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November 28, 2001
Vol. 28, No. 13



A Class Act: Informal Classes marks 30th anniversary

Director of Health & Safety says to exercise caution, but keep things in perspective

UT Press offers scholarly books about Middle East

UT and LULAC develop Austin Youth Leadership Academy

Advancements in disease research, mathematical theory take honors at Siemens competition

$7.2 million grant funds medical research

Marketing professor's research blends expertise in music industry, electronic commerce

New division to enhance teaching effectiveness, learning opportunities

Four teams to compete in MOOT CORP finals

Eckhardt continues to safeguard campus history six years after his death

Norma Cantú brings expertise into classroom

$2.15 NSF grant to improve production of oil, gas

Research team discovers mechanism regulating plant growth

Engineers harness "quantum dots" for neurological research

Orange Santa program makes season brighter

Readership Survey

Anti-terrorism expert calls for increased steps to combat terrorism

Arete: Jessica J. Summers

School of Social Work gets funding for substance abuse research

A salute to military veterans, POWs, MIAs




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By Rick Cherwitz and Courtney Dillard
Office of Graduate Studies

arete column  

Name: Jessica J. Summers
Hometown: Amherst, N.Y.
Department: Educational Psychology
Advisor: Diane L. Schallert, Ph.D.

How can you measure the value of community?

While it's no easy task, Jessica Summers, a doctoral candidate in educational psychology, is striving to do just that. Summers' research questions stemmed from her experience as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Girls Inc. in Dallas, where she was assigned to serve as a tutor and mentor for underprivileged girls after school.


As she spent time with these girls, she recognized the affect of peer groups on a wide variety of perspectives, such as attitude toward school.

Summers came to the university determined to better understand peer influence and, specifically, its role in academic motivation. In her dissertation, she explores how social goals and academic goals interact for middle-school populations.

Summers' interest in educational research plays an important role in her work as a research assistant for the Center for Teaching Effectiveness (CTE). She is developing a program of research with the CTE’s director, Marilla Svinicki, that explores the effect of cooperative learning on classroom community. The research findings have been presented at national meetings of the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association and the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education. A summary of these findings will be published this fall in the CTE campus newsletter.

Editor's Note: Arete is an ancient Greek word for virtue, describing the quest for individual excellence. In this regular feature of On Campus, the university salutes its graduate students—whose considerable contributions to the academy and larger community are truly virtuous. These features will be framed and posted in the lobby of the Office of Graduate Studies, Main 101.

By publishing the results of this research program at the university community level and nationally, Summers hopes to reach a broader audience with the message that cooperative learning and classroom community are important elements of the undergraduate learning experience.

"Classroom community is an essential foundation for lifelong learning communities," Summers said. "It provides the groundwork for wider campus participation and future civic engagement."

On campus, Summers is practicing what she preaches. She is a speaker for the International Teaching Assistant’s orientation session on creating a self-directed classroom and she has been a coordinator for the Teaching Assistant Conference. Summers also gives many talks to students enrolled in 398T courses across varying departments, with topics ranging from learning theory, motivation, use of office hours and application of cooperative learning techniques.

Jessica is planning to finish her Ph.D. in educational psychology in May.

NOTE: Nominations (including self-nominations) for ARETE should be sent to Associate Dean Richard Cherwitz at spaj737@uts.cc.utexas.edu


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