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Provost’s Bite-Sized Faculty Research Presentations

Provost's Bite-Sized Faculty Research Presentations

A series to foster scholarly & creative connections and interdisciplinarity amongst faculty

Sponsored by the Office of the Provost and collaboratively designed with Faculty Assembly


Presentation Dates for AY23-24 will be announced soon.

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Call for Proposals

Proposals for AY2022-23 are now closed. Future calls will be announced.

Past Presentations

Monday, October 3, 2022

Professor Malavika Sundararajan (ASB), “Discerning the Nature of Uncertainties to Lead Sustainably”

Abstract: Disparate definitions and categorizations of uncertainties faced by leaders have led to less than optimum solutions for companies, making it unsustainable to lead effectively. Based on the key variables, definitions, and categorizations of uncertainties across the management literature, a causal model that integrates all the uncertainties is designed. The integrated model provides a clear layout of types, sources, levels, and obstacles related to uncertainties faced by leaders and four possible outcomes that leaders must anticipate. The more precise the leader’s understanding of the uncertainties, the greater their ability to address the gaps in their knowledge and alleviate the uncertainties present in the firm’s innovation processes. Consequently, the integrated model allows leaders to design strategic solutions of more outstanding quality and impact. The paper puts forth three brief sample scenarios and shows how to categorize them based on the nature of uncertainties.

Professors Liat Shklarski & Kathleen Ray (SSHS), “Back to the Future: How Master of Social Work Students Adjusted to Returning to In- Person Instruction during the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Abstract: The global COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone’s life. As such, social work students who have traditionally studied the profession predominantly in an in-person learning method had to adjust to remote learning. During the Fall of 2021 and Spring of 2022, many institutions required social work students to return to in-person classes after utilizing remote platforms. Research on the transition of social work students to remote learning has been developed. However, little research examines the impact back to in-person learning during the global pandemic. The current study used a convenience sample of 135 Master Social Work students in the tri-state area in the United States. The study’s goal was to explore the emotional and cognitive impact of transitioning back to in-person classes after they have spent a minimum of one semester studying remotely. Results from the current study reveal the following elements: (1) Students want to be able to choose the way they study (in-person vs. remote); (2) emotional preparation is required for students to better adjust back to in-person learning; (3) students have multiple psycho-social concerns that impact their ability to engage in their social work education. We recommend that institutions be flexible in their delivery of academic content and provide additional support to their students with an emphasis on emotional support to allow them to process the effect of the global pandemic on their social work education.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Professor Sam Mustafa (HGS), “Look Who’s Back: Germany’s Cautious Return as a Military Power”

Abstract: In 1990, when the two Germanies reunited, their combined military strength was nearly a million soldiers, by far the strongest army in Europe.

Over the next three decades this strength ebbed away as the federal government kept cutting the budget and the force structure until it rested at about 170,000 – one-sixth its former size. Surrounded by friends and allies for the first time in their history, and with Russia apparently a friendly trade partner, German leaders had no political will for defense. Defects and scandals plagued the institution. Experienced personnel left in droves. By 2020 the Bundeswehr was in such a miserable condition that it couldn’t even equip a parade force for the annual NATO parade in Paris. French President Macron snorted that NATO had become “a joke.”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine changed everything. Within two weeks the parliament had voted a massive budget increase and pledged to sustain it over a decade until Germany was once again a significant military power in Europe. Orders for new equipment have gone out. A new recruiting effort has begun.

In years past, Germany’s neighbors would have looked at this with alarm. Today, they seem grateful that Germany is rearming at last. How will a united, democratic Germany get its head around this major taboo against militarism that has dominated its politics for more than a generation?

This topic is part of my larger project on Germany’s 21st century re-thinking of its image, its past and future, and its role in the world.

Professor Fariba Nosrati (ASB), “The power of stories for impression management: evidence from a city cultural digital storytelling initiative”

Abstract: This research responds to a growing interest among cultural organizations regarding how to use emerging digital technologies in the communication of cultural content. The need to investigate various aspects of digital transformation for cultural organizations has been heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic. This presentation explores how city cultural organizations can utilize digital stories for impression management to enhance public perceptions of a city. The aim is to understand how end-users are affected by a city cultural digital storytelling information system and the benefits of using such a system.

An interpretive case study was conducted on a digital storytelling initiative carried out by three cultural organizations in a medium-sized city in Canada. Data collection included 95 interviews with the general public, questionnaires, and the gathering of documents.

Findings suggest that digital storytelling can be a viable tool to share city cultural heritage information and positively affect end-user perceptions of a city. The overall outcome of creating/maintaining a positive favorable impression is shaped through a layered experience of benefits by users. Through digital stories, users are first personally engaged and informed about a city’s cultural heritage, and then they are influenced and inspired positively towards the city. Further, factors, such as leisure learning, cultural heritage information, and cultural organizations situate this context of use.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Professor Erin Augis (SSHS), “Reverend John Bennington Mahan’s anti-slavery sermons and letters: The influence of the Second Great Awakening on early human rights activism in the American Midwest”

Abstract: I will present an analysis of the southern Ohio Reverend John Bennington Mahan’s calls for social justice for enslaved people in the 1830s and 40s, using newly discovered sermons and letters he wrote from a Kentucky prison as primary sources. Reverend Mahan, who was unlawfully imprisoned in Kentucky for hiding an escaped enslaved person in his home in Ohio, used evangelical discourses and imagery characteristic of the Second Great Awakening’s definitions of righteousness to 1) rally support for his release, 2) spur public outrage about his impending trial in Kentucky, and 3) build abolitionist sentiment in states of the Northwest Territory. The pro-slavery judge in his case had become gravely concerned about increasing civil unrest around the trial, and he wrote of the necessity for an unbiased decision. Mahan’s acquittal and release from prison in Kentucky set a legal precedent that law enforcement officials from slave states could not arrest or prosecute anti-slavery activists who lived in and carried out their activism in free states, helping to catalyze the Civil War. Therefore, the intersection of religious ideology, popular activism, and legal interpretation became integral to abolition, and Mahan’s engagement of scripture for this purpose served as a precursor to similar activist strategies during the Civil Rights era.

My hope is that my talk will be of interest to History, Africana Studies, Sociology, Law and Society, Social Work, and Literature faculty at the College, in terms of their research. I also find Reverend Mahan’s bravery and passion quite inspiring, and I hope faculty in all disciplines would enjoy this aspect. My talk features some of my prized collection of archival photographs of documents, artwork, and early American portrait photography.

Professor Chris Reali (CA), “Music and Mystique in Muscle Shoals”

Abstract: The forceful music that rolled out of Muscle Shoals in the 1960s and 1970s shaped hits by everyone from Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin to the Rolling Stones and Paul Simon. This research provides an in-depth look at the fabled musical hotbed and examines the events and factors that gave the Muscle Shoals sound such a potent cultural power. The theoretical foundation of my work is the Muscle Shoals mystique: a nexus of musical and cultural events that facilitated the dissemination of music cultivated by Northern-based record executives and sought by many to satiate their musical needs for an “authentic” (Black) South. Many artists trekked to FAME Studios and Muscle Shoals Sound in search of the sound of authentic southern Black music – and at times expressed shock at the mostly white studio musicians waiting to play it for them. Others hoped to draw on the hitmaking production process that defined the scene. This work also chronicles the overlooked history of Muscle Shoals’s impact on country music and describes the region’s recent transformation into a tourism destination. Ultimately, this project interprets the long-lasting cultural effects of tracks produced in the region and situates the Shoals scene within the larger context of popular music studies.

A good portion of my research for this project was supported by grants and awards from the RCNJ Faculty Development Funds. My book, Music and Mystique in Muscle Shoals, was published in July 2022 by the University of Illinois Press.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Professor Satarupa Dasgupta (CA), “Transgender commercial sex workers in India: Health disparities, structural challenges and the road ahead”

Abstract: Transgender commercial sex workers across the globe suffer significant health disparities due to complex barriers in multiple areas. In India, transgender sex workers have limited access to healthcare and suffer from poorer quality of wellbeing and health. Deep-seated stigma, discrimination, socioeconomic inequalities and institutional inequities act as barriers in healthcare seeking. Transgender sex workers comprise approximately 15% of Indian sex workers’ population, yet they remain an understudied and underserved group in the commercial sex work sector. There is also a significant lack of health communication research in India that focuses on population-specific interventions. The current study which aims to fill the gap in research on transgender sex workers in India examines the sexual identity negotiation, risk perception and condom compliance, sexual health screening and testing behavior, contextual barriers to healthcare seeking, and barriers to community mobilization among this population. The study was conducted in the red-light districts of Kolkata and rural subdivisions of West Bengal in Eastern India. The project utilized interviewer-led semi-structured interviewing of 38 transgender commercial sex workers. A significant section of the interviewees did not belong to a specific brothel in the red-light districts but shifted their location of operation frequently. Unlike female sex workers from the same region – who were unionized, and displayed consistently high condom usage, and engaged in community support of peers – the transgender sex workers had poorer access to and uptake of health resources, engaged frequently in high-risk sexual behavior, and showed overall poorer healthcare-seeking behavior. It is anticipated that the findings from the study will help to formulate future programmatic interventions that can cater more effectively to the health needs of the Indian transgender commercial sex workers, contribute to HIV/STI risk reduction among this group and reduce barriers to achieving health. Utilization of community-based behavior change strategies, incorporating cultural contextualization in health communication, facilitating change in social norms, and finally collaboration with the local transgender groups themselves for program development and implementation, represent a vital next step to ensure the health and wellness of the transgender sex workers in India.

The current project, like my other research, is characterized by its interdisciplinary nature and hopes to emphasize the practical application of health communication research in program development and support service provision. The current study holds interest for faculty in the departments of social work and nursing, and in the public health minor. Interdisciplinary collaboration with faculty from these fields can help to formulate sustainable interventions among historically marginalized and vulnerable populations. My study will also benefit Ramapo College as an institution. Engaging in research that fosters intercultural learning and deepens the understanding of social justice, establishes the mission and core values of Ramapo College.

Professor Colleen Martinez (SSHS), “What do organizations need to do to become anti-racist? Lessons from the grey literature”

Abstract: Concerns about white supremacy’s influence on social work have been documented for decades. While most of the literature focuses on racist concerns in social work education and research, there is an emerging body of knowledge addressing racism in direct practice. A historical focus on micro-level interventions related to diversity may minimize the importance of equity based mezzo and macro-level practice and maintain the current system of institutional racism. An important avenue to correct this injustice is the implementation of anti-racist organizational change, to ensure that social work agencies are practicing from a racial justice approach that comprehensively addresses all levels of organizational performance. There is a dearth of academic literature about anti-racist organizational change in social work agencies. A number of scholars have called for increased use of grey literature to inform social work. Grey literature enables us to learn from leaders in the work, and their lived experience and wisdom, which may not always make it into academic sources. This presentation serves an important purpose in amplifying this previously marginalized body of work. Based on a review of the grey literature, an integrated framework was produced for social service leaders to use as a guide for re-designing their organizations to move away from historically white supremacist practices toward racially just institutions.

The framework is not meant to be a set of instructions for how to make change; organizations are unique and will all have different challenges, resources, priorities, and goals. How to make change will be determined by those individuals and groups who will lead the change efforts, and throughout that process we encourage them to use the source documents that we reviewed. Based upon our synthesis of the source documents, we identified 12 themes that may begin to answer the question “What do social work organizations need to do to become anti-racist?”. Themes will be shared, as well as source documents, which may be helpful to anyone working with social service and nonprofit organizations that strive to break down structures that maintain and reinforce white supremacy, and who seek to reimagine the future of these organizations.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Professor Tufan Ekici (ASB), “Determinants of A Job’s Meaningfulness”

Abstract: In this paper we analyze the subjective determinants of meaningfulness at workplace. According to self-determination theory (SDT), a meaningful work depends on perceptions on three psychological aspects, namely competence, autonomy, and relatedness. These traits all depend on each individual’s innate needs and these variables could be complementary to or substitute for other extrinsic factors in order to achieve overall job satisfaction. Also, the definition of these factors is likely to be different between a worker and an employer. Thus, we rely on self-reported subjective measures of these traits by the workers themselves. We use a nationally representative data set from 2008 to analyze the relative impact of these three measures on work meaningfulness in the United States. Multivariate regression analysis results show that all three measures are important for subjective meaningfulness at workplace, but the relative magnitudes of those are not the same. Furthermore, there are some differences in relative magnitudes among different demographic subgroups. These results are important for human resource researchers as they emphasize the importance of intrinsic factors in a workplace. It is not realistic to expect employers to provide working conditions for everyone to have a meaningful workplace (as these are rather subjective among employees), but it is recommended that employers attempt to understand workers’ well-being in the workplace (which is affected by these traits) as that will impact productivity, effort and turnover intentions. This paper is interdisciplinary and thus should be of interest to a wide range of audiences interested in human resource research.

Professor Lawrence Mascia (CA), “Gamification for Education and Business”

Gamification has become a constant in high-level business and day to day operations to keep employees motivated. It is just beginning to take roots in higher education. Tedious and under-stimulating tasks can seriously compromise a student or employees long term retention, engagement, and attention. Retaining attention while keeping consistency means keeping your message and goals fresh and to the front of a person’s mind. Gamification can make these tasks easy, fun, and collaborative while building long term skills and group cohesion which makes for better productivity and diversity in thinking. In this talk I will show how Gamification is used in Fortune 500 companies, education, and design to broaden user experience and allow open collaboration and creative thinking. We will go over ways to shape empowerment and meaning through gamification in everyday tasks from both the managerial and student perspective while giving easy ways to incorporate it into a project or classroom.

Friday, April 14

Professor Anne Marie Flatekval, “Implementation of a mindfulness bundle and its impact on perceived stress levels for junior students in their first semester in the nursing sequence”

Abstract: Mindfulness is a practice that is beneficial for reducing anxiety and stress (McVeigh, et al., 2021). It is very valuable to use with students. Nursing students undergo anxiety and stress in the nursing program. The reasons include the rigorous academic workload and the expectation to perform in the classroom as well as the clinical setting (Manocchi, 2018). It is crucial for nursing students to be able to manage their stress and anxiety, which will enable them to be successful in the nursing program. Several years ago, junior nursing students revealed that they were undergoing stress and anxiety and this had a negative impact on their academic performance. Short mindfulness sessions were introduced to begin class each day. Students are polled each semester and student feedback has been very positive for using a mindfulness application. This shows that there is a positive impact on the reduction of stress and anxiety which is beneficial in the classroom, clinical setting, and everyday practice.

IRB approval (#657) was obtained to conduct a research study called “Implementation of a mindfulness bundle and its impact on perceived stress levels for junior students in their first semester in the nursing sequence” for the fall semester 2022. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS -14) 5-point Likert Scale was administered in week 2 of class for voluntary participation in the courses NURS 330-02, 330-03, 330-04. The Qualtrics survey will collect data for the students prior to the intervention of a mindfulness bundle to help them to manage anxiety and stress. A second PSS-14 tool will be distributed at the end of the semester on the last day of class. A paired t-test will be utilized to compare the data on the surveys pre and post mindfulness bundle intervention to determine if the mindfulness bundle had an impact on the student’s perceived stress. A Foundations Grant was received to fund the cost of supplies, a statistician (MS of Data Science student at the College), and to present an abstract with a possible poster presentation at the Nurse Tim Nursing Conference in February 2023.

Professor Stephanie Sarabia, “Complicating and Contextualizing Substance Use in Social Work Education”

Abstract: Academic approaches to substance use courses are often focused on acquiring clinical, content knowledge that reflects our culture’s weight on a more simplistic, personal responsibility view of substance use. This contrasts a more complex and contextualized person in the environment framework with a structural lens which also encompasses a society’s responsibility to its citizens.

Curricular Objective:
The objective of this study is to understand the impact of a redesigned substance use course with the intent of contextualizing substance use content knowledge by modeling a structured critical lens in a recovery ecosystem framework including such models as Metzl and Hansen’s (2014) Structural Competency approach. Students are taught to challenge the dominant narrative and oversimplified views of substance use fleshing out the complexity of risk factors and a recovery ecosystem. The study also aims to understand how this shift impacts their approach to working with people who use substances.

Methods: A qualitative survey was conducted of MSW students enrolled in multiple sections (both virtually and in-person) of a substance use course. Participants completed an anonymous survey via Qualtrics and their narrative responses were coded to determine themes.

Results: Data analysis reveals that participants reported an understanding of the complexity of structural factors and society’s overemphasis on personal responsibility rather than society’s responsibility to its citizens. Participants stated that they thought more critically about substance use which helped them see structural injustice that was in plain sight that they failed to notice before. Participants reported that their learning altered their practice in two significant ways: a deeper commitment to a compassionate, nonjudgmental, person-centered stance and a contextualized, complex view of substance use that fostered a nuanced person in environment view that encouraged advocacy along with clinical interventions.

Conclusions: Findings underscore the importance of contextualizing substance use using a complex, person in environment framework to recalibrate the balance between personal responsibility and society’ s responsibility to its citizens. Using this model, students demonstrated a commitment to integrated practice that embraced advocacy and macro practice alongside micro practice.