University of Tennessee at Chattanooga undergraduate students Breanna Evans, Luke Wiley and Alexis Nelson are the inaugural recipients of a newly created award which includes a summer trip to Paris.
The Dr. Jane Harbaugh Research Experience Award was established in 2021 to commemorate the career of Harbaugh, whose 43-year career made her one of the longest-serving faculty members and administrators at UTC.
The $7,500 awards, funded by UTC Academic Affairs, the Office for Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor, the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Division of Diversity and Engagement, are designed to support undergraduate students from previously underrepresented populations in study abroad and research experiences at UTC.
As part of the award, Evans, Wiley and Nelson will spend July at the Université Paris Cité in France, working on their research projects and getting the opportunity to mingle with college students from around the globe.
“We have three really excellent awardees this year,” said Lisa Piazza, director of the UTC Office for Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor. “The cool thing about this particular group is there’s a real diversity of disciplines. Their projects are going to be outstanding.”
Evans, who will start her junior year at UTC in the fall, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and psychology. The Smyrna, Tennessee, native is the peer mentor for the Health Residential Learning Community on campus.
She has been involved with undergraduate research and has experience coding information within interviews and conducting a secondary analysis.
Those skills were applied to a recent study concerning food insecurity and its perception in parents who live in rural Southern Ethiopia. Over the past year, Evans has incorporated a discourse analysis of interviews conducted and transcribed for this study.
This summer, she will be starting a project researching how environmental factors may be correlated with physical activity, sleep quality and health behaviors in college students.
“This project will allow me to work on developing stronger transferable skills such as problem-solving and being more detail-oriented,” Evans said. “I am being mentored by Dr. (Shewanee) Howard Baptiste on this project. She is able to help me refine my ideas and guide me as I go along with researching over the next year.”
Evans, who recently completed the Office for URaCE Undergraduate Research Work-Study program, plans to attend graduate school for occupational therapy.
“Winning this prestigious award makes me feel happy since I will be able to travel outside the United States for the first time,” she said.
Wiley, a Brock Scholar in the Honors College, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. The senior is the managing editor for UReCA: The National Collegiate Honors Council Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities.
The Nashville native has been involved with research in multiple fields of psychology, including research into episodic future thinking and prospective memory, character development and intergenerational dialogue, surveying bias in dating apps, and stress and burnout within the legal profession.
“I applied for this study abroad trip just hoping that I would get the Harbaugh because I don’t know if I would’ve been able to afford the trip without this,” Wiley said. “This has not only given me the financial ability to go on the trip, but it has opened doors to getting so much research experience this summer—which will help then with my thesis and later, hopefully, with grad school.”
Wiley plans to attend graduate school in industrial-organizational psychology or industrial relations to help workers lead happier and healthier lives while also having more power within their workplaces.
A fourth-generation union member, he has also begun working with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on his thesis examining whether feeling supported by one’s labor union can help buffer against the negative impacts of job demands such as stress and burnout.
During his time in France, as part of that thesis research, he will be looking at the differences in labor laws—particularly by comparing unions in France and the U.S.
“I’m going to try to get an international approach and look at the differences in collective bargaining agreements,” he said.
Nelson is a rising senior studying political science and economics. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native has competed in two economics competitions for her research paper analyzing the effects of women’s empowerment on infant mortality.
She has researched various topics such as infant mortality, cryptocurrency and the war on drugs.
Her current focus is researching how redlining affects generational wealth—tying into her interests with inequalities minorities face.
“Basically, I’m first looking at America and how redlining has shaped how minorities have been able to get wealth and accumulate it over generations,” she said.
Going to Paris, her first travel outside of the U.S., will allow her to look at different international systems—such as civil law in France.
“I’m extremely appreciative of this award; I truly was not expecting it,” she said. “I’m most appreciative that I get to explore an area of research that’s really important to me and that I can hopefully educate other people on.”
Following graduation, Nelson plans to attend law school or complete a J.D. degree in law and economics to pursue a career in civil rights, serving minorities and giving them a voice.
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Remembering Jane Harbaugh
Jane Harbaugh was an institutional administrator, academic and mentor during her time at the University from 1957 to 2001.
After joining the faculty at the University of Chattanooga in 1957, she served as Guerry Professor of history and chairman of the department (1958-1969); dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1969-1975); vice chancellor for academic affairs (1975-1982); and associate provost for undergraduate and special programs (1982-2001).
In the process, she became the first woman dean at UC.
In addition to her work at the University, she served as a postdoctoral fellow in East Asian studies at Harvard University and received a Rockefeller Research Grant at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Harbaugh passed away in 2020 at the age of 90.