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Summer Fellowship Program Raises Kean University's Research Profile

By landichoJ1 on
Union Township (Union)

Kean researchers measured the impact of Black-owned businesses, began an online oral history of COVID-19, and investigated an array of other topics through the University’s inaugural Summer Research Fellowship Program.

According to Kean's University Relations, twenty faculty projects were awarded funding through the new program, which was created to expand research activities at Kean and advance the University’s goal of becoming an R-2 research institution.

“Kean University is proud of its research, and we seek to build on that strength and develop our profile as a leading urban research university,” said Kean President Lamont O. Repollet, Ed.D.

“Many of the projects focus on equity issues. Through research, Kean is working to solve problems and provide insight on issues that impact our local communities and the world at large.”

The Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, which supports research at colleges and universities, defines R-2 universities as those having “high research activity.”

The cross-disciplinary research fellowship projects, many of which are ongoing, range from liberal arts to the sciences. Nearly 40 applications were submitted by faculty and most include student researchers.

“We requested proposals that reflect Kean’s mission, especially with a focus on the urban environment,” said Kean Senior Vice President for Research Jeffrey H. Toney, Ph.D.

Applicants showed how their work would build research opportunities for students and support a robust culture of research at Kean, say university officials.  

Min Chung Han, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marketing in Kean’s College of Business and Public Management, received a fellowship to research the visibility and impact of Black-owned businesses. 

Working with student researcher Adrian Peralta, the project uses a focus group and online survey to explore attitudes about minority-owned businesses. The project was prompted by last year’s Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic, Han said.

“Those events sparked national discussions on the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses. Data shows consumers have increasingly put their money where their mouth is, by spending more at Black-owned businesses, but it is still uncertain how minority ownership information influences young consumers’ awareness,” she said. 

Peralta, a senior marketing major, said he was thrilled to be involved “not only because I advocate for diversity and inclusion but also because I’m a minority myself. This project helps me strive to always challenge myself.”

Assistant Professor Brian Oakes, who teaches Media and Journalism, also launched a research project motivated by the pandemic. His Kean University COVID-19 Oral History Project combines communication, sociology and art to “create a snapshot of the lives of our diverse community members — their struggles as well as their successes — during the pandemic.”

Officials say student researchers are conducting interviews in-person and through Zoom. The project will include an online collection of individuals’ stories, with one story told in an animated film.

“This project was created to engage students and the Kean community, highlight our diverse student body, encourage interpersonal communication, and create an archive of historical and cultural importance that will benefit society,” Oakes said.

The projects will be highlighted at a symposium this fall, where researchers may share findings or plans to continue their work. The hope is that some projects will seek external grant funding.

Kean history Professor Elizabeth Hyde, Ph.D., who served on the committee that developed the program, said it is essential to support research. 

“This program is a demonstration that Kean University’s administration wants to actively support faculty research as we look to make Kean into New Jersey’s premier urban research university,” she said.

PHOTOS / CAPTIONS: Kean University's inaugural Summer Research Fellowship Program supported 20 faculty research projects, ranging from liberal arts to the sciences and including an online oral history of COVID-19. The image features Dr. Robert Pyatt, CLIA Lab, 2021 from Kean's University Relations.

ABOUT KEAN UNIVERSITYFounded in 1855, Kean University is one of the largest metropolitan institutions of higher education in the region, with a richly diverse student, faculty and staff population. Kean continues to play a key role in the training of teachers and is a hub of educational, technological and cultural enrichment serving more than 16,000 students. The University’s six undergraduate colleges offer more than 50 undergraduate degrees over a full range of academic subjects. The Nathan Weiss Graduate College offers seven doctoral degree programs and more than 70 options for graduate study leading to master’s degrees, professional diplomas or certifications. With campuses in Union, Toms River, Jefferson and Manahawkin, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, Kean University furthers its mission by providing an affordable and accessible world-class education. Visit www.kean.edu