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Students to present summer research findings

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The growing emphasis on undergraduate research at Bethel College meant that eight students spent last summer researching selected topics in their major areas of study and getting paid to do so.

Convocation on Monday, Dec. 4, will give those students, who represent a wide range of disciplines, a chance to share their research findings in public. They with their faculty advisors will briefly describe studies and outcomes, with time for questions following the presentations.

The event takes place at 11 a.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center, with admission free and open to the public.

Last spring, students submitted proposals for summer research grants. The members of the Undergraduate Research, Internships and Creative Activities (URICA) Committee selected seven of them. Each winning proposal gave $1,000 to each student with an additional $500 to the departments in which they conducted their research.

The eighth student, Braden Hiebner, senior from Hampton, Neb., received the Mennonite Contributions Contest Award at last year’s awards convocation. The title of Hiebner’s award-winning paper, on which he expanded over the summer with the help of the monetary award, was “Wilhelm Munhardt: Mennonite and folklorist, a double life.”

Aislinn Conrad, senior from Goessel, began her work toward completion of her social work senior seminar by studying the “motive behind bullying behavior typical of ‘mean girls’ and most other adolescent females.” To do so, she surveyed young females at both a church camp and at a Title I middle school.

“Of the church camp participants, there was a significant relationship found between social support and depressive symptoms,” Conrad said. “Of the middle school participants, there were significant relationships found between each of the variables – depressive symptoms, social aggression and social support.”

In the history department, Robert Weaver, senior from Wichita, also conducted research on a topic that required him to collect information in the field. Weaver studied Kansas Mennonite views on homosexuality from 1968 to 1999, a topic that Weaver said major historians have “avoided or left for ‘later analysts.’”

He focused his study on two Kansas congregations: Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita and Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City, Kan. He is currently working on expanding his research to other churches.

Unlike Conrad and Weaver, Ross Lehman, senior from Bluffton, Ohio, spent most of his summer research time on the computer. He worked with the program Mathematica as part of his physics project.

“I analyzed the Cooperstock and Tieu galactic model, which reduces the need for dark matter, by engaging in a series of brute force computer calculations,” Lehman said. “I found that the discrepancy between Newtonian and Einsteinian theories of gravity is larger than expected and that galactic dynamics requires more complex modeling than is often done.”

The music department also had a URICA grantee. Joel Linscheid, junior from North Newton, did a comparison of three different renditions of the famous jazz song “Body and Soul” by musicians from three different time periods. With the help of former jazz professor Steve Jones, Linscheid spent many hours transcribing solos in order to compare the stylistic elements and artistic influences.

“I found that, as a performer and student of jazz music, transcription and analysis of improvised solos by great saxophonists is invaluable,” said Linscheid. “By understanding their solos in a harmonic sense, I was able to improve my own improvising and work towards learning how to really speak ‘the jazz language.’”

The other students receiving URICA grants for summer research were Adam Gaeddert, senior from Hutchinson, and Zachary Gingrich-Gaylord, junior from Newton, both in English, and Bethany Trimble, senior from Clyde, in psychology.

Gaeddert’s project involved literary analysis of the novel The God of Small Things (1997) by Arundhati Roy. Gingrich-Gaylord looked at the semiotics of hip-hop. Trimble conducted a study of personality as it relates to rehabilitation from sports injuries.

Reflecting on the experience of spending a summer doing research, Weaver said, “I really could not have done this research without a grant. If this money would not have been there, I would have been waiting tables to pay for tuition and I would have a much weaker senior seminar.”

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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