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Highlighting academic excellence at Saint Mary’s

March 29, 2022

Cardinal Update News Newsletters

Members of the Saint Mary’s University community continue to highlight the academic excellence our university has to offer in several ways. This includes presenting at academic conferences, having research published in academic journals, and being cited in a National Geographic story.

Feder-Lewis, Dean present at Conference on College Composition and Communication

Earlier this month, Sonia Feder-Lewis, Ph.D., a core professor in the Education Doctoral Degree in Leadership program, and Stacy Dean, Ph.D., a course-contracted assistant professor in the DBA program, had the opportunity to represent Saint Mary’s at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC).

Their presentation, “Why am I here? How Dissertation Writing Groups Can Provide Place and Community,” shared the results from their study of the characteristics and practices of successful student-led dissertation writing groups, which had been funded by an Ignite 300 grant.

“Presenting at CCCC on our study regarding student-led dissertation writing groups allowed me the opportunity to discuss my findings on the ways in which these types of groups are effective in supporting doctoral student progression and completion with a large community who may benefit from this knowledge,” Feder-Lewis said. “CCCC is attended each year by several thousand composition and rhetoric professors and their graduate students. By being there, representing Saint Mary’s University, I am able to share what we have learned from focusing on adult learners and their needs.”

Research by Saint Mary’s graduate, faculty published in peer-reviewed journal

Like many students in the sciences at Saint Mary’s, Erin Hettinger B’20 was required to undertake a senior research project before graduating. What sets Hettinger apart from most undergraduates, is that her research will soon be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

During her senior year, Hettinger, with the guidance of associate professor of biology Moni Berg-Binder, Ph.D., and assistant professor of biology Ben Pauli, Ph.D., researched the presence and habitat preference of a non-native orchid that has been found to be growing in Winona County. Through field research and the use of GIS and MaxEnt software to build habitat sustainability models, Hettinger, Berg-Binder, and Pauli were able to find the orchid, while considered invasive in some regions of North America, does not pose a threat to areas of conservation concern in the Driftless region, such as bluff prairies.

After Hettinger compiled the findings, she was encouraged by Pauli and Berg-Binder to submit the research to the American Midland Naturalist, which accepted the submission and will run it in its April publication.

“This is a big accomplishment for Erin,” Berg-Binder said. “To be published in a peer-reviewed journal, career field biologists had to approve Erin’s research methods. And it is a rigorous process to ensure your work meets the level of quality for that journal.”

Hettinger, who is now a graduate student at Utah State University, says the entire research process has aided her since leaving Saint Mary’s.

“It was really amazing to work with these two professors to come up with an original research question and see it through the entire process,” Hettinger said. “The entire experience helped me strengthen my skills, like geospatial analysis, habitat suitability modeling, data analysis, and scientific writing.”

She added, “As all graduate students know, writing is the most daunting part of research. But it’s nice to know that I am capable of having future research published because I have already done it.”

Cochran-Biederman cited in online National Geographic article

Jennifer Cochran-Biederman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biology, was quoted in a National Geographic article about a project that is aiming to save three endangered fish species in Cambodia.

The online article cited a study Cochran-Biederman led that looked at the success and failures of reintroducing endangered freshwater fish into their native waterways.

In the article, Cochran-Biederman says reintroducing fish to habitat is simply not enough to save wild populations, and that those taking part in the project must, “tackle broader causes of habitat degradation, such as pollution, climate change, urban development, and dams, which is much more complicated.”