A period of time college students typically devote to working to raise funds for the upcoming academic year. Others may take a course or work with faculty on a research project.
For Albion College swimmer Nicky McCann, the summer was a combination of work (she was a lifeguard at the college's Dean Aquatic Center in addition to a couple of other jobs) and a pair of research projects.
A rising senior from Adrian, Mich., McCann received approval to survey 2018 and 2019 high school graduates from as far away as Georgia and Texas as she started work on a study of the impact of social networking sites on walkout protests by high school students in the wake of mass shootings.
An aspiring sports psychologist, McCann says the study will culminate in her thesis at Albion and it could become the foundation for further study when she gets to graduate school.
"My cap is 20 (student participants), so it is going to be a fairly small sample, yet it is a group I believe I can still pull meaningful inferences from," McCann said of her process. "The 2018 walkouts occurred when I was in college, and all I got from it was what I could read on Twitter. It is this fascinating idea of the younger generation who can't vote, who can't legally drink, who in the eyes of the law are children, so children are stepping up and saying this is enough. It is a fascinating movement and I want to be on the forefront of investigating it.
"I'm excited because this is my first qualitative piece of work," McCann continued, noting that one of her major projects during her junior year at Albion was a survey of Euroscepticism in the European Union. "I will be taking direct quotes of what people are saying and interpreting trends as opposed to interpreting numbers and equations."
A double major in psychology and sociology and a member of the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program, McCann said she became fascinated with the ethics and political messages surrounding the gun control debate in America after a discussion on the pool deck with assistant coach Mary Ann Egnatuk during her sophomore year.
"One day we were sitting on deck after practice and a mass shooting had just occurred – I don't remember which one it was – and Mary Ann told me a statistic that there had been more mass shootings than weeks in the year. There had been about two every week. Every day we would discuss what was going on in the news, what are the statistics today, what was each side (in the gun control debate) saying, what legislators were doing about it. She helped me stay interested and involved and presented information I didn't have already.
"I appreciate the staff at Albion because it is not only the faculty who is going to give you interesting tidbits," McCann continued. "It could come from a coach, too."
With workouts for the swimming season starting in September, McCann hopes to get the majority of her interviews completed and begin the transcribing process in the middle of August.
Before getting approval to interview subjects for her thesis, McCann started working on another research project that mirrors current issues in the United States today. She was a research assistant sociology for professor Matt Schoene in an examination of the attitudes Europeans had before and after the 2015 migrant crisis. Examining data from the European Social Survey and the Human Developmental Index, McCann's duties included coding and cleaning data, interpreting data, creating spreadsheets and graphs and annotating articles.
"We are looking at what were the attitudes of migration in 2014 and 2016," McCann said. "We are trying to see if each country had different attitudes toward migration based on what happened in 2015. We are dealing with a similar crisis here in how are we going to process these migrants, how are you going to house and feed them. And, more specifically, how does your culture feel about these people who are coming in looking for asylum.
"For example, I have to find what this value from the Human Developmental Index means in terms of an attitude," McCann added. "A country like Switzerland has a high HDI, what is its attitude toward migration as compared to Greece which has a low HDI. And Switzerland received fewer migrants than Greece, so we are looking at impacts like that."
Still, the question begs why McCann is putting so much energy into research. And, much like life, McCann says she will have only one undergraduate college experience and she is determined to make the most of it.
"I'm only going to be in college once," she said. "I want the research experience and I want that blanket (presented to Albion senior student-athletes) at the end. I want practice doing qualitative and quantitative research while I have faculty and staff mentors who are willing to work with me, answering questions and email at 11 o'clock at night.
"I want to be at the top of my field someday and the only way to get to the level where I will be challenged every day is to do the ground work in the beginning," she concluded.
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Joe and Julie Serra have given a $5 million leadership gift to launch a fundraising initiative to make two dreams a reality. The first is a newly expanded fitness and student activity facility at the site of the current Dow Recreation and Wellness Center. The second is a new or renovated competition facility for the volleyball, men's basketball and women's basketball teams that currently call Kresge Gymnasium home.
The College is continuing to raise funds in support of both projects. To learn more, call 517/629-0446 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.