First Annual Research Retreat2018-04-16T13:57:23+00:00


On Friday, March 31, 2017 CARTA faculty participated in the first CARTA Annual Faculty Retreat where they discussed research trends, grant writing, and external funding sources. The goal of the retreat was to provide faculty with an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues on exchanging ideas and preparing grant proposals.  A total 40 faculty participated in the event.


Maureen Pelham | Director of Research Development, FIU
Rebecca Friedman | Associate Professor of History, SIPA
Arts, Humanities, and Social Science Research:  What is Fundable?

Milton Laufer |  CARTA Consultant and Senior Partner-Tacitus International Consulting Group
Local Arts and Arts Education Funding

Rita Teutonico | Associate Dean of Research, CASE
Collaborative Opportunities in Research & Education’

Newton D’Souza | Associate Professor of Interior Design
Concept Mapping

Faculty Retreat Abstracts

Managing stormwater runoff through roadside bio-planters in South Florida

Bio-planters are linear contained stormwater basins that capture, detain, and filter stormwater runoff during rain events. They typically sit within the urban right-of-way, between the street and sidewalk, and are enclosed by vertical curbing. They are an alternative to conventional curb-gutter-pipe infrastructure systems, and have been in use in the northwest and northeast U.S. for almost a decade. Different than conventional engineered systems, which aim to collect and conduct water to a point of discharge as quickly as possible, the bio-planters are designed to slow down flow-rates by creating temporary detention spaces. This increases system capacity through localized storage and helps to prevent street flooding. It allows for cleansing of water through plant phytoremediation processes and filtering through soil media. It also supports groundwater recharge thorough infiltration and seepage. This innovative concept is yet to be utilized in South Florida. The region’s porous substrate and elevated water table pose challenges for its implementation, and therefore require advanced research and testing. This project elucidates region-specific design approaches to bio-planter design in order to create a model prototype. It also develops pertinent performance metrics to test planter designs in controlling runoff volumes and contaminant levels in local conditions.

Key words: Bio-planter, Stormwater management, Green infrastructure

Exploring Simulation Research for Elderly Wellness Around Miami’s Metrorail using Functional, Behavioral, Environmental and Psychophysiological Attributes

The more vulnerable the people, the more environment affects us. Given that past research indicates minority communities experience higher rates of preventable diseases, promoting wellness makes a difference in their everyday lives, reduces health care costs and improves their quality of life. The purpose of our research is to empirically measure functional, behavioral, environmental and psychophysiological attributes of wellness among Miami’s elderly population and provide evidence-based solutions for sustainable urban aging in place. Because issues concerning elderly health is multi factorial, our research involves multidisciplinary teams.  Two projects are proposed in the context of vestige spaces of Miami’s Metrorail. The first study is conducted in collaboration with Ebru Ozer from Landscape Architecture, Edgar Vieira from Physical Therapy, and Ivy Martinez from Gerontology and focused on elderly mobility and  macro-level environmental interventions using lab-based simulation. This will include mapping of gait analysis in the context of environmental simulation. The second study is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Karen Dobkins from Neuroscience, and Dr. Luther Brewster from Public Health. This study is aimed to elicit emotional responses of wellness such as excitement, relaxation, depression and stress using field-based simulations.

Crowdsourcing the Impact of Sea Level Rise in South Florida

The goal of this project is to seek funding to develop a state-of-the art interactive sea level rise viewer and citizen-powered flood documentation tool that can be adopted by national and international communities coping with the challenges posed by sea level rise. With help from a previous grant, FIU has developed a simple sea level rise viewer prototype that is limited to South Florida in geographic scope, and includes a small number of data inputs to calculate the visualization. In a separate project, FIU faculty developed a tool where citizens may document flooding related to sea level rise. We seek additional funding to combine and expand the scope and the functionality of the Sea Level Rise Toolkit to cover a larger geographical area; more accurately record, visualize and manage citizen-collected data; develop training modules for citizen scientists; and develop potentially patentable algorithms to alert citizens to dates, times and locations that sea level rise-related flooding may occur.

Sea level rise is the most ominous long-term threat to the state of Florida. Miami has been called “ground zero” of climate change in the US (Kolbert, 2015), with the largest area and population at risk for rising seas. Communities facing disruption from sea level rise can be assisted by a tool that can help them anticipate where and when flooding may occur. Advancing our existing tool will inform citizens at greater levels of certainty so they may make everyday decisions about when to move their cars on days of increased flooding, or longer-term decisions about where to live or invest in community infrastructure. Existing data sets may be added to our current model to improve the accuracy of the visualization and predict flooding to a limited extent. Mass collection of citizen data on the specifics of flooding will provide a higher level of accuracy that is not currently available.

This project represents a collaboration between several units at FIU (CARTA, the Sea Level Solutions Center and the GIS Center) as well as collaborations with local governments (Miami-Dade County, City of Miami Beach, City of Miami, City of Pinecrest) and local organizations (The CLEO Institute, Code for Miami, the Vizcaya Museum and others). One of the strengths of this project for fundraisers is the number of letters of support we can generate.

My research focuses on design strategies for building well-integrated cities as a means to enhance sustainability.  I ask, “how do buildings act with and among people and other living things?”  This work reaches back historically to consider early twentieth-century traditions of design that created the rich urban life of Paris, and it reaches out into other fields, in particular: theater, literature, and environmental studies.   I’ve written a monograph on how architecture establishes the scale of the city and a second that examines the role of spatial design in a set of theatrical performances that comment upon the public spaces of the city.  Recently I have engaged students and held community workshops asking, “What if Miami were truly sustainable?  What would it look like?  What would it take?”   Proposals focus on redesigning streets and buildings to support a dense, walkable urban culture that integrates natural ecosystems into the city.  I am also on the interdisciplinary faculty team currently designing a new wetland for the FIU preserve and I am part of the performance on Sea Level Rise being developed by Ted Gutsche and Phillip Church.  I would like to engage other faculty in projects focused on all aspects of urbanism and sustainability.

Wireless Remote and Real-time Sensor-based Controlled Approach to Parametric Design of Solar Shading Devices in Buildings 

The solar shading system is a critical component to effective daylighting and passive heating/cooling in buildings. In building design projects, early suggestions of an optimal solution in design and control of shading devices is of concern to planning energy-efficient building operation and management. This study explores advanced architectural processes of shading device design that support architects to test dynamic controllability of parametric solar envelope and real-time communication with on-site environmental data. Experiments include (1) parametric form-making of louvers driven by radio data transfer between sensors and digital building modeling during design phases and (2) real-time communicative control of a kinetic roof shading system based on remote user control. Information networking through microcontrollers built up with transceivers and sensors measuring on-site information (room temperature, humidity, illuminance and sound) informs digital building models of real-time environmental parameters; shading device design processes are visualized, simulated and optimized according to remotely transported sensor data. The remote control framework is also applied to communication between a solar-panel shading system. Bluetooth through a personal mobile phone interface is tested with a module of the roof shading device. This study finds that integration of wireless and sensory management into architectural design goes a long way to making solar building design more dynamic and responsive to external changes.

Keywords: Solar shading device, Remote control, Architectural design, Sensory management 

New intensities in Wood based structures

This research project seeks to re-examine new potentials for wood construction in the South Florida region. Wood is primarily excluded as a building material within the south Florida construction industry except on the interior of buildings for cabinetry, or as a decorative application.  Known problems with wood in construction are amplified as a result of Florida’s climate which is exposed to hurricane force winds, overrun with termites and a humid environment which accelerates rot.

Potential Solutions

Wood is a renewable resource.  While concrete is the primary construction material used in south florida due to its resistance to wind, water and rot, it has a significant carbon footprint, and is not biodegradable.  Data suggests concrete is the most abundant manmade material in the world, and with a boom in construction expected to double the amount of built buildings which have ever existed worldwide, over the next 20 years, we must find better solutions which maintain the forests and the landscapes across the planet.  Let us begin here in South Florida.


New technologies include Cross Laminated Timber which allow responsibly harvested lumber to be laminated into wood members of incredible size and capability.  This technology would permit the construction of highrise buildings with no steel.  A few examples already exist, including a product called Therm-wood, which removes the sugars from wood, preventing rot and decay.

Potential Collaborations

Peter Kobelt, (CLT) Cross Laminated Timber construction / Private Sector, Ian Gordon, ECO MADEARA TROPICAL FORRESTRY, Ecuador / Private Sector

Potential projects:

How to address termites? How to form new composite combinations of materials…Wood and something else. How to address moisture? Wind?

An exhibition and scholarly publication

On January 25, 1971, Florida International University’s inaugural president, Charles Perry, held a groundbreaking ceremony for the first building to be erected on the university’s new campus. Called Primera Casa, the new structure began the process of transforming a former regional airport at the western edges of Dade County into a university campus. The development of the campus and the university over the succeeding decades paralleled the evolution of Miami from a regional center into a hemispheric hub. The history of the university is intertwined with the history of the city, and the development of the university’s built environment reflects the triumphs and vicissitudes of Miami and South Florida in numerous ways.

I propose to curate an exhibition and scholarly publication tracing the history of FIU’s campuses. The exhibition and publication would mine the extensive resources of the university’s archives, as well as collections throughout the region. The exhibition and publication would be intended for a general audience, but would also serve the important purpose of chronicling the design of FIU’s most significant buildings and the transformation of its campuses. I will discuss the ways each campus displays public art and integrates botanical features and nature preserves.

I intend to seek grant funding for two graduate students (MAA in Architecture and Landscape Architecture) to work with me on the project during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years, as well as funding for graduate students to produce exhibition materials during the 2019-20 academic year. The exhibition will open in January 2021 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony that launched the university.

Communications research requires understanding language, visuals, and environments of human interaction. Virtual reality technology — more widely available than ever before — offers opportunities for immersing people in ways that allow for understanding the role of surroundings in verbal and nonverbal communication. In this session, students involved in FIU’s Mobile Virtual Reality Lab discuss the methodological possibilities, challenges, and limitations in using virtual reality to expose the role of proximity, built and natural environments, and interactions with various scenarios and subjects. Questions being asked include:

  • To what degree does VR/3D target messages at specific audiences while maintaining journalistic tenets?
  • To what degree can VR/3D enter a storyteller’s voice into reporting as a means of engagement?
  • How can journalists and strategic communicators use VR/3D to include graphics and text as data points to engage users in meaningful inquiry?
  • To what degree does the interjection of self into VR/3D storytelling guide users to particular messages?
  • What ethical and legal challenges exist in the use of the platforms to report and deliver information?

Visualizing the Response to Sea Level Rise

Uniquely positioned in the living laboratory of what some have called “ground zero” for sea level rise impacts on a global destination, SCJ faculty Kate MacMillin and Juliet Pinto are currently looking for funding to continue their award-winning documentarian work involving students. The current production would be an intellectual analysis of the South Florida responses to the challenges of sea level rise, including the Everglades Restoration, as well as a documentation of the beginning of the region’s responses to the challenges and opportunities posed by myriad impacts. It will include interviews with business leaders, real estate professionals, public officials, citizens, visitors and legal professionals. The half hour documentary would air on public television and online, and would include music, animation, student producers and videographers.

This documentary represents a continuation of Macmillin and Pinto’s work. They produced the award-winning documentary, “South Florida’s Rising Seas.” The program premiered on South Florida’s PBS affiliate in January 2014 and became the most watched online show for the station that year. It also won the “Best Short Documentary” award from the Miami International Film Festival, and at the time of this writing has nearly 100,000 views. MacMillin worked with an introductory multimedia production class to develop a nine-part webseries to update the first documentary, which premiered on WPBT2 in 2015 and became the most watched web series in the station’s history. MacMillin worked with an SCJ student, Abel Fernandez, to produce a second documentary from the web series, “South Florida’s Rising Seas: Impact,” which also premiered in 2015.

I am interested in developing a project that connects the areas of Education and Pedagogy, Performing Arts, and Socio-Cultural Interactions.  Currently, I have a book contract as a co-author with Routledge that is slated to be published in early 2018; the topic of the book is incorporating world music into various types of secondary music classrooms.  I’d like to build on this work by developing music programs that incorporate this pedagogy and collect data that could be used for peer-reviewed articles.

The project would entail partnering with local, under-resourced middle schools in Miami-Dade County that have little or no access to music education to create and implement after-school music experiences that include world music encounters.  The data to be collected would be both quantitative and qualitative, examining how the programs would lead to musical development, cultural awareness, academic achievement, and the development of empathy.

I feel this is a large undertaking and need support in various areas, including forming partnerships with other stakeholders (Miami-Dade school partners, FIU programs in and outside the School of Music) and guidance about how to approach grant-writing for this ambitious project.  This project would help build my research portfolio as well as help foster community engagement between FIU and the local schools.

Kopenhaver Center Communication Leadership Program (COMLEAD)

Bridge the gap between theory and professional practice in undergraduate communication, journalism and media students at FIU. Prepare them to lead and succeed.


Provide leadership skills beyond the classroom knowledge through a combination of lectures, workshops, and real life case study projects.

Our academic program prepares our students well but today being successful in the marketplace involves more than coursework. It requires a host of practical information and skills and the need for coaching in the finer points of how to design a career. Ask yourself, what would you like to have known and what skills and attitude would have made you shine in the first five years of your career? What we are proposing is to give our students that important leg up so that they can move forward (and up) with the skills and confidence that will set them apart from their peers.


Develop practical knowledge and skills, Bring professional role models that share experience and provide coaching, Exposing the students to real cases and teach them how to find integrated communication’s solutions

Learning outcomes

  • Apply strategic planning techniques, from developing a situation analysis to measuring results
  • Employ brainstorming methods
  • Employ business presentation techniques
  • Analyze and discuss real life situations and propose solutions
  • Relate business experiences with the knowledge acquired in the classroom
  • Demonstrate storytelling skills, in text, video, and digital media techniques
  • Employ methods to think critically
  • Employ business etiquette

Grand Tour: An Educational Tourism Smartphone Application for the 21st Century 

Traveling through Europe during or immediately following university studies has been a popular tradition for nearly 400 years. Early travel guides provided aristocratic young men with an itinerary of activities and sites to visit that might improve their character and augment their education. The number of eligible travelers has increased as transportation costs plummeted with the introduction of rail, steamship, and air travel. At the same time, guidebooks and now smart phone applications have flourished to provide tools for trip planning and tourism.

GRAND TOUR will be a map based smartphone application that provides educational content developed by academic experts about buildings, museums, artworks, and important historic and cultural sites. A series of clickable geolocations on an open source map will feature original content in the form of written descriptions, diagrams and drawings, and photographs produced by educators and students. A user-focused comment and rating system will provide additional feedback about specific sites. A series of preloaded itineraries will be augmented by a time-dependent graphic route planner that references a database of hours of operation and transit estimators to automatically flag potential conflicts along an itinerary.

The Power of Social Networkingout: Relationships among Personality Traits, Sharing Behavior, and Individuals’ Well-Being

Health and fitness apps, defined as “a category of products that, broadly speaking, is about enhancing one’s lifestyle through activities such as dietary monitoring and exercise tracking” (Milington, 2014, p. 480), has facilitated a healthy living style and “created a viable healthy living solution” (Flurry, 2016, n. p.) for the smartphone users all over the world by tracking their exercise, monitoring their diet, and mapping their workout. Although health & fitness apps attracted academic interests from various disciplines, there is a lack of examination of who are the consumers and what are the perceptual and behavioral outcomes of using health and fitness apps, particularly with the sharing features enabled by these apps, where users could share their working out performance both uploading their performances within the apps functionality and/or posting on their own social networking sites’ (SNSs) pages. The purpose of this study is to investigate how using health and fitness apps and sharing working out experiences will influence individuals’ subjective and physical well-being outcomes. The current study will provide insights into public understanding of how using health and fitness apps could contribute to their physical and mental health. Additionally, by confirming the mechanism translating health and fitness apps use into individuals’ physical and subjective well-being, this study provides some potential practical implications for health & fitness apps service providers, serving as a unique opportunity for campaign communicators to better shape their campaign messages with targeted groups by emphasizing the benefits of using health & fitness apps and highlighting the sharing features.

Breast Cancer & Social Media: Changing the Narrative of Living with Breast Cancer

Social media is re-shaping the narrative of living with breast cancer. Dozens of Web forums, Facebook Groups, Instagram Pages, YouTube Channels and other social media networks are dedicated to conversations among cancer patients, where they exchange information about treatment options, side effects, clinical trials and offer emotional support. The online communities are helping drive the patient-doctor narrative from one of patient compliance to self-advocacy as the collective experience of thousands of cancer patients is greater than the knowledge of any individual doctor. This research combines critical ethnography with social media analysis to help patients, doctors, social workers, caregivers and medical researchers better understand how they can use social media to help derive better outcomes for people living with breast cancer.

Effective communication between doctors and patients is essential to patient health and wellbeing (see Kelley, Kraft-Todd, Schapira, Kossowsky, & Riess, 2014; Stewart, 1995 for review). This is especially important among patients with chronic disease, as this condition requires longterm care. With the widespread use of technology, research has begun to investigate the impact of technology-mediated communication between patients and providers with chronic disease. A review of patient-provider email communication has shown increases in patient knowledge and self-management/self-efficacy, and decreases in physician visits (de Jong, Ros, & Schrijvers, (2014). Meta-analytic evidence has shown that the use of health communication applications has a positive effect on patients’ continuous behavioral outcomes and self-efficacy (Murray, Burns, Tai, Lai, & Nazareth, 2009). Despite these research efforts, there is paucity in understanding the effectiveness of different means of communication. We adapt media synchronicity (Dennis, Fuller, & Valacich, 2008) and media richness theories (Daft & Lengel, 1986) to investigate the effectiveness of various channels in improving patient-provider communication. Through this attempt, we offer implications for eHealth communication practice by exploring the mechanisms of patient-provider communication. Moreover, we contribute to the theoretical accumulation of studies on patient-centered healthcare by providing an empirically-based study of patients’ communication behaviors.

Spiegelhalter’s research focus on carbon-neutral design, engineering, and master planning. This includes data-driven, multi-dimensional analysis and scenario modeling, machine learning algorithm and design agent’s applications, indicator development, post-occupancy measuring and benchmarking.

Last year Spiegelhalter presented his peer reviewed research on “PREDICTIVE MODELING NETWORK FOR PERFORMATIVE HEALTH DESIGN AGENTS AND POE’S” at the first-ever, joint three-day conference for “Building for Health and Well-Being: Structures-Cities-Systems” organized by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) in collaboration with the AIA Task Force on Public Health Design at the University of Hawaii at Manao, Honolulu, Sept. 23-26, 2016.

Since 1990 most of his previous awarded projects have been supported by: The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Saxon Ministry of State, Umweltbundesamt, Intelligent Energy Europe, the U.S. Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the U.S. Department of State Energy and Climate Partnership of The Americas, the Caribbean Urban Forum (CUF5), UN-Habitat, E.U. -CarEntrain” Energy Efficiency and Climate Change in Training and Research in the Caribbean Network for Urban and Land Management (CNULM), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the UN Human Settlements Programme.

THE R+J EFFECT: Theatre as Social Action

Living theatre can be a powerful weapon. It sometimes has a way of inducing responses more heartfelt than real life itself. This is the hope behind “The R+J Effect”, a theatre initiative aimed at moving the human heart to action and as a consequence reduce gun violence in our  community. In collaboration with Together for Children, the Miami Dade Public School District and the Miami Dade Police Department, “The R+J Effect” has gathered ten young actors representing five Miami-Dade County high schools rehearsing under the mentorship of four FIU theatre alumni. Accompanied by live cello and guitar rap verses advance the plot. At four separate moments the action on stage freezes and short interventions take place in which community, youth and law enforcement discuss “Parental authority”, “Emotional Intelligence”, “Mentorship & Accountability” and “Opioids & Escapism”. Paraphrased English and Elizabethan verse have been interwoven into a linguistic form called “Parabethan”. Performances in Miami will take place in April and August, 2017. The project will partner with high schools in Denver, Washington DC, Baltimore and Chicago donating to each school a prompt book, recorded music, sound effects, video clips and an instructional rap video encouraging high schools to reprise the production with a neighboring school. Through this domino effect “The R+J Effect” aims to broadcast its message to as wide and diverse a population as possible.

The effectiveness of Vocal Function Exercises on the aging Coral Singer: A Studt Using Opera VOX Voice Analysis

Studies have indicated that there are advantages of group choral singing to the aging population, in terms of quality of life as well as emotional and physical health. Being able to sing in a healthy and effective way prolongs the singer’s ability to participate in a choral program and contributes to their ability to sing well and to their sense of well-being.

“Vocal Function Exercises” (VFE) were developed by Joseph Stemple, Ph.D, for use in rehabilitating injured voices. Studies have also shown them to be effective for improving and maintaining a healthy voice for normal voice users, including the aging population.

Further research in the area of amateur choral singers, who are elderly, would add to this important body of work in the field of vocal and choral pedagogy.

The proposed study would involve the following:

  • A group of singers who can commit to a 5-week study
  • Participants will learn a series of simple but specific exercises that will be explained in detail to the group in an introductory lesson.
  • Participants will be expected to perform these exercises 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening, 5 days a week for 5 weeks.
  • Individuals from the group will receive brief private weekly sessions (30 min. or less) to ensure that they are performing the exercises properly.
  • IRB protocol will be followed, as required by law for conducting research on human subjects.
  • A pre-VFE audio recording will be made of the group singing together a song that is in the public domain. (i.e. Adon Olam etc.)
  • A pre-VFE audio recording will be made of each individual participant to quantitatively measure their pitch range (maximum frequency range, MFR); maximum phonation time (MPT); stability of tone (jitter); and stability of volume (shimmer). Equipment used is the OperaVOX app which can be run on an IPad or Smart Phone.
  • All private sessions will be audio recorded to monitor progress throughout the 5-week study in the areas mentioned in #7.
  • A post-VFE recording will be made of the group singing the same song together (see #6).
  • A vocal/choral pedagogue will give a qualitative assessment of the pre-VFE and post-VFE

The data will be analyzed and submitted as an article and presentation for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS Conference, and Journal of Singing), and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA Conference, and Choral Journal).

Art, History, Archaeology and Liturgy Abstract

This project examines Yungang, a fifth-century rock-cut cave-temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and one of the greatest Buddhist monuments of all time. The caves are located 10 miles west of Datong in Shanxi Province, China. The complex consists of 45 rock-cut caves that contain more than 1,000 niches and 51,000 images. For centuries, the Yungang cave temples were forgotten, until 1902, when Japanese architect Itō Chūta “rediscovered” the complex and introduced it to the world. My purpose in this project is to revisit Yungang in the light of new archaeological findings unearthed on site and near Yungang in recent years, and to offer a social art history of Yungang based on previous scholarship, primary documentation, old photos and more than a decade of my firsthand field research. Many of these findings were not available to earlier scholars. With the recent earth-shaking economic changes in China, unprecedented numbers of objects have been unearthed and archaeological remains discovered in the course of roadways being expanded and cultural sites being rebuilt. The essential questions of my study are why, when, and under what circumstances this impressive Buddhist rock-cut cave sanctuary was made, and who played a significant role at various stages. Communication and Socio-Cultural Interactions.

During both hiring and promotions processes, employers are biased toward more physically attractive people (Hosoda, Stone-Romero & Coats, 2003). Women face additional discrimination at work simply because of their sex (Marlowe, Schneider & Nelson, 1996) but also because of their makeup (Etcoff, Stock, Haley, Vickery & House, 2011) and attire (Howlett, Pine, Cahill, Orakçiogiu, & Fletcher, 2015). However, there is no evidence that this discrimination continues during day-to-day interactions once men and women have been hired. In romantic relationships, physical attractiveness stops predicting attraction and love once partners have established their relationship (Critelli & Waid, 1980). Although physical attractiveness is important to initial attraction for dating and sex partners, it has little to no effect on ratings for potential long-term and marital partners (Urbaniak & Kilmann, 2003). These findings suggest that even though physical attractiveness is important at first – for instance during hiring processes – it may not play as important a role later. Yet there still seems to be a double standard for men and women, especially in the workplace. I hope to find a grant opportunity to study discrimination in everyday workplace interactions based on sex and physical attractiveness.

Additionally, I am interested in collaborating with researchers who need help with measurement. I have experience in creating new measures for social constructs, and in measuring relatively abstract ideas like organizational culture.

Building Consensus Around the Digital Divide: Research/Community Based Efforts to Increase Internet Access and Impact in Public Housing

In Miami-Dade County, the 30,000 residents of public housing are particularly vulnerable to the social and economic effects of the digital divide. In fact, estimates show that just 10-20% of public housing residents in Miami-Dade County have access to the internet at home. Research indicates that low levels of internet access create barriers for residents when seeking educational opportunities, applying for government benefits, seeking employment, and participating in the information economy. “Building Consensus” proposes a series of community dialogues and research initiatives to investigate and identify technological and social obstacles for the expansion of fast and reliable internet access in public housing. Among the questions that will guide these efforts will be the following: What are the key technological and economic barriers for providing reliable and affordable high-speed internet access in public housing? How can researchers and community stakeholders measure the attitudes and dispositions of public housing residents towards internet technologies and access? How can research on digital media literacy and civic engagement help build a collaboration between residents, researchers and institutions? The goal of “Building Consensus” will be to evaluate current efforts to increase internet access in low-incomes communities, identify shortcomings, and create coordinated efforts for finding.

Use of Deliberative conversations in mapping a social ecology

I propose developing research on a communication strategy that uses a series of deliberative conversations to foster collective impact around southern Florida engagement strategies.   The communication strategy will utilize public mapping tools to create a map of social environment that identifies the already existing conversations and social media conversation leaders in order to leverage them in an engagement strategy that can scale-up to the greater everglades ecosystem.

The proposed project aims to create culturally sensitive messages to reduce public stigma associated with depression among Hispanics. Compared with non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics are more likely to consider depression an issue inappropriate to talk outside their family. Such stigma becomes a barrier that prevents them from seeking and adhering to professional mental illness care, a long concerning health disparity in US general population. Since stigma socialization is rooted in daily cultural operations, culturally competent messages are urgently needed to address this challenge. Guided by works in stigma communication and cultural tailoring, the project proposes a survey and an experiment to create culturally tailored messages that advocate supportive and friendly communication about depression using social media. The survey will be conducted to investigate culturally specific stereotypical beliefs, prejudicial feelings, and discriminatory behaviors associated with depression among Hispanics. Using the results of this survey, counter-stigma messages will be created and their impact will be evaluated using an experiment. The project will help combat stigma by encouraging Hispanics to communicate about depression beyond their family and with less social taboo. The findings will provide guidance for health practitioners on designing culturally appropriate interventions in the fight against the stigma of mental illness among Hispanics.

Our team was awarded a collaborative seed grant in 2016. Our research project generated from the light of recent incidents on college campuses which brought the need for a more profound understanding of cultural identity and intercultural communication to ensure equity in access and opportunity in higher education. Specifically, the purpose of our study was to research intercultural behaviors and differences among culturally diverse college students and examine how these differences enhance or interfere with educational opportunities. During 2016 our purpose was achieved by identifying facilitators and barriers to advancement of cultural competence among college students through focus groups and in-depth interviews with students at FIU. Findings of the seed grant are being prepared into a manuscript for publication.  This retreat will help our team to use project findings to apply for outside funding and further the study to include other universities with unique multi-cultural contexts.

Joselyn M. DeGroot, PhD, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville and Heather J. Carmack, PhD, James Madison University (VA)

Memorable Grief Messages 

Following the death of a loved one, the bereaved receive many messages from friends and family members– messages are intended to provide comfort but instead can inflict emotional pain that intensifies the loss. Such negative messages can inflict on-going harm if they become memorable messages that the receiver remembers across time and “replays” in their mind. Conversely, helpful messages can be memorable and assist in healing and coping. In the tradition of other memorable message researchers (e.g., Gibson & Webb, 2013; Lauckner et al., 2012; Lucas & Buzzanell, 2012; Wang, 2012), we propose an examination of memorable grief messages communicated within the two-weeks immediately following a loss to discover which messages are perceived as particularly hurtful (evoking negative thoughts or feelings) and which messages the bereaved find helpful (providing hope and/or comfort).

Adults over age 18 who have experiencing a significant loss will complete a 25-minute, anonymous, open-ended, online survey via Qualtrics. We will recruit participants using our online professional and social networks as well as inviting student participation for extra credit. The proposed study is under review at IRB. Data will be analyzed via open coding to discover themes, categories, and types of message that participants identify as particularly helpful and harmful. We anticipate follow-up studies to verify the veracity and generalizability of the findings. In the theoretical tradition of social support (Goldsmith, 2006; Hoy, 2016), we anticipate learning more effective social-support messages for the bereaved. We believe this information will prove useful to social workers, hospice workers, as well as medical professionals involved in palliative care.

EMPOWERING THE NEURODIVERSE ARTIST:  How to Navigate the Hidden Curriculum of the Performance Studio – Video Project

The CDC estimates that 1 in 68 individuals born in 2004 were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.   Neurodiverse students are entering the University in greater numbers than ever before. Theatre training develops skills in an atmosphere that welcomes diversity and “quirkiness”.   However, sensory, organizational, and social challenges often cause students to fail. (US Autism and Asperger’s Association, 2013).   Neurodiverse students face particular challenges navigating the acting, voice and movement classes that comprise the core Theatre curriculum.

This project addresses the need to support neurodiverse students by revealing the “Hidden Curriculum” of the performance studio.  The term “Hidden Curriculum” describes social rules that, while not being overtly taught, are assumed to be understood by most people. This video focuses on situations commonly encountered by performers, such as the giving and receiving of criticism, inappropriate and appropriate touch, privacy and oversharing.  The writer/director has partnered with experts from the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of Miami.  The cast is comprised of theatre students who have family on the Autism Spectrum.  Their compassion and knowledge will contribute to the quality of this project.   By presenting appropriate responses to unspoken social rules in an entertaining way, the author/director seeks to enhance the success of all students.


College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts
Modesto A. Maidique Campus
Paul L. Cejas School of Architecture Building
11200 SW 8th Street Miami, Florida 33199
PH: 305-348-7500 | Fx: 305-348-6717