LEHMAN, Pa. – In the spring of 2017 Dr. Garrett Huck mentioned to one of his classes that he would be conducting a study with Dr. Dana Brickham from Western Washington University to identify what aspects of PERMA (positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment) are related to successfully coping with alopecia areata, a common autoimmune skin condition causing hair loss on the scalp, face and sometimes on other areas of the body. He told the class that he would be willing to involve students in his research.
One student, Shaina Shelton, perked up. Says Shaina, “When he mentioned this, I thought that that would be something that I would really enjoy doing. I also thought that it would look great on my résumé and help me get into graduate school. So at the end of the fall 2017 semester, I approached Dr. Huck and asked him if I could assist him in his research.” He readily agreed.
Together Dr. Huck and Shaina devised a Qualtrics survey and recruited 350 study participants. They used multiple measures to gather information, including quality of life, onset and severity of the condition, PERMA, and demographic questions. After conducting the research and analyzing the resulting data, Dr. Huck decided to submit a proposal for the annual National Council on Rehabilitation (NCRE) conference on the quality of life among individuals living with alopecia areata. With Shaina’s help, he wrote and submitted a proposal for a scientific poster presentation, which was accepted. Both Shaina and Dr. Huck traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the conference.
“The conference was an amazing experience. It took place over the course of three days and included meetings among professionals to discuss developments in rehabilitation education, research presentations, and scientific poster presentations,” says Shaina. “During the scientific posters portion of the conference, we were able to present our research as well as meet and network with other rehabilitation professionals. To my knowledge, there were no other undergraduate students at the conference; all of the other students who attended were at the master’s and doctoral levels.”
Shaina states that “presenting our poster was just like when I participated in the Celebration of Scholarship.” The Celebration of Scholarship (COS) is an undergraduate research poster fair held every year at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. Now in its fifth year, the Celebration of Scholarship is open to all undergraduate students at the Wilkes-Barre campus, from any discipline. Students learn how to present their research both visually and orally to a general audience. “Participating in the Celebration of Scholarship prepared me immensely for the NCRE national conference. From creating and formatting a poster to the poster presentation, COS provided me with all of the knowledge and skills that were required to successfully create and present a scientific poster at a national conference.” She notes, “The only different between the Celebration of Scholarship and the scientific poster portion of the NCRE conference was that the NCRE poster presentations were all related to the field of rehabilitation, whereas the Celebration of Scholarship encompasses a wide range of disciplines. For this reason, I personally believe that the Celebration of Scholarship provides a more enriching experience.”
Shaina loved the research experience and has decided to take her interest in rehabilitation and human services further by pursuing a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at the University of Scranton. She has also accepted a part-time graduate assistantship position within the rehabilitation counseling department there.
This year’s Celebration of Scholarship took place on April 11, 2019. Over 150 students presented their posters to faculty, staff, fellow students, and the public.