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Miller, KC

Umisha KC loves movies.

Although the rising senior at Mississippi University for Women doesn’t consider herself a “movie buff,” she enjoys watching Hollywood movies, especially with the heat of another summer in Mississippi approaching.

But while KC’s peers will be taking a break from studies and scholarly work, she and John Jacob Miller will make history as the first students at The W to take part in the Summer Scholar Research program.

“I know it is sort of nerdy, but I am excited,” said KC, who anticipates eating a lot of Ramen noodles while watching and working. “I want to be surprised. I feel like I am going to enjoy the process a whole lot more than the outcome.”

KC, who is from Lalitpur, Nepal, is a communications major who also is studying business administration and marketing. She said she wants to go to graduate school, so she was looking for a way to gain experience to do research studies. KC said she immediately knew she wanted to be a part of the Summer Scholars Research program when she discovered it.

Miller, a rising senior from Sumrall, is majoring in public health education, with a concentration in sexual health. He will focus on health literacy in Mississippi teens. Under the mentorship of Dr. Caroline Payne-Purvis, assistant professor of health education, he will gather a literature review, apply for IRB approval and design a survey for teens to learn more about their knowledge of HIV treatment and prevention.

“Dr. Purvis and I are studying emerging adults’ knowledge regarding HIV, prevention and treatment. We hope this study will serve as the basis for a greater statewide study of the same topic,” Miller said.

After graduation, Miller intends to pursue a master’s of public health to become an epidemiologist with a focus in HIV/AIDS epidemiology. Miller is a member of the Ina E. Gordy Honors College, a student library assistant at Fant Memorial Library and the incoming president of the Student Government Association

Starting May 29 and running through June 29, KC will examine the role of people of color in some of the top grossing films in the last 30 years. She hopes to watch two or three movies a day to kick off the five-week run. KC said she initially wanted to focus on the role of immigrants in Hollywood films, but she broadened the topic to ensure she would have a bigger pool from which to draw. She will watch 10 of the top-50 grossing films from 1978, 1998 and 2018. A random number generator selected the movies KC will review and conduct a content analysis that identifies characters and codes how they are represented.

“I want to do good, but I also don’t want to nitpick on everything I do, which I tend to do,” KC said. “I want to cut myself some slack, but I also want to hold myself up to a certain standard which will be the most challenging part of the research.”

Dr. Barry Smith, professor and chair of The W’s Department of Communication, will be KC’s mentor.

“This is a great opportunity for a bright undergraduate student like Umisha to engage in original, substantive research,” Smith said. “These portrayals are important in shaping audience attitudes about people of color in real life, so this research could have a lasting real-world impact on our understanding of how we treat each other in society.”

KC said this will be her first time doing research at this scale. She hopes to take on bigger projects that examine multiple topics in the future. That work could start as early as the fall, when she picks areas to focus on for her 400-level classes. She wanted to get as early a start as possible doing research to prepare her for graduate school.

KC also recognizes the significance of being one of the first students to take part in the program. She hopes she won’t put too much pressure on herself, but she wants to help set a tone for future students, especially since the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) has worked so hard to provide an opportunity.

“The OUR has just started and it has already done the undergraduate research symposium, which I took part in in the last minute and I had a lot of fun doing it,” KC said. “It is a really good opportunity because there is a lot of research that goes on on campus. This is something I think every student would benefit from.”

The Summer Scholars Research Program is designed to bring immersive research experiences to W undergraduate students outside of semester coursework.

It will provide financial support for housing, meals, and tuition for both students in the five-week accelerated summer term. Funds for the 2019 program come from the QEP committee’s APIL Faculty Innovation Grants and the Connie and Tom Kossen Center for Teaching and Learning.

The W’s QEP hopes to increase student engagement and development by encouraging faculty to engage students with more active learning, problem-based learning or inquiry-based learning teaching methodologies (APIL).

More information about the OUR or the Summers Scholars Program visit: www.muw.edu/our.

May 21, 2019
Contact: Adam Minichino
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