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School of Education & Social Sciences SUMMER 2016

Funding from the Grable Foundation has allowed the School of Education and Social Sciences and four local school districts to create the Ohio River Consortium, which aims to advance student learning and invention by weaving experiential lessons into every subject and every grade level. Consisting of the Teacher Education Programs of RMU, Avonworth, Quaker Valley, Moon Area, and Cornell school districts, the consortium is building active engagement experiences into the curriculum, challenging students to think creatively through projects, techniques, games, and simulations, as well as infusing active learning instruction into the curriculum for RMU teacher education students. The grant also funded a “Makerspace” on the RMU campus for education students to more deeply explore active learning. Much of the activity within the consortium this first year focused on the early childhood grades. The members of the consortium designed, equipped, and organized maker spaces. Teacher teams experimented with various maker-style activities and gained a deeper understanding of how these inquiry strategies fit into the existing curriculum. RMU faculty members also designed and implemented an observation instrument that will help quantify the impact on the teaching and learning process of a curriculum centered on active engagement, and put together a book list for best books about making, available at: RMU.EDU/RMURECOMMENDS. This upcoming school year, the curriculum and professional development will focus on the middle level grades. Teacher teams will begin with a Maker Educator Boot Camp, designed and presented by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which will help further the network between the member districts, the University, and the individual teachers.


> Ohio River Consortium Starts First Year


> Presidential Transformational Award SESS student and history major Joshua Caskey was honored with the highest award at Undergraduate Commencement, the Presidential Transformational Award. A veteran and a non-traditional student who served for over 12 years in the United States Marine Corps, including two tours of duty in the Iraq War, Josh’s academic record while at RMU was stellar: he had a GPA of 3.99 and won several school-wide awards. Despite his family obligations, he took an active role as a leader in the RMU History Club and the Oral History Center, where he was a vital participant in the new Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Project. Josh took a leadership role in all aspects of this new endeavor – organizing it, publically representing it at numerous public events, conducting many of the interviews, and transcribing them for hundreds of hours.

This year SESS sponsored a new Pittsburgh chapter of Strong Women, Strong Girls, an organization dedicated to providing positive mentoring relationships between college women and preadolescent girls in underserved local communities. The program helps raise ambition among elementary school girls and combat the dangers of low self-esteem. Thirteen women at RMU were in the program. They partnered with Cornell Elementary School to mentor 35 girls in grades 3-5, and accompanied them to events at the Heinz History Center, the “Jump in to Spring” event in Squirrel Hill, and a campus beautification project at Cornell Elementary. Additionally, the RMU chapter co-hosted “Strong Leaders in the Workplace,” which brought four professional women to campus to share their career paths and professional development with RMU students. The chapter at Robert Morris University had a very successful first year, culminating with well-deserved awards. Allison Dushack and Emily McGraw received RMU’s Student Excellence “Community Service Award” for their role in the founding of the RMU SWSG chapter. In addition, the RMU chapter received the “Above and Beyond” award from the SWSG Pittsburgh Chapter Directors at the SWSG Mentor and Volunteer Recognition Extravaganza held at the Children’s Museum in April. SWSG-RMU will be begin recruiting efforts in August to increase membership, with the hope of expanding mentorship to another local school district beginning in October.

> Election Debate The newly formed Political Science Club hosted a debate in October between the candidates in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 37th State Senatorial District, which includes Moon Township. The debate between Democrat Heather Arnet and Republican Guy Reschenthaler took place at the RMU-TV studio and was moderated by Prof. Justin DePlato, faculty advisor to the club. Students worked on the format and the questions asked in the debate. The debate was live-streamed and archived at YOUTUBE.COM/RMUSESS.


> Strong Women Strong Girls

Dean Rafoth with Jordan Neusch, winner of the John Graham Founding Dean Award, to the best student in SESS for 2015-16.

The Psychology Club hosted another successful “Psych in a Box” event in February, in which RMU students taught local high school students about different areas of psychology.

RMU students at the White House as part of the Washington, D.C., Study Tour class led by Justin DePlato.


Education students had many engaged learning experiences over the past year. Highlights included a group of students taking part in a unique year-long project tied to the Maker Movement in two of their classes, Arts and the Developing Child in the fall, and Family and Partnerships in the spring. First, they created activities that engaged young children at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Each of the activities was linked to a children’s book, and highlighted creativity, building and making. After feedback from RMU professors, the students took their ideas to the museum, where patrons and pre-kindergarten students participated. The activities included working in a small group to build cities and skyscrapers with boxes, creating textile patterns with various materials, building houses for the Three Little Pigs and testing their strength, working with oobleck, and creating individual projects out of recyclables. In the spring the students collaborated with staff at the Children’s Museum and faculty, staff, parents and children at Avonworth School District’s Primary Center to run Avonworth Primary School’s “Makeshop Madness” event, an all day event which promoted critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity by participation in a variety of hands-on activities. Also in the spring students in the Parent and Community Relationships course helped to run an evening for incoming kindergarten students and their families, creating informational posters and providing developmentally appropriate activities for the children who attend. Reading and Language Arts Methods students took part in Buddy Day, a semester-long project that provided developmentally appropriate literacy instruction for first graders at McClure Elementary School in the McKeesport Area School District.


> Engaged Learning for Education Students


> Sharing Expertise SESS hosted a number of successful academic conferences, symposia, and panel discussions this past academic year, staring with the annual fall political science Symposium, which focused on the Presidential Election. It included a talk on the Electoral College, a panel discussion on the state of the race, and a keynote address by Salena Zito, Pittsburgh TribuneReview reporter and columnist, who had interviewed all the candidates running for president. The well-attended symposium aired later on PCN. A panel discussion on Mass Shootings in America was hosted in January to a packed crowd of students, faculty, staff and guests. In February the annual Girls and Women in Sport Symposium featured talks on Title IX, marketing women’s sports, the psychology of female collegiate athletes, and a keynote by Nicole M. LaVoi, associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. The Education Conference in March brought educators to campus to discuss social media, innovative teaching, integration of the arts, and educational technology. There was a gallery walk sponsored by the Ohio River Consortium, and a keynote address by Jane Werner, the Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.


With funding from the Jacob Ferree Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the RMU Oral History Center started the Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Project this year. The project interviews veterans to preserve their stories, creating a repository of interviews accessible to citizens, teachers, and scholars. Five history students worked on the project under the direction of Prof. John McCarthy and conducted two dozen interviews, including Alejandro Villanueva, a lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, Pennsylvania State Senator Guy Reschenthaler, and RMU President Christopher Howard, who served two tours in Afghanistan in the Air Force. A Veterans Day event was held to officially kick off the IAVP, and a poster presentation about the project was held at a research conference RMU hosted in March. At both of these events there was a display with a recording of one of IAVP’s interviews that people could watch or listen to with headphones. A Constitution Day event in September was well attended, and featured a panel of RMU students who were veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, moderated by John McCarthy. Congressman Tim Murphy visited RMU in February to learn about the Iraq/ Afghanistan Veterans’ Project.


> Oral History Center Pursues Veterans Project

The collection of interviews can be found on DSPACE.RMU.EDU, >> PITTSBURGH STEELER ALEJANDRO VILLANUEVA WITH where visitors have the option of PROF. MCCARTHY AND GABE D’ACHILLE watching a video of the interview, listening to an audio of the interview, or reading a transcript.If you know of a veteran who might be open to being interviewed about their experiences, please go to RMU.EDU/IAVP and refer them. Interviewees have the option to be interviewed remotely with a laptop or a cell phone or in person by a veteran or non-veteran.

> Selected Faculty Research Bernauer, J.A., & Tomei, L.A. (2015). Integrating pedagogy and technology: Improving teaching and learning in higher education. Rowman Littlefield. Best, L. M. & Shelley, D. J. (2015). Does academic level affect student perceptions of threaded discussions in online learning? International Journal of Scientific Research in Education, 8(3), 87100. Cooky, C. & Rauscher, L. (2016). Girls and the racialization of female bodies in sport contexts. In M. Messner & M. Musto, eds., Child’s Play: Sport in Kids’ Worlds. Rutgers University Press. DePlato, J. (2015). American presidential power and the war on terror: Does the constitution matter? Palgrave MacMillan. Donne, V., & Briley, M. L. (2015). Multimedia storybooks: Supporting vocabulary for students who are deaf/hard of hearing. International Journal of Special Education, 30(2), 1-13. Haser, S. & Rafoth, M. (2015). Serving military families and meeting the needs of the military connected PreK-12 student. Pennsylvania Teacher Educator, 14(Fall), 23-32. Lin, F. & Kubina, R. M. (2015). Imitation fluency in a student with autism spectrum disorder: An experimental case study. European Journal of Behavior Analysis, 16(1), 2-20. Monda, S., et al. (2016). The student-athlete leadership academy: Ten years of interscholastic sport leadership training. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action. (May), 1-11. Wydra, C. & Hartle, F. (2015), Educating the technology officer of the future: A needs analysis, Issues in Information Systems, 16(4), 224-231.

School of Education & Social Sciences Summer 2016  
School of Education & Social Sciences Summer 2016