First-year students and transfer students in their first year who have already achieved academic success at the University were honored at the Success Scholars reception Feb. 23. The Success Scholars program recognizes new students who earned a GPA of 3.75…
ACC Meeting of the Minds Conference Attracts Top Student Researchers
Each spring, there’s a prestigious, student-centric event featuring colleges and universities affiliated with the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) that has nothing to do with March Madness and everything to do with research and preparedness.
During the annual ACC Meeting of the Minds research conference, held March 24-26 on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, undergraduate students from each ACC institution convened to present recent findings to their peers.
The nomination and selection process—conducted by the Syracuse Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement (SOURCE)—is extremely competitive, and only five students represented Syracuse:
- Nathan Ashby, a senior biochemistry and neuroscience major in the College of Arts and Sciences;
- Grace Brock, a senior political science major in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences;
- Jordyn Lee, a sophomore sport management major in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics;
- Katarina Sako, a junior neuroscience and biology major in the College of Arts and Sciences; and
- Husna Tunje, a junior environmental engineering major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Students either delivered a 10-minute oral presentation followed by a Q&A (Brock and Sako) or they devised a poster displaying their research (Ashby, Lee and Tunje).
Get to know three of this year’s Orange representatives at the conference, their passions for their research topics and how this experience inspired them to go further with their research.
Katarina Sako ’24: Ensuring Older Adults Have the Proper Prescriptions
Last summer, Sako watched as her grandfather was admitted to a hospital after a series of fainting spells. While hospitalized her grandfather, who was on several medications at the time, was observed to have a really slow heart rate, and his physician recommended installing a pacemaker.
Before the pacemaker surgery could be scheduled, Sako’s grandfather started seeing a different physician—one who, after carefully reviewing his medical history, realized the fainting was caused by one of his medications.
The experience inspired Sako to become interested in geriatrics, the branch of medicine focused on the health needs and care of older adults. Her research addressed a topic currently underutilized in skilled nursing facilities across the United States: deprescribing, or the “systematic reassessment of an elderly patient’s medications in an effort to promote a better quality of life and ensure that the benefits of the medications they’re taking outweigh the harms,” Sako says. “My grandfather was lucky, but he’s not the exception [to being overprescribed]. This is very common in elder care. The elderly population is expected to double by 2050, so this is an international issue in terms of properly addressing the needs of the elderly population.”
Knowing most people don’t know much about deprescribing, Sako set out to demonstrate what deprescribing is and why it’s an important topic to study. Her presentation clearly defined the problems facing elderly citizens who are receiving more than five medications, the harm overmedicating can cause and how her research would help resolve the issue.
Sako says besides learning from her fellow presenters, the most influential portion of the conference was the Saturday evening keynote speaker: Brandy Faulkner, Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies and collegiate assistant professor of political science at Virginia Tech.
“She talked about being fearless with your research, being open to new ideas while remaining diligent in your research. She made me realize that when I’m investing in my research project, I shouldn’t have to modify my goals and I should always keep the interests of my target population in mind. She reframed how I should mature as a researcher going forward,” Sako says.
Grace Brock ’23: Analyzing the Effect of Gender on Xenophobic Language in Political Communications:
Political races have become increasingly personal over the years, with candidates relying more and more on language that tends to divide rather than unify when reaching out to voters.
In her home country of England, Brock knows firsthand how contentious some of the populist radical right-wing parties—those that are anti-immigration and pro-nationalist—have become.
Brock, a native of Cornwall, England, whose studies in Maxwell focus on comparative politics, wanted to analyze the effect of gender on xenophobic language when it came to political communications distributed in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.
“I’ve always been interested in xenophobic language and where those beliefs come from. When you look at these populist radical right-wing party officials, you see how people could take on these beliefs because how they’re communicated to people can be quite convincing. But these politicians are expressing some extreme, dangerous views,” says Brock, who is also a student-athlete on the University’s cross country and track and field teams.
Turning to a major source of campaign communications, Twitter, Brock spent more than 100 hours over two months reviewing tweets from eight populist radical right party officials over a yearlong period to see how different candidates discussed issues involving immigration and non-native individuals.
Brock studied both tweets and campaign speeches from male and female politicians to see how often their rhetoric involved xenophobic language, and whether there were observable differences in how female and male candidates spoke about issues of immigration.
“I found that male party officials were utilizing a lot more xenophobic language than the female officials [on social media], but when I looked at the speeches, I didn’t really find a difference in the utilization of xenophobic language,” Brock says. “There’s a concept in literature called strategic descriptive representation, which suggests women are being brought into the parties to attract more female voters. Since the tweets were targeted more at voters, but the speeches were targeted at smaller, more elite audiences, I concluded that when women are communicating with voters, they’re modifying their use of xenophobic language. But with the lead audiences, there isn’t really a difference.”
Brock says she felt great pride representing the University at the conference, and the Q&A provided her with important takeaways that will impact her research moving forward.
Jordyn Lee ’25: Tracking a Lack of Diversity and Equity in Professional Sports Front Offices
When Lee heads home after completing her sophomore year, she will intern for two different sports organizations: with event operations for Fastpitch Nation Softball Park, a sports complex in Windsor, Connecticut, and with USA Boccia, a national organization dedicated to promoting a highly competitive seated Paralympic sport where athletes with disabilities and able-bodied athletes participate in a throwing sport.
Lee, a lifelong tennis player, hopes to work for a professional sports organization or league once she finishes her sport management degree. As someone who grew up playing and following sports, Lee knows the front offices of these leagues and teams predominantly feature male executives.
When she arrived on campus, Lee noticed that her sport management classes contained mostly males, but she was determined to follow in the footsteps of recent female sport management graduates who have landed key jobs with professional sports teams and leagues. Those experiences of being in the minority in the classroom, combined with her personal experiences in sports, inspired Lee’s poster presentation delving into the lack of diversity and equity among the front offices of teams in both the National Football League (NFL) and the National Basketball Association (NBA).
“Just speaking with the other participants at the Meeting of the Minds gave me new insights into my research and [the knowing] that the possibilities are endless,” Lee says. “This experience inspired me to keep doing what I’m doing, to keep going with this research, and to expand it to include other sports leagues, like the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), to compare their front offices to the NBA teams. I left this conference more determined to raise awareness of this issue and make changes in these professional sports organizations.”