Professors Win Awards for Research


By Marguerite Girandola

Staff Reporter

This past August, two Sacred Heart University Professors were awarded the 2016 Naclerio Faculty Scholars Program Award for upcoming research projects.

The goal of these awards is to highlight promising junior faculty members by monetarily supporting their research.

Professor Robin Danzak, an assistant professor of speech-language pathology, and professor Jessica Samuolis, an assistant professor of psychology, were the recipients.

According to the press release, each of them has been bestowed $12,500 to aid their research.

Danzak’s research involves the study of how children develop their bilingual writing skills while attending dual-language and bilingual education programs.

“There are many bilingual children in our local public schools, and we need to better understand how to teach these children to be effective readers and writers in both Spanish and English,” said Danzak.

Danzak has a doctorate in communication sciences and disorders, a master’s in linguistics and a bachelor’s degree in art history and Spanish.

Samuolis’s study evaluates the implementation of a peer-led, evidence-based suicide prevention program for college students.

“Establishing empirical support for this model of implementation will greatly increase the capacity for widespread dissemination of suicide prevention on college campuses,” said Samuolis.

Samuolis has a doctorate in applied developmental psychology, a master’s in community counseling, and bachelor’s degrees in both psychology and Spanish, according to the press release.

Danzak will be working with students in local public schools who are in dual-language and bilingual programs in various grade levels. She will collaborate with teachers to implement interesting and engaging projects that will result in the students writing in both English and Spanish.

“Once I have all the writing, I can analyze the features like their vocabulary, sentence structure and text quality across languages, grade levels and bilingual and monolingual status,” said Danzak. “Hopefully, the results will help us understand the strengths and challenges of these children as they develop writing in bilingual academic contexts.”

For Samuolis’s study, student peer educators will be recruited, trained and certified to conduct the implementation of Question Persuade Refer (QPR) trainings to other students.

“A questionnaire will be implemented at the beginning of each QPR training as a pretest, and then again at the end of the training as a post-test,” said Samuolis. “A small incentive will be offered to students for participating in the training and completing the questionnaires.”

The Office of University Advancement helped guide the progress of the award.

“One of the most important things that we can do in the advancement office is to support our provost, our deans and our faculty,” said William Reidy, Vice President for University Advancement. “In this case, we had faculty members with an idea in their head about something they wanted to pursue. That idea being supported only improves and accentuates the experience that our students are having here at the University.”

This award is benificial to both the programs they are going towards as well as the professors running them.

“I was fortunate that the committee reviewing our applications saw value in my research and wanted to support it to help me move forward,” said Danzak.

Reidy believes that with the groundbreaking research done by professors like Danzak and Samuolis, Sacred Heart’s students will be the ones to reap the benefits.

“Awards like this are very crucial to the future of Sacred Heart because any investment in a faculty member is an investment in dozens, if not hundreds, of our students,” said Reidy.

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