By Meagan Lutey

Winners of the Earhart Scholar Award and their faculty mentors are working to improve Madonna students’ academic advising experience through research.  Graduate students Paula Otto, a gerontology and hospice major, and Albert Ujkaj, a social work major, are researching student opinions regarding the advising they receive at the university.

Assisting the students are Sue Sweeney, Chair of the Gerontology Department, Barbara Demarath, Chair of the Social Work Department, and Jim O’Neill, Associate Vice President for
University Accreditation.

“Paula and Albert have been working on the project all winter semester, and will continue into the summer,” says Sweeney.  “Dr. Demerath and I provided structure for the data entry and data analysis, and Albert and Paula have carried out the tasks… we’ve become a good working team, and we’ve learned a lot together about the survey research process.”

The project involves analyzing survey data collected during the fall semester.  More than 800 surveys were completed and returned. 

Students were asked to rate their advising experiences, how important certain topics were to these experiences, and their satisfaction with the advising that they received.  This information was collected along with basic demographic information, such as major, GPA, ethnicity, and employment.

“We were able to uncover interesting characteristics about Madonna University students and how they feel about the advising experience at Madonna University,” says Ujkaj.

Findings from this research will be used to assist the advising team and the Office of Academic Advising to better cater to student needs.

“Sue Sweeney, Dr. Demerath and Dr. O'Neill guided us through the entire process and gave us the foundation for becoming proficient in the research process,” says Ujkaj.

The scholars applied for the award in March and learned that they had been selected within the first week of April.

“As a full-time student, it took a lot of work which included learning how to use the SPSS files [and] entering lots of data,” says Otto of her experience.  “It took a lot of time and patience.”

The collaborative project was funded by a Title III grant.  A stipulation of this award was that the students present their discoveries to faculty on research day, April 9.

“If a person can ever get involved in any kind of research it is most definitely a great learning experience,” says Otto.  “This was a great experience for me to actually be involved in research.”

Ujkaj agrees.  “It was a very rewarding experience!  The greatest part I had during this experience was working with the staff and developing a bond with them.  I truly loved working with them and getting to know them and developed a profound sense of respect and admiration for all of them.”


Scholars, faculty conduct research together