For University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Breanna Evans, a scholarship for undergraduate research has led to another award.
Last year, Evans—pursuing bachelor’s degrees in exercise science and psychology—received a Dr. Jane Harbaugh Research Experience Award, a scholarship supporting undergraduate students from previously underrepresented populations in study abroad and research experiences.
Along with spending one month studying abroad at the Université Paris Cité in France, Evans parlayed the award to fund a research project examining the possible relationships between environmental variables and college students’ sleep patterns, physical activity levels and health-related habits.
This October, that study, “Environmental Factors that Contribute to College Students Concerning Sleep and Physical Activity,” earned Evans honorable mention recognition at the annual Black Doctoral Network (BDN) conference in Atlanta.
“I had a good time presenting that information for the first time at the BDN conference. I got to network there and meet other students who were further in their professional careers—and I met other students who are also interested in research here on our own college campus,” said Evans, a 2020 graduate of Smyrna (Tennessee) High School.
“I wasn’t thinking I would win an honorable mention, so when they announced my name I was super surprised. There were nearly 50 (student poster) presenters; that’s one of the reasons why I thought my chances might have been lower to get recognized. Throughout the conference and the presentation portion, I increased my confidence speaking to the judges and other students stopping by to listen to what I had to say.”
Over the past year, Evans gathered data with the survey she created with input and approval of the UTC Institutional Review Board.
“I’m thankful for all the participants who took the survey. I got nearly 200 people,” she said. “With that, I kind of just dived into the different introductions and research products between physical activity and sleep patterns in college students. I saw how our population and college students are active and how we can include more resistance training in our regular day of life or weekly routine.”
Evans’ mentor is UTC Vice Provost for Academic Outreach Shewanee Howard-Baptiste. The two first met at a community engagement experience during Evans’ freshman year when Howard-Baptiste was the interim director for the Master of Public Health (MPH) in Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Program and a faculty-in-residence participant.
“With her guidance and being able to reach out to her anytime during my undergrad degree, she has been a great resource for me,” Evans said. “It’s really set me apart in my own mind knowing that I have someone that I could depend on who can answer questions about life in academics. I’m very thankful for all of her assistance.”
Howard-Baptiste recalled first meeting Evans.
“We immediately connected since Breanna was an exercise science major, the discipline for my home department,” Howard-Baptiste said. “We set a time to meet soon after and forged a mentor-mentee relationship. She was always prepared for every meeting, coming up with great questions, insights and updates on her progress—both personally and professionally. She has followed up and carried out every initiative I’ve emailed her about.”
Among those initiatives was participating in this summer’s HBCU Wellness Project at Meharry Medical College in Nashville.
The ultimate prize for Evans will be getting accepted into a nationally ranked institution to pursue a doctoral degree in occupational therapy.
“I’m doing the interview process now,” she said, “and I’m receiving feedback from different universities. I have my eyes set on certain schools.”
Howard-Baptiste said good things are in store for her mentee.
“Whether it was research, scholarships or studying abroad, Breanna has taken advantage of every opportunity our campus offers,” she said. “I’m incredibly proud of her and happy to be part of her UTC journey.
“It will be my joy to call her Dr. Evans in a few years.”
The Office for Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor (URaCE) and the Division of Access and Engagement collaborated to support travel to the BDN conference for 13 UTC undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty—including Evans and Howard-Baptiste.
Other student poster presenters included:
- Tamia Caldwell, “Racial Discrimination in Homeownership Appraisals Between White Americans and Black Americans in Chattanooga, TN,” mentor—Dr. Darrell Walsh
- Zakaius Isom, “Flame Extinction Strain Rate at Varying Pressure,” mentor—Dr. Reetesh Ranjan
- Hanadi Mohamed, “Research Experiences for Teachers Programs Provide a Framework for Mentoring Black Female and Other Minority Doctoral Candidates,” mentor—Dr. Raga Ahmed