Research and Development


Research and development is a supporting component of the Seita Scholars Program. We collaborate with an interdisciplinary group of researchers to engage in knowledge discovery, development and dissemination about young people who experience foster care and solutions related to their education and career success. The research and development component promotes applied research, and the sharing of published research with professionals working “in the fields” of foster care and education. Launched in January 2014, the research and development component has two main objectives:

  • To conduct applied research about programs and practices that effectively support youth aging out of foster care to thrive in education and career.
  • To share research findings pertinent to foster care and higher education with professionals and others supporting young people who have experienced foster care.


Research projects currently underway include the following:

Examining Retention Outcomes Among College Students Impacted by Foster Care:  Drawing on qualitative and quantitative administrative data from the Seita Scholars program, this project examines college retention-related outcomes among students impacted by foster care. Prior research in this area has measured retention narrowly, focusing primarily on whether or not students decide to stay (e.g., if they return to the same campus) or leave (e.g., if they drop-out). Such analyses, however, obscure the alternative decisions students make (e.g., to transfer or to “stop-out”) when deciding not to re-enroll after a semester. The current project will model the complex patterns of enrollment decisions among students in the Seita Scholars program and identify salient factors associated with such behaviors.
- Principal Investigators: Royel M. Johnson, Penn State University and  Bridget E. Weller, WMU School of Social Work

Fostering Success Through Coaching: Perspectives of Help-Seeking Within a Coaching Relationship with Post-Secondary Students from Foster Care: This qualitative study examines the help seeking and coaching perspectives of college students from foster care and their coaches. The study aims to explore the ways students and coaches perceive help seeking behaviors, and how help seeking is influenced by a coaching relationship in order to better understand practice methods that support healthy help seeking among students from foster care.
- PI: Jamie Bennett, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of South Florida College of Education

Inquiring about Well-being among College Students who Aged Out of Foster Care: This qualitative research project uses the iRest yoga nidra framework for well-being to explore how college students who have aged out from foster care understand and describe to their personal approach to well being and self care. 
- Project Investigators: Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D. and Melinda McCormick, Ph.D. WMU School of Social Work

Needs of Young adults in a College Setting who have Aged Out of Foster Care and Identify as Sexual and Gender Minorities: This project is a review of the literature and explores the challenges that are faced by young people with these identities and informs college staff/faculty on ways to work effectively with these students. 
- Project Investigators: Melinda McCormick, Ph.D. WMU School of Social Work and Jonathan C. Anthony, MSW

Social Network Project: This research project focuses on investigating the relationships Seita Scholars form that can impact their college success. The first part of the study collects structured information on the individuals that Seita Scholars turn to for different types of support (e.g., emotional support, advice and guidance). We will examine how different factors, such as Scholars’ attachment style, are related to the social connections they form in college. The second part of the study collects qualitative information on the role that others play in the Scholars’ perceptions of resilience and the strategies they use to handle stressful situations. Together, the study provides an in-depth look at the connections foster youth make with resourceful individuals as well as potential barriers to forming those connections. A small study to pretest the survey questions will take place in summer 2018, and a larger study is anticipated to begin the following year.
- Project Investigators: Nathanael Okpych, Ph.D. University of Connecticut School of Social Work, Lori Gray, Ph.D., WMU School of Interdisciplinary Health Programs