Cal Poly CLA News

The latest online edition of CLA's Impact Magazine

Learn by Doing on Display at the Second Annual SURP Symposium

On October 14, 2022 student researchers from the second annual CLA Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) shared their research at the SURP+ Symposium, showcasing a diverse group of 11 hands-on projects led by faculty experts alongside 15 student researchers. The teacher-scholar model and Learn by Doing pedagogy were on display throughout the prior summer as student researchers received $3,500 stipends to work closely with faculty, increasing access to hands-on research, scholarly and creative activities as well as better access to community/industry connections. 

Jane Lehr, a professor in both the Ethnic Studies and Women’s, Gender and Queer Studies Departments and director of the Office of Student Research, currently serves as the CLA interim director of research engagement. She brings a strong background in teaching, research and activism focused on science, technology, education and social justice.   

Lehr began work to coordinate the SURP+ Symposium in June 2022. In her interim role, she took over supporting CLA participation in the SURP+ Symposium in September 2022.  

“It was a delight to connect with our CLA student researchers and their mentors as part of the interdisciplinary event,” Lehr said.  

The event showcased the college’s commitment to providing a greater number of CLA students with access to professional development opportunities including hands-on research and other scholarly activities. 

“The SURP is a great example of the college’s commitment to a liberal arts education sin fronteras: without borders, boundaries, or barriers,” CLA Dean Philip Williams said. 

Dawn Neill, current administrator-in-charge for Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education (R-EDGE), was also part of the SURP+ collaboration. As the first CLA director of research engagement she developed and led the inaugural 2021 CLA SURP and began work on the 2022 program before taking on her new role with R-EDGE.  

“We’ve worked for a long time to support undergraduate research, scholarly and creative activities on campus. The SURP+ symposium marks a real maturation of those efforts,” Neill said.   

The organization of this year's SURP+ symposium, in which the CLA students participated, was led by the Cal Poly Office of Student Research in collaboration with the College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts, and Orfalea College of Business. Additional support was provided by the division of Research, Economic Development & Graduate Education (R-EDGE) and the CSU-LSAMP Program at Cal Poly. In addition, the symposium was collaboratively designed in partnership with the NSF-funded LSAMP B2B California Central Coast Community College Collaborative (C6), which includes Allan Hancock College, Cabrillo College, Cuesta College, Monterey Peninsula College, Moorpark College, Oxnard College, Santa Barbara City College, and Ventura College. 


The purpose and mission of CLA's SURP initiative are to:

  • Promote diverse and equitable engagement for CLA students in faculty-led research and creative activities
  • Provide a full-time, paid summer research experience for students
  • Enhance faculty participation in scholarship
  • Build lasting student-faculty mentoring relationships
  • Enrich a culture of scholarship in the CLA

To see last year's projects, visit


Learn More About CLA's 2022 SURP Projects

Media Representations of Video Game Stereotypes 

Communication studies Assistant Professor Aubrie Adams and student researchers Scott Collier and Mackenzie Demay studied how video games are portrayed in fictional media content and how gamers themselves may be stereotyped in those media depictions. Their research investigated what informs perceptions towards gamers and gamer culture to identify overly simplistic stereotypes that may be harmful to individuals and society.  

Adams said: “I had two main goals for this project, to (a) conduct a content analysis to examine gamer stereotypes and (b) work with research assistants in developing a high-quality research project from start to finish that would be suitable for conference presentation. We had a busy summer, but we were able to accomplish our first goal so far! We’re finishing up the second goal and we are planning to submit a conference paper to the International Communication Association (ICA), which takes place in Toronto this May.” 

Adapting UX Research Methods for Theatre Audiences 

Interdisciplinary studies in the liberal arts Lecturer Lauren Beck and student researcher Darcie Shugart explored how the field of user experience and design (UX/UI) can help analyze audience experiences before, during and after the creation of theatre events. 

Shugart said: “I applied for this program because it was an amazing opportunity to explore new areas of research. This project has opened my eyes to the world of UX, its applications to theater, and the ways in which I can be involved in research as a student!” 

Beck said: “We plan on developing UX guide for theatre artists that includes best practices for researching audience experiences. We also want to write an academic article, perhaps for Theatre Topics, about this work. To prepare for these projects we plan on interviewing other innovative theatre artists.” 


Scrolling Through Social Media: The Impact of Randomly Presented Videos on Memory 

Student Mia Venturing presenting her SURP project
Student Mia Venturing presenting her
SURP project.

Psychology Associate Professor Kelly Bennion and student researchers Hector Reyes and Mia Venturini studied how TikTok videos relate to the “And now...this!” effect on human memory. The team hypothesized that participants in their study will better remember related (vs. unrelated videos) and that the extent of this benefit will correlate with the relatedness of the videos to one other. 

Bennion said: “Recent surveys indicate that college-aged students spend multiple hours per day on social media websites like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. However, there is very little research on how we remember information on social media. Therefore, with this study, we wanted to examine how people remember [bite-sized] information, and whether presenting information that is connected in some way helps us remember it.” 

Venturini said: “I applied [to this program] because I am a double major in biological sciences and psychology and I’ve done research in COSAM with animals, so I wanted to try ‘people’ research. [This project] feels like my child because in just one summer, we were able to draft a completely new procedure on how to make the study feel like a more “authentic” experience for TikTok users, finalized a list of over 200 unique TikTok videos, and run a pilot study. Because of this, I am excited to continue working on this project and see what we will find after running hundreds of students through our study. I’m not sure if I will pursue research after my undergrad, but [this project] has made me consider if I want to go for a master's or a PhD.” 


Sacred Sexuality: Exploring Past and Present LGBT Religious Activism 

Student Devon Weatherall presenting his project to audience members
Student Devon Weatherall presenting his
project on the overlap between religious,
LGBT and political identities.

Political science Assistant Professor RG Cravens and student researchers Katie Pitzer and Devon Weatherall studied the overlap between religious, LGBT and political identities to identify significant, observable patterns. The research involved studying the relationships between these shared identities in various LGBT groups and recognizing their contributions and activism. 

Cravens said: “With this project, I wanted to flesh-out the relationship between religious and political activism among LGBT people – a group that has traditionally been constructed as non-religious. In fact, since the beginning of the modern LGBT Movement in the mid-twentieth Century, religious LGBT people have been a key constituency who have advocated for social and political equality. My goal, then, was to learn more about how religious LGBT people conceptualize their religious and political activism. In short, I wanted to answer the question: “how does religion affect LGBT political activism?” 

Weatherall said: “This project influenced my experience at Cal Poly because it gave me research experience and ideas on potential activism I can participate in after graduating.”


Does Accessibility of Online Mental Health Services Impact College Students’ Misuse of Mental Health Prescription Drugs? 

Communication studies Assistant Professor Anuraj Dhillon and student researcher Ava Schafbuch studied the communication strategies of online mental health start-ups and the increased accessibility of prescription mental health drugs available to access via the internet. The pair sought to understand targeted ads by the online mental health services that motivate college students’ intentions to use (or misuse) and likelihood to recommend their services. 

Dhillon said: “My goal for the SURP project was to design a study that is ready to be launched during the academic year. I am proud to say that I have been able to achieve this goal with the help of my student researcher. Together, we conducted an initial literature review, identified specific variables and operationalized them, created a Qualtrics survey, and successfully filed institutional review board (IRB) protocol. An additional outcome from the project is that I am continuing to work with the SURP student as they use a piece of this project as their senior project.” 

Schafbuch said: “The opportunity to participate in SURP has absolutely impacted my experience in a positive way, as it has truly been one of the best Learn by Doing experiences that I was able to have in the College of Liberal Arts. This research experience has shifted my academic and professional goals, as I am considering applying for a PhD program to continue working on academic research relating to health communication.” 


Captured Slave Ships and the Abolition of the Slave Trade 

History Professor Matthew Hopper and a student researcher continued work on creating the first comprehensive database of illegal slave ships captured by the British Royal Navy between 1808 and 1897. This project is a continuation of Hopper’s 2021 SURP project. 


Special Collections at Kennedy Library: Black San Luis Obispo during the WWII Era 

Students reading the poster for the Special Collections at the Kennedy Library project
Student researcher Ethan Gutterman
was not able to present as he is 
currently in Washington D.C. serving as
Cal Poly's representative to the 2022
Panetta Congressional Internship.

Professor Thanayi Jackson and student researcher Ethan Gutterman worked together preparing for, doing and processing oral history interviews to create an archival project detailing the history of the Black community in San Luis Obispo during and after WWII. The pair hope the topic will continue to be studied in the future to contribute to the archive. 

Gutterman said: “I applied for this SURP project because I previously worked with Dr. Jackson on the project for BEACoN run by OUDI. We felt there was more work to be done with our archival collection and an oral history component was the obvious next step and I have been taking the lead on the project. The opportunity to work with Dr. Jackson and to continue (trying) to tell the story of the African American community of SLO is a privilege and an honor.”  


Reducing Bullying and Improving the Elementary School Social Climate: A Drama-based K-6 Curriculum Assessment Project 

Student researcher Sophia Velasquez posing with her poster
Student researcher Sophia Velasquez.

Psychology Professor Carrie Langner and student researcher Sophia Velasquez studied how to reduce bullying by training children in “upstander skills,” so they can identify harassment and intervene on behalf of their peers. The program falls under the umbrella of social emotional learning (SEL), which is critical to children’s mental well-being and benefits academic learning.  

Velasquez said: “I applied because Dr. Langner sold me on it. I wanted to do this as someone who is a minority who has experienced this type of bullying. I wanted to work on preventative factors related to group bias. Through this process and the literature review, I learned how big this issue is and how many people face bullying because of their identity, and also how what people learn when they are young influences what they believe when they are older.” 



A Comparison of Student Attitudes towards Content Warning Usage in WGQS and CJ Courses 

Sociology Assistant Professor Kylie Parrotta and student researchers Julia Seaver and Jessica Shaver used grounded theory to compare and study students’ attitudes towards receiving content warnings and determine whether offering a notification at the start of class is beneficial for students’ learning. 

Seaver said: “I’ve had classes with Dr. Parrotta and I love her as a professor and mentor. I didn’t have much knowledge on content warning, and I didn’t know that they were such a hot topic. I also learned how research works, especially qualitative research.” 

Shaver said: “Before this project, I had never done or considered research. I thought it was boring, but from this project I learned that I like research and now I want to go to graduate school and get a Ph.D. in sociology.”  


Effects of Issue Ownership, Perceived Fit, and Authenticity in Nike’s “Dream Crazy” Ad Campaign Staring Colin Kaepernick 

Journalism Assistant Professor Yan Shan and student researcher Miles Berman’s project was inspired by the Nike’s 2018 “Dream Crazy” advertising campaign that starred Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who famously took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality. For their study, the pair explained two types of perceived fit, corporate social advocacy and celebrity-brand fit, and how they influence corporate reputation. 

Shan said: “The opportunity to build a meaningful mentor-mentee relationship is one of the most valuable experiences of SURP. I had a great experience working with Miles Berman. He has contributed significantly to this project. We brainstormed ideas for this project, discussed industry trends, created an online questionnaire and came up with ways to increase survey responses. I feel like we learned a great deal from each other.” 

Berman said: “I applied for this project because I am a journalism student concentrating in public relations and corporate social advocacy is the biggest initiative happening right now in the industry. I thought this project would help me get experience to pursue public relations as a career. Professor Shan in particular is great. It was gratifying to build that relationship with a professor in my major.” 


The Effects of Mobile User Experiences on Cultural Barriers in a Foreign Fashion Market 

Journalism Assistant Professor Hocheol Yang and student researcher Taylor Tran researched the impact of human-computer interactions in a globalized context, specifically to verify the effects of mobile graphic design interfaces and graphic content on users’ perceptions of cultural differences.  

Yang said: “We refined two aspects in UX/UI, complexity and the placement of foreign language, and generated testable graphics. The student researcher designed the UX testing and is working on an IRB approval. The student will continue to carry on this project using a unique eye-tracker system that is not accessible to most regular courses. We are continuing to work hard on the project and expect to present the design and result to a conference next academic year.” 

Tran said: "I already had a great relationship with and was interested in working more with my specific research professor. My research is on foreign, specifically East Asian, fashion websites and any cultural barriers there might be regarding the user experience. This topic was intriguing to me, and I thought the project would be applicable to both my future career and general interests!” 


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