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  • You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup: A Phenomenological Study Exploring Experiences of Black Counselor Wellness Practices and Barriers to Wellness

    Spencer, Cha'Ke'Sha; College of Professional Advancement
    CHA’KE’SHA SPENCER YOU CAN’T POUR FROM AN EMPTY CUP: A PHENEMENOLOGICAL STUDY EXPLORING EXPERIENCES OF BLACK COUNSELOR WELLNESS PRACTICES AND BARRIERS TO WELLNESS Under the direction of MORGAN E. K. RIECHEL, PHD Myers et al., (2000) define wellness as “a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well- being in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live more fully within the human and natural community.” Occupational hazards such as burnout, compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and the COVID-19 pandemic may contribute to counselors’ vulnerability regarding a lack of wellness practices (Blount et al., 2016). Black counselors face these risks and unique barriers to wellness such as racial stressors, stigma associated with mental health, and cultural myths and misconceptions around emotional wellness and self-care. The literature is limited regarding wellness models for Black Americans and the theoretical framework for this study does not focus on one model, instead explores several traditional wellness models including those that center cultural relevance. The Strong Black Woman Schema and John Henryism concepts and their relationship to Black counselor wellness practices were also explored. This qualitative study utilized Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to interview 9 practicing master and doctoral level counselors, who practice independently and identify as Black. The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experiences of Black counselors’ wellness practices and possible barriers to wellness. Results indicate that Black counselors are able to define wellness as being holistic, balancing mind, body and spirit and self- care as activities that are enjoyable and promote optimal wellness. Results also indicate that participants acknowledged their history of prioritizing work and family and treating their self- care as an afterthought, which resulted in feelings of exhaustion, guilt, being overwhelmed. Participants admitted that history and cultural beliefs played a role in how they cared for themselves, and they recognized the need for community in their wellness journey.
  • Practicing Receptivity: Grassroots Ecumenical Dialogue for Building Relationality and Inspiring Missional Imagination Among Churches in Gastonia. NC

    Murphy, Robert Chris; McAfee School of Theology
    Though engaged in various missional and social outreach endeavors, churches continue to struggle to commit themselves to deep relationality with their Christian and non-Christian neighbors. The reasons for this are varied, often stemming from theological, socio-cultural, and psychological sources. I implemented this project to understand better how building relationality between individuals of diverse theological traditions could inspire a commitment to increasing relationality, particularly joint ecumenical witness and mission. Individual members from three churches serving the Brookwood and York-Chester neighborhoods in West Gastonia participated. Participants were interviewed before and after a series of five group sessions. In the pre-session interviews, participants introduced themselves, discussed the role they play within their faith communities, and described their respective church bodies’ relationship with the neighborhood and neighboring faith communities. The post-session interviews asked many of the same questions, allowing the researcher to compare any shifts that occurred because of the five group sessions. In session one, participants introduced themselves and their faith communities to the group. In session two, they participated in a bible study on Acts 10-11:18. In the third session, participants looked at the varying dimensions of common life present in the local neighborhood and how each respective congregation participates in it. The fourth session focused on the doubts members have in the pursuit of deep relationships with Christian and non-Christian neighbors. In the final session, participants reflected on future possibilities for joint missional witness. The project found that the act of coming together and committing to mutual respect increased the hopefulness of the participants in helping to build relational capacity. Further, fear was often reported as the most significant barrier to doing this kind of work. This effort requires intentionality as well as a commitment to grace, welcome, and forgiveness if it is to be effective.
  • CHRISTOLOGY AS AN AFFIRMATION OF BICULTURAL IDENTITY: TOWARD EMBRACING THE IMAGO DEI IN BICULTURAL PERSONS IN THE UNITED STATES

    Steele, Leonor Esther; McAfee School of Theology
    LEONOR E. STEELE CHRISTOLOGY AS AN AFFIRMATION OF BICULTURAL IDENTITY: TOWARD EMBRACING THE IMAGO DEI IN BICULTURAL PERSONS IN THE UNITED STATES Under the direction of ROB N. NASH, JR., Ph.D. This thesis offers a theological analysis of the nature of Jesus, the profound symbolism of the Eucharist, and the intricate concept of Imago Dei in order to explore the nature of bicultural identity in the United States (U.S.). The thesis opens with an introduction to the topic of social identity and categorization in the U.S. The thesis also analyzes the Council of Chalcedon’s definition of Jesus, offering insights into our understanding of His nature, which is both divine and human. Then, it discusses the significance of the Eucharist or communion, highlighting its central role in Christian worship and its symbolic representation of the sacrifice of Jesus. The Eucharist highlights the dual role of the communion as a foundation of community as well as individual relations with God. Additionally, the study dives into various interpretations of the Imago Dei, a concept deeply embedded in Christian theology that posits that humans are created in the image and likeness of God. The culmination of the study brings together these diverse threads, providing a deeper understanding of bicultural identity through the lens of Christ.
  • A Constructive, Compassionate, Generous Understanding of God for the 21st Century

    Thomas, Khaaliq; McAfee School of Theology
    ABSTRACT KHAALIQ THOMAS A CONSTRUCTIVE, GENEROUS, AND COMAPSSIONATE UNDERSTANDING OF GOD FOR THE 21ST CENTURY Under the direction of ANGELA N. PARKER, Ph.D. Since God is not something that can be geographically located to determine if what which has been said about God is truthful, we are left with the project of conceptualizing who and what God is and what God can be. Therefore, since God is manifested from the human imagination it is a product of human weakness. With religious fundamentalists concepts of God that inspire hate, violence, division, asceticism, and oppressive group thinking, the theological imagination is too weak of a tool to accurately depict God in reality. The religious fundamentalists have constricted the concept of God making it difficult for God to function in our modern world and appeal to contemporary minds. The need to conceptualize a God that exists outside religion is essential to the functionality and relevance of a supreme being for today. Since it is the human mind, body, and spirit that encounters and conceptualizes God it is appropriate to theorize a God that is discovered through the activity of self-exploration and the exercise of human authenticity. A constructive, generous, and compassionate concept of God is one where the process of deconstruction takes place. It means eliminating the notion of ultimate truth and embracing ultimate wonder and uncertainty by taking God outside religion. It means knowing God empirically more than through scripture. It means allowing God to inform the believer of what it is and not the believer placing an identity upon God.
  • RECOGNIZE MY HUMANITY: CREATING AN INSTITUTIONAL CULTURE OF EMPATHY IN HIGHER EDUCATION

    Carter, Mariah J; Tift College of Education
    As colleges and universities seek to ensure accommodating academic experiences for all students, it is becoming increasingly clear that the concepts of diversity and disability extend beyond easily identifiable conditions but must also include invisible differences. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of college students with nonidentifiable diversities to determine the extent to which institutions are meeting the full spectrum of students’ needs. Further, the study sought to determine ways in which institutional practices enhance or hinder the academic progress and success of students with nonidentifiable diversities. The research question that guided the study was, “What are the lived experiences of students with nonidentifiable diversities in higher education?” The study was conducted using interpretive phenomenological analysis. The researcher created an informational video outlining the specifics of the study, including the criteria of being at least 18 years of age and having an invisible diversity. From that video, the participants were able to scan a QR code which led them to a prequestionnaire, which signified their interest in the study. Through semi-structured interviews, eight participants revealed memories, perceptions, and insights into their educational experiences in higher education. Following the steps of interpretive phenomenological analysis, the researcher discovered four emergent themes: (a) Managing Invisible Differences, (b) Extrinsic Rejection of Invisible Differences, (c) The Scars of Invisibility, and (d) Creating a Sense of Belonging, which provided insight into how the participants navigated their invisible differences during their higher education experiences. A key implication of this research was the importance of creating an institutional culture rooted in empathy through building relationships and developing positive service quality experiences for students with nonidentifiable diversities. Creating an institutional culture not only enhances the overall educational experience but fosters a sense of belonging and improves academic success measures for students. Additionally, there exist a few gaps in research from the findings that would benefit from further research, including a need for greater comprehension of self-advocacy for students with nonidentifiable diversities along with a need to understand more about campus services and how those services can help promote equity and self-advocacy for students.
  • QUANTIFYING MULTIMODALITY: THE VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY OF THE QEMT AND QEMR

    Siegel, Paul; Tift College of Education
    While multimodality and multiliteracies has been a concept for 25 years (Kalantzis & Cope, 2023; The New London Group, 1996), research on and application of the concept within text complexity measures has been limited. Attempts to assess multiliteracies and multimodality (Jacobs, 2013; Schmerbeck & Lucht, 2017; Wyatt-Smith & Kimber, 2009) have primarily relied on qualitative or subjective assessments of multimodality. This dissertation seeks to study and compare the validity and reliability of two tools designed to assess multimodality quantitatively. Based around a theoretical clarification of the New London Group’s original concept, these tools will allow researchers to assess multimodality in unique and helpful ways. Ultimately, the Quantitative Evaluation of Multimodality Tool was found to be both reliable and valid. Discussions for its implementation and understanding its results as well as the limitations of the study are discussed.
  • THE CALL IS ALL: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE VOCATIONAL CALLING EXPERIENCES OF NONDENOMINATIONAL MASTER OF DIVINITY STUDENTS

    Cost, Nathan Andrew; Tift College of Education
    A sense of vocational calling to ministry is a primary factor leading seminary students to theological education. Nondenominational students now comprise a significant proportion of enrolled seminary students. This qualitative study used the method of hermeneutic phenomenology to examine the phenomenon of vocational calling within the lived experiences of nondenominational Master of Divinity students. Individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with eleven participants enrolled at five different seminaries. The data analysis revealed the vocational calling experience to be ontologically transformational in a way that redefined the participants’ relationships, careers, and sense of self. The participants’ deep sense of devotion to their calling can be found in the six essential themes that emerged from the data analysis: a divine call and anti-call; paradoxical devotion; experiential, dialogical, and gradual discernment; portal relationships; seminary as a vocational laboratory; and a destination-less journey. Furthermore, the data analysis revealed that participants experienced a vocational calling concurrently with another life altering event, described in this study as an “ontological trigger.” The results of this study show the need for seminary administrators to consider vocational formation as an essential and formal part of the seminary education, especially for nondenominational students attending denominationally affiliated seminaries. Furthermore, the results demonstrate the diverse experiences that nondenominational students take with them into their seminary education. These diverse experiences offer new opportunities for seminaries to expand their notions of vocation and calling beyond their previously accepted understandings.
  • Defining Clinical Skills for School Counselors

    Powers, Priscilla; College of Professional Advancement
    ABSTRACT PRISCILLA POWERS DEFINING CLINICAL SKILLS FOR SCHOOL COUNSELORS Under the direction of Morgan Kiper-Riechel, Ph.D. School counselors are mental health professionals who support students’ emotional, academic, and social development. Numerous studies have documented outcomes to support the efficacy of school counselors. To excel in student support services, counselors should possess a diverse set of skills and attributes to successfully assist and guide students. Defining clinical skills for school counselors helps to ensure that they are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and competencies to provide effective support to students, establish a professional standard of practice, ensure school counselors are accountable for their work, and establish recognition as legitimate mental health providers working in schools. The purpose of this Delphi study was to establish a consensus definition of clinical skills for school counselors. Delphi research is a structured forecasting method that involves input from a panel of experts through multiple rounds of feedback. This Delphi study consulted 22 field experts with advanced degrees, extensive school counseling experience, recent field research, and leaders in professional organizations to achieve consensus. Three open-ended research questions produced ten themes surrounding the clinical skills of school counselors. In the three phases of the study, responses from the panelists were analyzed and resubmitted to the same participants for review. Quantitative data included the measurement of central tendencies with dispersion, percentage, and frequency of responses. The panel produced a consensus on ten skill domains to define clinical skills for school counselors. The counseling implications are also discussed.
  • BUILDING A HEALTHY CHURCH LEADERSHIP TEAM: THE IMPACT OF WHOLE HOG BARBEQUE AND TEAM BUILDING FOR A CHURCH PLANT IN COLUMBUS, GEORGIA

    Moss, Dahl Antonio; McAfee School of Theology
    The focus of this project thesis is to recruit a group of diverse individuals and build a healthy church leadership team that will be at the forefront of a church plant in Columbus, Georgia. The city of Columbus is deeply stained by the existence of Macon Road, also known as the “Macon-Dixon Line” it serves as a silent and loud reminder of the city’s socioeconomic division. This project is concerned with how Bible studies, prayer walks, and a whole hog barbeque event would affect the church leadership team. The research involves a focus group and qualitative method to determine how all the events help define the qualities and qualifications of a church leadership team member. A moderator was used to conduct the focus group and both pre and post surveys were completed electronically and all participants were anonymous. The data was interpreted using Micro-interlocutor analysis. The results of this project demonstrated that the series of events and whole hog barbeque helped the diverse group of people on the team move from a place of uncertainty about how they understood a church leadership team and the roles in which they could serve to forming succinct clarity about the role of a church leadership team and how their gifts and talents could be used to serve in a role on the leadership team.
  • Native Hawaiian Alzheimer's Caregivers and their Experience of Anticipatory Grief

    Mitchell, Connie; College of Professional Advancement
    Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease and the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. Informal caregivers are providing the greatest margin of care. Due to the trajectory of the disease these caregivers are overwhelmed and experience anticipatory grief. Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing minority group in America. The AANHPI are comprised of 50 subgroups with 100 different languages. Alzheimer’s and dementia research among these subgroups is limited due to a lack of disaggregated data. According to the literature, Native Hawaiian elders experience historical trauma and multiple health disparities which includes a shorter life expectancy and early onset Alzheimer’s. Therefore, this qualitative study examined Native Hawaiian Alzheimer’s caregivers and their experience of anticipatory grief.
  • "But Where's My Class?" Implementing The Adult Christian Education (ACE) Tool for Assessment of Sunday Morning Adult Education at First Baptist Church of Augusta, Georgia

    Hall, Martha Kate; McAfee School of Theology
    Within the past ten to fifteen years, there has been a trend among churches to downsize staff and eliminate the role of “Minister of Education.” With these changes in staff structure, a need has emerged for assistance in evaluating adult educational programming within the church. For this project, a process was developed called the Adult Christian Education (ACE) Tool to be used to evaluate adult Sunday school. This Tool consists of a participant survey, a leader survey, and a series of committee meetings that will guide a committee through the evaluation process. After developing the tool, a committee was established at First Baptist Church of Augusta, Georgia, to test the tool. The survey was distributed among adults in the congregation, and the committee met to evaluate the results and make recommendations to church leadership. Once the process was complete, interviews were held with each member of the committee to gain feedback on the ACE Tool itself. This feedback was then used to determine if the process was successful and what changes needed to be made to the tool. The overall results were that the ACE Tool was a useful tool that could be used in a variety of church settings to evaluate Adult Chrisitan Education. Along with these results, it was determined that some changes needed to be made to improve the tool. These changes included changes to both the surveys used as well as the committee meeting process. The surveys need to be adapted and shortened somewhat for use in other contexts. It was also determined that the committee needs additional meeting time in order to discuss the results and recommendations to church leadership. Moving forward, the tool will be adapted and then tested again in two churches with different demographics in order to compare the process. Once these changes have been made, the ACE Tool, including surveys, committee meeting structure, and process guidelines, will be put in a workbook format that can be purchased and used by other churches.
  • A Multigenerational Narrative Inquiry: Exploring Black Joy Through Language and Literacy

    Tolefree, Latoya Antoinette; Tift College of Education
    Within the scope of this narrative inquiry, I conducted a study on two multigenerational families to examine the literacies that are sustained within their families, analyze the accounts of their experiences, and understand the influence of their language and literacy practices on their identity. For this study, I used culturally sustaining pedagogies and critical sociocultural theory as a framework to explore the historical accomplishments of Black women in education broadly and within the literature before turning to narrative inquiry to consider how their narratives could inform asset-based pedagogies. The findings provide insight into the participants' literacy and language experiences by demonstrating how participants characterized their shifting language and literacy practices as the result of complex social interactions, upheld by family and community. The results suggest that Black girls/women view their language and literacy experiences as both affirming their humanity and deeply connected to their religious beliefs. Black girls/women see the link between their language and literacy practices and their identities as a historical legacy that is passed down and accepted by future generations via the recognition of their literacies. Recommendations demonstrate how educators can leverage various modalities and learning preferences and honor Black girls’ language and literacy practices. Assignment modifications are offered to condense the suggestions provided for instructors and curriculum designers as a means of planning. The suggested modifications can serve as a reference for structuring classes and activities with the aim of cultivating and eliciting joy within educational environments.
  • Navigating Inclusion: Perceptions from General Education Teachers on Preparedness, Professional Development, and Collaboration

    Eavenson , Julie Danielle; Tift College of Education
    ABSTRACT JULIE DANIELLE EAVENSON NAVIGATING INCLUSION: PERCEPTIONS OF GENERAL EDUCATION TEACHERS ON PREPAREDNESS, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT, AND COLLABORATION Under the direction of ROBERT MARSH, PhD. Historically, diversity and inclusivity in the educational system have only sometimes been as welcoming as today (Boroson, 2017; Osgood, 2005). According to the literature on inclusion in education, several factors have contributed to negative perceptions of students with disabilities participating in general education classrooms (Abawi, 2015; Morgan, 2015; Rotter, 2014; Ware, 2016). In response to an increase of students with disabilities in general education classrooms, researchers have recommended courses for professional development and higher education to support the needs of general education teachers teaching such diverse populations of learners (Zagona et al., 2017). This qualitative study explored the perceptions of general education teachers teaching students with disabilities in general education classrooms. More specifically, this study explored a) perceptions of the impact of inclusion on instructional strategies, (b) perceived level of preparedness to effectively teach students with disabilities, (c) professional development needs of regular education teachers instructing students with disabilities, and (d) collaborative relationships between regular and special educators. This study used critical disability theory as the theoretical framework to understand how a general education teacher’s perception influences their beliefs and practice when teaching students with disabilities in general education classrooms. Twelve general education teachers from the same school district participated in face-to-face interviews and provided two weeks of lesson plans for document analysis. Data was gathered and analyzed using a grounded theory approach, constantly comparing patterns from initial, focused, and theoretical codes. Four theoretical codes emerged from the data: The Odyssey, Maneuvering Diversity, Distress Signals, and Collaboration Beacon. These theoretical codes describe how participants navigate inclusion to serve the needs of all students and the challenges they face with collaborative teaching. The results of this study show that although improvements to inclusive practices have been made, few improvements have been made in preparing general education teachers to teach students with disabilities (Chitiyo, 2017; Gilmour & Wehby, 2019; Robinson et al., 2019). Results from this study revealed that general education teacher’s perceptions of inclusion have a direct impact on their practices and beliefs. Compelled to see all learners succeed, participants overcame challenges and immersed themselves in finding innovative ways to teach students with disabilities. Data from this study showed that most general education teachers are not prepared to know and understand the social, emotional, and cognitive needs of students with disabilities. Participants expressed the critical need for higher education programs to provide courses and field experiences focused on inclusive practices. In addition, the findings of this study indicated that most general education teachers do not participate in professional development opportunities specific to teaching students with disabilities. Participants shared how they repeatedly asked school administrators for professional development focused on providing instruction for students with disabilities, managing challenging behaviors, and collaborative teaching methods. Finally, findings from this study revealed that most general and special education teachers are not using effective co-teaching methods. Barriers such as not having common planning times, balancing heavy caseloads, and accommodating multiple schedules often interfered with the collaborative efforts of general and special education teachers. Based on the findings of this study, future research is needed in school districts across the United States to identify guidelines used when determining the educational placement, instructional accommodations, curriculum modifications, and special education support for a student with a disability. In addition, future research should investigate school districts throughout the United States to determine if general and special education teachers participate in appropriate professional development opportunities focused on effective collaborative teaching, instructional accommodations, and managing challenging behaviors. Lastly, future research should investigate teacher preparation programs to compare and determine if general education and special education preservice teachers receive appropriate training and strategies for instructional planning and managing behaviors of students with disabilities in a general education classroom.
  • TESTING FOR LEAD EXPOSURE IN CLAY TARGET SHOOTING TEAMS

    West, Herman B; School of Medicine
    Lead exposure is a critical health issue that can have long-term adverse health consequences on people who have elevated blood lead levels. The effects of lead exposure at a young age can be permanent and irreversible. Even though lead exposure has decreased significantly over the past 50 years due to controls, laws, and regulations, lead remains a very serious public health issue in the United States. Recent news headlines have indicated that lead can still be found in food products, water pipe connectors, and drink containers. Lead exposure in rural areas is even more significant due to the fact that housing stock is older in these areas and in some states, 92% of rural areas have a high lead risk exposure score. Clay target shooting is very popular in rural areas, and over the past ten years this sport has been introduced into middle and high school sporting activities with many rural youth and adolescents taking up this sport as an extension of hunting and shooting activities that they already pursue. Shooting activities have previously been identified as increasing the risk of lead exposure due to the discharge of lead dust. The study’s objective is to determine if participating on a clay target shooting team exposes shooters to lead in quantities high enough to increase their blood lead level. Capillary blood samples were drawn, analyzed, and the results were recorded for each study participant before the clay target shooting season began and again after the season was completed. The pre- and post-season blood lead level results were compared and indicated that there were no detectable changes in the blood lead levels of the study participants. In conclusion, the study indicated that participating on a clay target shooting team does not significantly increase the blood lead level of the team members during the school shooting season. Future research opportunities should include venous blood draws from a larger population and sample size using blood lead analyzer instruments that are more sensitive and can provide exact readings at all levels.
  • Reimagining Connection Within The Covenant Community of Believers in a Post-Pandemic Disconnected Digital Age in Worship: A Model For the Small (Under 200 Members) Rural Church

    Hayes, Ronald Paul; McAfee School of Theology
    RONALD P. HAYES REIMAGINING CONNECTION WITHIN THE COVENANT COMMUNITY OF BELIEVERS IN A POST-PANDEMIC DISCONNECTED DIGITAL AGE IN WORSHIP: A MODEL FOR THE SMALL (UNDER 200 MEMBERS) RURAL CHURCH Under the direction of Karen G. Massey Is it possible to have a connection between worshippers when some worship in person and some attend online? Hybrid worship is a reality that all congregational ministers and congregations will be challenged with. In an era that seems obsessed with the simplification of human existence, coupled with the culture’s alteration of schedule’s respect for traditional worship times, churches have recently moved service times, moved service days, and implemented online worship, even in the smallest of churches to accommodate those that cannot or will not attend worship at the traditional Sunday time. After the COVID-19 pandemic waned, some people were reluctant to return to in-person worship. Hybrid worship became normative even in the smaller, more rural churches. Understanding this to be the case, this thesis explores the possibility of a connection between worshippers who don’t share the same physical space. The scriptures clearly show believers are to gather together and share in the experience of praising and worshipping the Triune God. Ten participants participated in this study to see if they could connect better with those worshipping in a different space than where they chose to attend. The study was conducted over the four weeks of Advent 2022, where Oak Grove Baptist Church only offered an online Zoom option and in-person worship. Before the project, there was a survey attempting to establish a baseline of attitudes toward connection with people during the pandemic within the congregation and the extension post-pandemic. After the project, another survey asked questions attempting to determine the level of change in connectivity among the congregants participating in the project. Results varied from the online community, but a theme of minimal increase in connection emerged from the in-person attendees. Congregations will continue to attempt to find innovative ways to engage participants in worship in the future. Technology designed particularly for churches will emerge to assist in connecting these two worship platforms in the future.
  • EXPLORING PAIN FREE VACCINATION ALTERNATIVES FOR A WHOLE CELL INACTIVATED MICROPARTICULATE GONORRHEA VACCINE

    Bagwe, Priyal Vishnu; College of Pharmacy
    There is a global rise in the number of cases of gonorrhea infection each year. Gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae and is currently being treated using antibiotics. However, this bacterium has gradually developed antimicrobial resistance. Currently, there is no vaccine for gonorrhea. The long-term goal of this project is to formulate and evaluate a microparticulate vaccine against Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The approach taken utilizes the whole cell (formalin-inactivated) as an antigen encapsulated in a microparticulate vehicle and administered painlessly- transdermally via a dissolving microneedle patch, buccally via an oral dissolving film and intranasally via microparticles. The central hypothesis is that by keeping the bacteria whole and intact, with all the antigenic epitopes in their native form, could trigger an immune response and generate specific protective antibodies. To improve uptake of the antigen by immune cells, the whole cell was entrapped in a biodegradable particulate matrix, which are better engulfed by antigen-presenting cells (APCs). Additionally, the use of a sustained release polymer protects the antigen until it is processed by APCs and exposes the antigen to the immune system for an extended period. Transdermal delivery of the vaccine was assessed through dissolving microneedles. Dissolving microneedles were formulated through extensive screening of polymers and sugars to produce fast-dissolving microneedles to effectively deliver the vaccine through the skin. The vaccine was assessed in vivo in a preclinical murine model. This study explored the different doses, cross-protectivity, and memory response for our gonorrhea vaccine candidate when administered as transdermal microneedles. We compared the dose-response strategy, in vivo immunogenicity, correlates of protection, resistance to infection, reinfection, and memory response of our novel gonorrhea vaccine. There was cross-protection against a heterologous strain. Additionally, the vaccine generated humoral, cellular and memory response. Our findings indicate longevity and cross-protection upon vaccination with our transdermal gonorrhea vaccine candidate. This study also explored different pain-free routes for delivering our gonorrhea vaccine candidate. We compared the in vivo immunogenicity, correlates of protection, and resistance to infection of our novel gonorrhea vaccine. All the routes generated strong immunity. Moreover, the transdermal route generated a significantly more robust systemic immune response when compared to all other vaccine routes—the intranasal and buccal mucosal routes generated significantly higher mucosal immunity. The immune responses induced by the pain-free strategies were comparable to the conventional intramuscular route. Our findings indicate the route of administration of the vaccine affects the type of immune responses generated. The overarching goal of this proposal is to address the urgent need of an effective vaccination strategy against gonorrhea, harnessing work from previously funded research by NIH.
  • AN INVESTIGATION OF MEDICAL IMAGING EDUCATOR LEVELS OF CULTURAL COMPETENCE

    Cross, Kimberly; Tift College of Education
    Evidence suggests that culturally competent care can reduce the racial, ethnic, and cultural healthcare disparities that continue to plague the United States. While practicing professionals must rely on continuing education to improve cultural competence, future healthcare professionals enrolled in health sciences educational programs must rely on program curricula delivered by educators who may or may not be culturally competent themselves. Accreditation requirements related to cultural competence concepts vary greatly between disciplines and this variability results in significant differences in the quality and scope of cultural competence education. JRCERT accredited educational programs in medical imaging must adhere to an approved curriculum that includes concepts related to cultural competence, but no guidance is provided regarding design and implementation of content or measurement of student outcomes. This lack of guidance results in substantial variability in how these concepts are implemented within the medical imaging curriculum. Research suggests that the quality of this content is therefore dependent upon the cultural competence of the educator. The purpose of this study was to examine medical imaging educators’ cultural competence and the extent to which they employed transcultural teaching behaviors. The researcher measured medical imaging educator cultural competence and transcultural teaching behaviors via the Cultural Diversity Questionnaire for Nurse Educators-Revised. One-hundred forty-nine educator members of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists participated in the study. The findings of this study suggest that study participants perceived themselves as culturally competent and that they engage in at least some transcultural teaching behaviors. Furthermore, the findings reveal that educators engaged in cultural desire by committing both professionally and personally to providing culturally competent care as well as to teaching how to provide culturally competent care. Attending events sponsored by local and state societies and attending events outside of sponsored activities motivated by personal interests were significantly related to cultural competence. These findings suggest that personal motivation plays a significant role in professional development choices as well as choices related to whether and how cultural competence is taught in their program. Future research could further elucidate these choices and measure student outcomes to inform best practices.
  • ACTIVATION OF SEROTONIN 5-HT1A RECEPTORS AS A THERAPEUTIC STRATEGY FOR FRAGILE X SYNDROME: RESULTS FROM PRECLINICAL STUDIES IN FMR1 KNOCKOUT MICE

    Saraf, Tanishka Satyajit; College of Pharmacy
    There are no approved pharmacotherapies for fragile X syndrome (FXS), a monogenic, neurodevelopmental disorder typified by neuropsychiatric symptoms, including intellectual disability and auditory hypersensitivity. The gene expression of inhibitory serotonin 1A receptors (5-HT1ARs) is reduced in embryonic brain tissue from individuals with FXS, and 5-HT1ARs are highly expressed in neural systems that are disordered in FXS, providing a rationale to focus on 5-HT1ARs as targets to treat symptoms of FXS. We examined agonist-labeled 5-HT1AR densities in male and female Fmr1 knockout mice, a model of FXS, and found that juvenile but not adult Fmr1 knockout mice had significantly lower whole-brain 5-HT1AR expression than age-matched control wild-type mice. Consistent with these results, juvenile Fmr1 knockout mice showed significantly reduced behavioral responses elicited by the 5-HT1AR agonist (R)-8-OH-DPAT, effects blocked by the selective 5-HT1AR antagonist, WAY-100635. Juvenile females showed higher antagonist-bound 5-HT1AR expression than males. Treatment with the selective 5-HT1AR agonist, NLX-112, dose-dependently prevented audiogenic seizures (AGSs) in juvenile Fmr1 knockout mice, an effect reversed by WAY-100635. Sex- and age-related differences were observed in AGS. In electroencephalogram (EEG) studies aimed to identify EEG biomarkers, we observed significantly increased relative gamma power in untreated or vehicle-treated, adult, male and female Fmr1 knockout mice from recordings above the somatosensory cortex (SSC). We also observed sex effects on EEG power. FPT, a 5-HT1R agonist, had mixed effects on relative gamma power in the SSC and auditory cortex (AC). FPT robustly increased relative delta power and decreased relative alpha power in the SSC and AC, with more pronounced effects in Fmr1 knockout mice, and caused small but significant increases in relative beta power. A selective, novel, 5-HT1AR agonist, PFPT, had similar effects on relative delta and alpha power in juvenile wild-type mice. Distinct impacts of FPT and PFPT on cortical EEG were like effects caused by certain FDA-approved psychotropic medications (including baclofen, allopregnanolone, and clozapine). These results provide preclinical support for 5-HT1ARs as potential targets and 5-HT1AR agonists as potential therapeutics for young individuals with FXS hypersensitive to auditory stimuli. They also advance the understanding of behavioral and neurophysiological effects of 5-HT1AR agonists.
  • Sunday Supper is Killing Us! Black Church, Do You Want to be Made Whole?

    Zawadi, Adama Melitte; McAfee School of Theology
    ABSTRACT ADAMA MELITTE ZAWADI SUNDAY SUPPER IS KILLING US! BLACK CHURCH, DO YOU WANT TO BE MADE WHOLE? Under the direction of David Garber, Ph.D. The history, the intergenerational relationship to food, and the culinary traditions of African Americans all too often manifest as deleterious lifestyle choices leading to preventable illnesses and death. From the first sip to the last sip, learned dietary behavior, good or bad emanates from the art of gathering around food As with the Eucharist, fellowship, communion, worship, and wellness have always been centered around the table. The church is ground zero for educating, empowering, and cultivating a spiritual awareness that aligns the people of God with the will of God that says, “You shall live and not die.” However, the numbers do not lie. Cornerstone Christian Church is a microcosm of a growing societal problem: the propensity to be sick by choice. The invitation to wholeness imagined a shift from being engaged in making detrimental lifestyle choices to accepting the invitation to exert one’s right to wellness. The research was a qualitative ethnographic study, peculiar in that it attempted to measure the intangible. Will faith affect one’s willingness to live a full, healthy life? Does faith have any bearing? The research was designed to explore the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and legitimate threats to creating wellness within the faith community, particularly among the African American faith community. This is the population readily disposed to the most significant health disparities across the spectrum in modern society. Research instruments included participant questionnaires, individual pre- and post-interviews, observational field notes including extemporaneous conversations, as well as audio/video recordings of roundtable discussions. Data were collected, secured, coded, and analyzed. The findings corroborated potential barriers, validated health concerns, and nuanced indications for change. There was a total of six bi-weekly sessions: one dietary educational component, one documentary film review, one meditation session, and a Welcome to the Dinner Table potluck. Discussions were either concurrent or otherwise centered around questionnaires. The secular calendar was intentionally synchronized with the spiritual calendar during the first quarter of the year. Conclusions probably asked as many questions as were answered. Fresh ideas were germinated for assuming individual responsibility and self-determination to attain a higher quality of life. Conclusions also presented tangential opportunities for further study.
  • STEPPING TOWARDS CULTURALLY RELEVANT LITERACY ASSESSMENT: A CONTENT ANALYSIS OF THE GEORGIA MILESTONES ASSESSMENT SYSTEM

    Davis, Julillian; Tift College of Education
    The continuous disparities in reading test scores between Black and White students remain a substantial problem in education. This study examines the historical disparity by investigating how the Georgia Milestones English Language Arts (ELA) End of Grade (EOG) Assessment incorporates cultural relevance. Employing the theoretical frameworks of critical race theory, Black critical theory, and item response theory differential item functioning, this research investigates race, culture, and standardized testing convergences. The central question guiding this study is: In what ways does the Georgia Milestones ELA EOG Assessment address the tenets of cultural relevance? Content analysis emerges as the methodological process to answer the research question. By critically analyzing the assessment content, the study aims to determine the existence or lack of cultural relevance within the test items. The findings indicate a considerable lack of cultural relevancy in the Georgia Milestones ELA EOG Assessment. Despite the theoretical frameworks advocating for culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment, the analysis highlights a deficiency. The test fails to align test content and Black culture. This research contributes to the continued discourse on equity in education. It communicates the urgent need for culturally relevant assessments. Addressing the cultural bias ingrained in standardized literacy assessments is crucial for facilitating inclusive learning environments for Black children. Doing so eliminates the historical marginalization of Black students' performance on standardized literacy assessments.

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