April 27, 2023

More than 150 students presented research, music and artwork at Susquehanna’s Senior Scholars Day, an event where students showcase the culmination of their years of study and honor the professors who acted as their mentors.

“Senior Scholars Day is a signatory event in terms of the mission of the university,” said University President Jonathan Green. “A hallmark within our liberal arts education is the deep, meaningful research our students and dedicated faculty conduct over the course of a significant amount of time.”

The Importance of Race-Informed Therapy

Jurnee Coker '23 Jurnee Coker ’23When Jurnee Coker ’23 was 14 years old, her father died. The fact that she did not feel like she had a mental health professional to turn to who could help her process her grief is what inspired her recent research about how Black therapists and client-centered talk therapy are integral in racial trauma recovery.

Coker, of Danbury, Connecticut, majors in psychology with minors in Africana studies and the Honors Program.

“Racial trauma is prevalent within the African American community, and it is often connected to higher institutions,” Coker said, pointing to several well-known cases of institutional racism within the health care system — the Tuskegee experiment and the Henrietta Lacks case. “As a marginalized group, African Americans also experience social injustice on a day-to-day basis which can prompt psychological triggers.”

These triggers require mental health care, but stigma and a deep mistrust of the health care system make many African Americans reluctant to seek care, Coker said. Add to this an extreme lack of Black therapists.

“African Americans are underrepresented in the field of psychology. Only 4% of America’s therapists are African American, yet African Americans make up 13.4% of the U.S. population,” Coker said. “Black therapists can open the door for BIPOC patients to feel seen, heard and validated.”

Coker advocated for race-informed therapy — an approach that includes the assessment of clients’ race-related stress and trauma, which can result from repeated encounters with racism.

“A race-informed therapy approach can give patients an experience that incorporates their identity to combat their trauma and aid in recovery.”

Coker hopes to pursue this in her future career. She plans to attend Columbia University in the fall to earn an advanced degree in counseling and psychology.

Digital Piracy Among College Students

Haley Dittbrenner ’25, a double major in creative writing and publishing & editing from Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, presented her exploration of digital piracy among college students.

After the temporary shuttering of Z-library, a shadow library where users can download books and scholarly articles for free, Dittbrenner decided she wanted to more closely examine the trend.

Dittbrenner is the recipient of the March Fellowship in Ethical Leadership, which is endowed by Edward R. Schmidt ’69, emeritus board member and named for Terry L. March ’67. The award provides students the opportunity to research, publish and present scholarly work related to ethical behavior and leadership.

Under the mentorship of Rob Sieczkiewicz, associate professor and director of the Blough-Weis Library, Dittbrenner surveyed a small number of students and faculty. Students reported using some form of shadow library about once a month. Their reasons varied. Some defended their use of shadow libraries due to book unavailability, cost, convenience or fear the books wouldn’t actually be used in their class.

“I’ve only done it once or twice and though I know it’s illegal, I did it because I was over my allotted budgets for textbooks and it was free, so I mainly did it for necessity,” one anonymous student said.

While many faculty surveyed did not support the use of shadow libraries, most fell into a gray area.

“The price of textbooks is outrageous, especially ones that put out new editions constantly,” one anonymous faculty member said. “In my ideal world, there would be reasonable rental or used options or some kind of library-sharing system.”

Dittbrenner and Sieczkiewicz have plans to present their research before the Pennsylvania Library Association and the Associated College Libraries of Central Pennsylvania.

Flea and Tick Prevention in Dogs

Katie Kohler ’23, a biology major from Dover, Pennsylvania, examined the factors that influence flea and tick prevention in canines in central Pennsylvania.

Kohler conducted her research at the Animal Care Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, where she has been engaged in early veterinary training — learning how to suture, draw blood, and even spay and neuter. Having lost two of her own dogs to Lyme disease, Kohler decided to look into factors that influence the effectiveness of the most common flea and tick preventative medications.

“Parasites such as fleas and ticks are particularly dangerous due to their life history traits,” Kohler said. “Fleas can turn into adults in the span of seven days, while ticks have multiple hosts in their lifetime and transmit bacteria, which can lead to infections such as anaplasmosis and Lyme disease.”

Kohler studied three medications — fluralaner and lotilaner, an oral chew sold under the brand names Bravecto and Credelio; imidacloprid and flumethrin, a collar sold under the brand name Seresto; and imidacloprid, permethrin and pyriproxyfen, a topical medication sold under the brand name Advantix II.

Kohler studied approximately 250 canines, taking into account the dogs’ geographic location, age, weight, breed, duration on current flea-and-tick medication, and the presence of fleas or ticks. Her study found that when it comes to ticks, the most important factor that influences prevention are the type of medication and length of time on the medication. Factors influencing the contraction of anaplasmosis and Lyme disease include type of medication and length of time on the medication, as well as weight.

“The single influencing factor for the contraction of Lyme disease is prevention type,” she said. “The findings improve our understanding of factors that help protect canines from ectoparasitic health threats.”

Overall, Kohler found fluralaner and lotilaner, an oral chew, to be the most effective medication to prevent fleas and ticks, with the topical medication being the least effective.

Kohler plans to attend Midwestern University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to earn her doctorate in mixed animal medicine.

How Federal Regulation Impact Income Inequality

Raphaël Thibault ’23, a student from Québec City, Canada, who is pursuing degrees in economics and finance, researched the effect of federal regulations on income inequality.

Specifically, he sought to determine if Pigou’s public interest theory is true: that regulation exists in response to requests from the public for the improvement of incompetent or unbalanced market practices, and the regulations and regulatory bodies are expected to benefit society as a whole.

“I undertook this research because it is a subject that has little literature,” he said. “I wanted to see the effect of federal regulations worldwide, as the only similar research conducted was in the United States.”

To do so, Thibault gathered data from the World Bank and the Fraser Institute and examined the following for 266 countries and economies:

  • Income inequality.
  • Federal regulations.
  • Gross national income per capita.
  • Government spending as a percent of gross domestic product.
  • Tax revenue as a percent of gross domestic product.
  • High school enrollment rates.

After analyzing his data, Thibault said his research found that, given gross national income, if federal regulations increase by 10%, income inequality decreases by 0.6%.

“In simple terms, an increase in federal regulation decreases income inequality,” he said. “My findings confirm the public interest theory that government regulation helps against market failures and protects the public.”

U.S. Supreme Court and Approval Ratings

Jacob Shaffer ’23, a political science major from Montoursville, Pennsylvania, looked at the impact of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in executive power cases on presidential approval ratings.

“Presidents with higher approval ratings tend to be more successful in executive power cases in federal court, and a similar effect exists at the Supreme Court depending on whether the issue is about domestic or foreign issues,” Shaffer said when discussing his review of existing literature on the subject. Executive power refers to any case that deals with the expansion or limitation of presidential authority. “Historically, the higher a president’s public approval rating, the more unilateral action they tend to exercise.”

Shaffer also examined how approval ratings are affected when the Supreme Court votes against the president in a case that garners media attention. He did this by using the existing measure of case salience, which looks at the mentions of Supreme Court cases in The New York Times. He also utilized the Supreme Court Database to determine which cases dealt with executive power issues, and then compared that to The New York Times measure of case salience.

His findings indicated that media coverage of a Supreme Court case regarding executive power did not have a statistically significant impact on approval ratings for the president. In other words, media coverage of executive power cases does not influence changes in presidential approval. He did, however, find a statistically significant relationship between the number of justices voting together in the majority of the Supreme Court’s decision and approval ratings. In other words, for executive power cases, presidential approval is impacted more by a more unified Supreme Court.

He initially hypothesized, “In cases regarding executive power, a 9–0 decision against the president will negatively impact the approval of the president to a greater degree than a decision by a more divided court.” His findings indicated that each additional justice voting in the majority would increase the impact on the president’s approval rating.

Shaffer will attend the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in the fall.