Research and Development

Objectives

Research and development is the newest component of the Center for Fostering Success at Western Michigan University. It was added in the spirit of supporting knowledge discovery, development and dissemination about young people who experience foster care and solutions related to 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, it 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.

CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS

Research projects underway in the Center for Fostering Success include the following:

  •  Seita Scholars Program Evaluation Project: This project entails an internal evaluation of coaching, including service satisfaction, value and perceived effectiveness of coaching as key program features in the Seita Scholars. A satisfaction survey was administered to all Seita Scholars enrolled in the Spring 2016 semester to identify components of the program that scholars deem to be the most valuable, excessive or missing to help scholars succeed.  Key questions explored explore include whether it is the coaching - versus some other aspect of the program - that is helping students succeed? Which aspect of coaching is helping to make a difference? A manuscript for publication is currently in preparation.
    • Faculty: Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D. WMU School of Social Work
    • Staff: Ronicka Hamilton, MA, Director Seita Scholars Program, Jamie Bennett, LMSW, Training Specialist and Ann Dawson, MSW, Research Coordinator
  • Mental Health Project: This pilot research project was designed to learn more about the therapeutic needs of college students who have foster care histories. College students from foster care are assumed to live with some level of trauma, which is associated with risk factors such as psychological stressors, inadequate or negative relationships, and unstable environments in young adulthood. Despite the prevalence of these negative stressors, many college students from foster care seem reluctant to engage in professional counseling or therapy as young adults. The question explored was how do college students from foster care address these negative stressors, if not through professional support or therapy? Focus groups and interviews with college students from foster care were conducted to (a) better understand how they experience negative stressors, and (b) determine what strategies they use to overcome them. A manuscript for publication in currently in preparation. This project is funded by the Center for the Study of Social Policy—Youth Thrive ($2,000).
    • Faculty: Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D. WMU School of Social Work
    • Students: Katelyn Root, MSW Intern
  • Koru Meditation Project: This project investigated the effectiveness of a 4-week Koru meditation module that was incorporated into two sections of a first-year seminar course for students from foster care. The intervention was applied using a cross-over wait-list design in the fall 2016. The dependent variables were mindfulness (Five Factor Mindfulness Questionnaire), perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale) and sleep quality. A manuscript for publication in currently in preparation.
    • Faculty: Lori Gray, Ph.D., WMU School of Interdisciplinary Health Programs, Sarah Font, Ph.D. Penn State Department of Sociology and Criminology; Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D. WMU School of Social Work
    • Staff: Ann Dawson, MSW, Research Coordinator
    • Students: Erika Miller, MSW Intern, Katelyn Root, MSW Intern, Michelle Tanner, MSW Intern
  • Mindfulness Project: This project is focused on developing mindfulness intervention tools that promote guided self-inquiry and self-understanding with respect to mental health and college life stressors for students with foster care histories. With the help of MSW interns and Seita Scholar assistants, this project aims to offer individual and group services that enhance coaching, and supplement professional counseling or therapy services.
    • Faculty: Yvonne Unrau, Ph.D. WMU School of Social Work
    • Students: Erika Miller, MSW Intern, Katelyn Root, MSW Intern, Michelle Tanner, MSW Intern