLUC. All rights reserved.


Undergraduate Research Symposium, 2022

Emilie Jacques


Hunter Malinowski

The tenth annual Undergraduate Research Symposium (URS) took place on Friday, March 25, 2022, in the Rozsa Lobby. The Symposium highlighted the cutting-edge research conducted on Michigan Tech’s campus by some of our best and brightest undergraduates. The students represented a wide array of scientific and engineering disciplines from across campus and highlighted the diversity of research areas being explored.

UG psychology students Hunter Malinowski (CS dual major) and Emilie Jacques were among this year’s URS participants. Hunter presented her research with advisor Dr. Shane Mueller in “Assessing the Effectiveness of the XAI Discovery Platform and Visual Explanations on User Understanding of AI Systems”. Emilie presented her research with advisor Dr. Susie Amato-Henderson in “The Immediate Effects of Mindfulness on Test Anxiety”. Both students were recipients of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF).

Congratulations to all participants!


Human Factors in Healthcare Keynote: Dr. Rupa Valdez presents “Creating Systems That Promote Equity: A Journey Across Disciplines”

Please join us Friday (Mar 25) in ATDC conference room 101 (and via Zoom); talk from 3:30-4:30, with interactive discussion to follow from 4:30-5:00.

Dr. Rupa Valdez is an associate professor at the University of Virginia with joint appointments in the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She is also a core faculty member of Global Studies and the Disability Studies Initiative. Dr. Valdez merges the disciplines of human factors engineering, health informatics, and cultural anthropology to understand and support the ways in which people manage health at home and in the community.

We encourage faculty and graduate students with any overlap in research, interest in collaboration, or just interest in learning more about Dr. Valdez’s work/journey/activism to join us!

This event is co-sponsored by CLS, KIP, and CSA, and is sponsored in part by the Michigan Tech Visiting Professor Program, which is funded by a grant to the Office of the Provost from the State of Michigan’s King-Chavez-Parks Initiative. Michigan Technological University is an Equal Opportunity Educational Institution/Equal Opportunity Employer that provides equal opportunity for all, including protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Abstract:
Catalyzed by the pandemic and by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many
others, there is rapidly growing interest in determining how we can create sociotechnical
systems that promote equity rather than perpetuate disparity and injustice. In this talk, I share
and critically reflect on my journey toward this goal over the last decade. I begin with earlier
efforts to merge approaches from cultural anthropology and engineering to inform the design
of patient-facing health information technologies. I end with more recent community-based
participatory research and policy-based efforts to reimagine public health education, accessible
healthcare, and the role of community in shaping the research process.  My engagement with
historically marginalized communities has pushed my efforts from a primary focus on creating
technologies aligned with the contexts in which such communities are embedded to a broader
focus on working with communities to shift these contexts. In concluding remarks, I reflect on
how encouraging such work requires, at minimum, embracing a broader conceptualization of
engineering and, more ambitiously, work that may be considered a-disciplinary.

BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Rupa Valdez is an associate professor at the University of Virginia with
joint appointments in the School of Medicine and the School of Engineering
and Applied Sciences. She is also a core faculty member of Global Studies and the Disability
Studies Initiative. Dr. Valdez merges the disciplines of human factors engineering, health
informatics, and cultural anthropology to understand and support the ways in which people
manage health at home and in the community. Her research and teaching focuses on
underserved populations, including populations that are racial/ethnic minorities, are of low
socioeconomic status, or are living with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. Her work
draws heavily on community engagement and has been supported by the National Institutes of
Health (NIH), Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the National Science
Foundation (NSF), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), among others. She recently
testified before Congress on the topic of health equity for the disability community and
received the Jack A. Kraft Innovator Award from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
(HFES) for her pioneering work in creating and developing the subdiscipline of patient
ergonomics.
Dr. Valdez currently serves as an Associate Editor for Ergonomics, the Journal of American
Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) Open, and Human Factors in Healthcare. Among other
appointments, she serves on the Board of Directors for the American Association of People with
Disabilities and on PCORI’s Patient Engagement Advisory Panel. She is further the
founder and president of Blue Trunk Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to
making it easier for people with chronic health conditions, disabilities, and
age-related conditions to travel. Dr. Valdez herself lives with multiple chronic health
conditions and disabilities, which have and continue to influence her work and advocacy.


Samantha Smith Selected for Deans’ Teaching Showcase

Samantha Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences (CLS), is this week’s Dean’s Teaching Showcase member.

Smith will be recognized at an end-of-term event with other showcase members and is also a candidate for the CTL Instructional Award Series.

Dean David Hemmer selected Smith for her innovative course design that takes full advantage of the beautiful Keweenaw.

Smith’s new course, Nature Psychology, centers experiential learning and takes an innovative approach to helping students explore how our mental experience is connected to the natural environment. The course was selected for an IDEA Hub pilot project grant because of its innovative approach to making the subject meaningful to students and because it provides students with an interdisciplinary perspective on the subject matter by connecting them with faculty from a variety of disciplines that engage with the natural world.

Smith’s course features a significant service learning component. After a meeting with Jill Fisher, outreach coordinator from the Keweenaw Land Trust (KLT), the students have designed a pamphlet that will be placed at various KLT trailheads. The pamphlet will explain many of the ways that spending time in nature is good for mental health, physical health and cognitive performance — which should be a good way for them to share the things they are learning about in class. The class is also creating a family-oriented activity with the aim of getting more people out exploring and learning about the KLT and the land they protect.

The course culminates with a nature retreat in the Porcupine Mountains, allowing students to directly experience and reflect on concepts they’ve discussed throughout the semester. To prepare for this retreat, Smith completed an intensive five-day wilderness first responder course over the winter break.

Nature Psychology is not Smith’s first experience with experiential learning. In her Environmental Psychology class, she also takes students outside the classroom to observe psychological principles and practices at play in real-world settings. For example, she brings students on a walkability tour of Houghton and conducts a scavenger hunt at the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum to explore the design of educational environments. Student and peer evaluations of these courses have highlighted their excellent organization and pacing through a combination of demonstrations, discussions, individual and small-group activities, and lecture.

CLS Chair Kelly Steelman says: “Since joining the department in 2019, Dr. Smith has developed a reputation as a high-quality, innovative instructor at the introductory, upper-division and graduate level … and one that excites students enough that they seek out opportunities to provide glowing feedback. In fact, last semester, I had two different students from two different classes stop me on campus to rave about her courses.”

Hemmer includes similar praise in his nomination: “Hiring faculty is one of the best parts of my job. When newer faculty like Dr. Smith quickly make such a positive impact in (and out!) of the classroom, it is truly heartening.”


100 Years in the Making

Hello, I’m Sara, a second-year psychology student at Michigan Tech and I’d like to invite you to Winter Carnival 2022!

My sorority, @mtu_alphagam, is one of nearly 70 campus and community organizations participating in this year’s snow statue competition. We have spent a combination of 102 hours shoveling, hauling, stacking, packing, freezing and adding the final touches to our creation. Did you know that it takes three different teams to complete a snow statue? There are people who work on the statue itself, then those who make the letters displayed in front of the statue, and people who make the ice sculptures.

This year Alpha Gamma Delta is partnering with our neighbor, Sigma Tau Gamma, in a variety of carnival events including statue building, stage revue, and several other competitions such as curling, broomball, speed skating, and human dog sled races. One of my sisters, Abigail Bethune, was voted Royal Majesty and will reign over the week’s events. We are very proud of her!

The annual Winter Carnival tradition has come a long way since the one-night event in 1922. Now the week-long schedule includes snow volleyball and soccer, ice bowling, speed skating, skiing and snowboarding, broomball, CCHA hockey games, human dog sled races, Bigfoot Glowshoe, and the SnoBall, to name a few.

So, Come One, Come All To Our 100th Carnival!


The Next Chapter: Physical Therapy School

I’m Emma DeBaeke, I graduated in spring 2021 from MTU with a Bachelors of Exercise Science and a minor in Psychology. The research and the anatomical-based program have given me the perfect foundation for the next chapter in my life, Physical Therapy school. I have just started school at the University of Michigan- Flint in their DPT program. Personally, I feel as if U of M has been the right choice for me because of the ability to live closer to my family, the PT Heart clinic, and the amazing professors. However, MTU will always be in my heart.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without my experiences at Tech. With Michigan Tech being so far from my home town it helped me grow. It took a lot of tenacity, determination, and help from the Chemistry Learning Center to make it through my first semester. I also couldn’t have made it through without the supportive community at MTU. I have had numerous occasions where people have helped me shovel out my car from the snow, and I have run into countless alumni downstate who are always so kind. 

Throughout my time at Tech I was on the rowing team, a Resident Assistant in DHH, and an Athletic Training Intern. I am still active in the MTU community as a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon. I personally enjoy being busy and these roles allowed me to either give back to the community or better myself personally. I know preparing to apply for graduate school can be stressful. I believe when preparing your resume it’s important to find activities that you enjoy to fulfill the graduate program’s recommendations and help you stand out during interviews.