October 2018 Newsletter: Student Researchers Look at Sport and Social Change

Students Aurelyn Ancheta, Joanna Peet and Anthony Abuyen will present their analysis of content on ESPN and ESPNW at a Student Research Fair October 15. Photo: Melissa Anderson

Students Aurelyn Ancheta, Joanna Peet and Anthony Abuyen will present their analysis of content on ESPN and ESPNW at a Student Research Fair October 15. Photo: Melissa Anderson

As San Jose State University’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Spartans Tommie Smith and John Carlos taking a stand for human rights at the 1968 Olympics, a new crop of students will be sharing their own research and ideas around how sports and athletes can change the world. The inaugural Institute for the Study of Sports, Society and Social Change Student Research Fair will feature the research and scholarly work of more than 50 students from several departments across campus, according to Interim Director of the Institute and Professor of Sport Sociology and Sport Psychology Ted Butryn.

The Student Research Fair will be Oct. 15, from 9 a.m. to noon, in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. It will kick off with a keynote address by Marques Dexter, a third-year PhD student from the University of Georgia. Dexter is studying sports management and policy with a research focused on the racial, athletic and academic identities of African-American male athletes.

“There are three central pillars for the Institute—research, programming and education,” Butryn said. “This ties into all three. Monday morning on the 15th (of October) will be the kick off of an incredible week of events.”

The students involved in the research fair fall into three categories: some will be presenting proposals for future research studies, others will be presenting posters related to the subject of this year’s Campus Reading Program book The John Carlos Story, and several teams of students have completed research and analyzed data.

Many of the student research teams worked on their projects over the summer, not for course credit, but for the experience of participating in important scholarly work. Aurelyn Ancheta, Joanna Peet and Anthony Abuyen, all kinesiology undergraduates who plan to graduate in 2019, were encouraged by Professor Bethany Shifflett to work on a research project. They all were enrolled in Shifflett’s Measurement and Evaluation course, where they formed a study group.

“I thought, ‘Yes, it’s finally my first chance to do research,’” said Ancheta, who also shared that the experience has opened her to the possibility of pursuing a career in research.

The students set about analyzing the content on ESPN and ESPNW, a spin-off site that targets female readers, to see how much coverage each provided of female athletes. They will represent their findings from analyzing the content on both sites for three weeks over the summer at the Student Research Fair.

Abuyen found working as part of a team to be the most rewarding part of the experience.

“We all have school, work and exams, but if I wasn’t there I felt like I was letting them down,” he said.

Ancheta estimated the team spent well over 160 hours setting up their hypothesis, creating a method for collecting data, reviewing articles and analyzing their findings.

“I learned hard work and dedication is important to answer the questions that we need to answer,” said Peet, who wants to become an adaptive physical education teacher after she graduates. “Even with more awareness of female sports since Title IX started, women athletes are still underrepresented. In Sports Illustrated only two percent of the coverage consists of women. We are fighting for more female representation.”

Butryn said his department has taken the first step toward creating a new interdisciplinary minor in sports and social change that will broaden the opportunity for undergraduate students to engage in research in the coming years. The proposed minor is being reviewed at the College of Health and Human Sciences Curriculum Committee. After any revisions, if it the minor is approved at the college level, it will go to the University level for review.

“We look forward to making any necessary modifications so that, if all goes well, a year from now the research fair is one of the central experiences of all students in the minor,” Butryn said.

For a full list of events and activities, including tickets to the Oct. 17 Words to Action: Landmarks and Legacy of Athlete Activism Town Hall, visit the Institute website.

Kinesiology Lab Connects Students with Cerebral Palsy Patients and Research Skills

Assistant Professor Areum Jensen works with a clinical research participant in her kinesiology lab.(Photo: Brandon Chew)

Assistant Professor Areum Jensen works with a clinical research participant in her kinesiology lab. (Photo: Brandon Chew)

Areum Jensen first learned about the field of kinesiology from an English teacher. She was completing a bachelor’s in biology at Sangmyung University in Seoul, Korea, and had long been interested in understanding how exercise can improve health. As a child, her mother had often been ill and suffered from severe asthma. However, once her mother began a regiment of exercise – starting with one minute a day and building up to being able to compete in an amateur tennis tournament years later – Jensen became a believer that exercise could be medicine.

“I tried to figure out what I wanted to learn next,” said Jensen, who is an assistant professor in the College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Kinesiology. “I had an English teacher who had been a sports medicine doctor in Canada. He said I had to go to America or Canada to study kinesiology.”

Jensen applied and was admitted to a master’s of exercise physiology program at San Francisco State University. After finishing her degree, she decided to pursue a Ph.D. in medical physiology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine so that she could learn the knowledge and techniques needed to conduct clinical research. There, she first became involved with studies of individuals with neurological disorders such as autism.

At San Jose State University, she is continuing her clinical research agenda through internal grants from her college and the university, as well as the support of student researchers. Through the Undergraduate Research Grant Program, coordinated by SJSU’s Office of Research and the Center for Faculty Development, she was able to work with three students in 2017-18 and has four students engaging with her for 2018-19.

“I couldn’t do my research alone,” she said. “The clinical nature of my work means I need students and assistants. It is amazing to work together and see how motivated my students are. I am very proud.”

Jensen is quick to point out the successes and accomplishments of last year’s research team — Rachel Christensen, ’17 Kinesiology, Pooja Pal, ’18 Kinesiology, and Cory Low, ’18 Kinesiology. The students were president and dean’s scholars; received scholarships; and were recognized for scholar and service scholarships by the Department of Kinesiology and the American Kinesiology Association. The high point for Jensen as a mentor — all were accepted to Doctor of Physical Therapy programs immediately following graduation while most candidates take much longer to complete the requirements to apply for such programs.

“We were all very fortunate to have Dr. Jensen as our lab instructor in our physiological assessment course,” Christensen said. “It was easy to see her passion for exercise physiology.”

Areum Jensen, an assistant professor of Kinesiology, works with students on clinical research that will compare physiological function of control participants and participants with autism.

Areum Jensen, an assistant professor of Kinesiology, works with students on clinical research that will compare physiological function of control participants and participants with autism.

Working under Jensen’s leadership, the students explored the relationship between muscular strength, bone mineral density and balance in adults with cerebral palsy, among other relationships between physiology and function in the population. Jensen’s ultimate goal is to help populations with neurological disorders such as autism and cerebral palsy to reap the benefits of exercise. The students presented their work at the national meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in May 2018.

“It was an opportunity we all couldn’t pass up,” Christensen said, noting that Jensen served as a mentor through the undergraduate research grant application process. “I feel so much closer to my peers, and I’ve gained such a tremendous mentor in Dr. Jensen throughout this process…I love that it provided a gateway to attend conferences as well.”

Pal said she was looking to engage in research to develop skills she would need to enter a physical therapy program, but she discovered the best part of the research was working with the participants involved in the study.

“Whenever the cerebral palsy research team would go to Ability Now Bay Area in Oakland to train the research participants, they would be super enthusiastic every morning to exercise,” Pal said. “Their high spirits on most days gave all of us a happy boost.”

Christensen is attending California State University Fresno’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy program, while Pal started this fall at the University of the Pacific.

“This research opportunity helped me understand a patient-focused career in physical therapy,” Pal said. “I was able to enhance my communication and teamwork skills.”

Both graduates agreed that they made meaningful connections with professors and fellow classmates.

“The Kinesiology Department is truly an incredible department filled with faculty and staff that really want great things for their students and are willing to go above and beyond to help us reach our goals,” Christensen said. “I am extremely happy that I got to be a part of such a wonderful community at San Jose State, and I am sure I will be back.”

Jensen, who teaches clinical physiology classes, said that the research has made her more aware of including an array of information in her classes about different disorders that affect the body including neurological disorders that can strike diverse individuals.

“Before I spent a lot of time in class on cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and cancer,” she said. “Having done research on populations with neurological disorders, I can see that those disorders were neglected and I am bringing them into the classroom and giving them a little more time.”

Two Salzburg Scholars Named as Outstanding Seniors

Erin Enguero and Anna Santana are the recipients of SJSU’s 2016 Outstanding Graduating Senior Awards  in recognition of their scholarship and contributions to the community. Both will be recognized at Commencement, beginning at 9:30 a.m. May 28 in Spartan Stadium. Read about the Outstanding Thesis Award recipient Amanda Feldman.

Erin Enguero

Erin Enguero (photo by Inderpal Kaur)

Erin Enguero (photo by Inderpal Kaur)

Since age 11, having a hearing loss has influenced how Enguero identifies herself academically and socially. She has evolved from a self-described “cautious pre-teen to an ambitious young woman striving for excellence” in her educational and community endeavors.

Carrying a 3.796 GPA, she has earned numerous scholarships and has been recognized as a CSU Trustee Award winner, SJSU Salzburg Scholar and 2016 American Kinesiology Association Undergraduate Scholar.

While Enguero’s hearing loss has taught her to adapt using her existing strengths, she says she is proud “not just for overcoming my disability, but for finding the courage to explore my identities as a student, leader and, ultimately, an agent of change.”

Enguero graduates in May with a bachelor’s in kinesiology. In fall 2016, she plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy at California State University, Fresno.


Anna Santana

Anna Santana with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (courtesy of Anna Santana)

Anna Santana with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (courtesy of Anna Santana)

At age six, Santana transferred schools three times in less than a year in search of a bilingual teacher. This daughter of former farmworkers says this was just part of the struggles that “have shaped my dreams and aspirations.”

Today, Santana advocates for the education of migrant families through the Apoyo Campesino project, which seeks to change a state regulation that forces students to move to a different school after each growing season ends.

In addition, Santana is the founder of the College Awareness Network, which has been integral in bringing students from marginalized schools to university campuses to promote a college-going culture.

A double major in sociology and Spanish, Santana will receive her bachelor’s degree in May. As a McNair Scholar, she maintains a 3.9 GPA and has been accepted to Stanford University for graduate school. Like Enguero, she is also an SJSU Salzburg Scholar and participated with the 2015 cohort.

Salzburg Scholars Connection

SJSU Salzburg Scholars have a history of achieving top accolades at San Jose State. See the list below of Outstanding Graduating Seniors, an SJSU Outstanding Thesis Award recipient and two CSU Outstanding Research Award recipients.

SJSU Outstanding Graduating Senior (highest recognition an undergraduate student can receive from SJSU)

  • 2016 | Erin Enguero (SJSU Salzburg Scholar 2013)
  • 2016 | Anna Santana (SJSU Salzburg Scholar 2015)
  • 2013 | Travis Lopez (SJSU Salzburg Scholar 2012)
  • 2011 | Andrew Ingram (SJSU Salzburg Scholar 2010)
  • 2011 | Mojgan Mohammadi (SJSU Salzburg Scholar 2010)

SJSU Outstanding Thesis Award (highest recognition a graduate student can receive from the university)

  • 2015 | Sarah Aghazadeh (SJSU Salzburg Scholar 2012)

CSU Outstanding Research Award (highest recognition a graduate student can receive from the CSU System)

  • 2015 | Mary Okin (SJSU Salzburg Scholar 2013)
  • 2011 | Darci Arnold (SJSU Salzburg Fellow 2006)
CSU Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar
  • 2014-2015 | Mary Okin (SJSU Salzburg Scholar 2013)
  • 2012-2013 | Sarah Aghazadeh (SJSU Salzburg Scholar 2012)

See the full list of current and former Salzburg Scholars.

Pat Lopes Harris contributed to this post.