WWU Mentor-Mentee Program Explores Adoption

Together, a William Woods University professor and student are working to help the thousands of older children waiting to be adopted in the United States.

Operating under the Mentor-Mentee Honors Program at WWU, Dr. Stephanie Wells, assistant professor of English, and Tara Boehl, a junior communications major from Washington, Ill., are creating a potentially life-changing project.

The Mentor-Mentee Honors Program was established at William Woods several years ago to encourage faculty and students to engage in joint research or creative projects.
This year, Wells and Boehl are working on an innovative venture titled, “In Its Infancy: The Rhetoric of Adoption.”

The project centers on the rhetoric used in adoption advertising and the differences in how it is used to market infants compared to older children. Overall, the duo wanted to create a campaign and bring awareness to older-child adoption.

“I really like working with this program (Mentor-Mentee), because it is a format in which you can learn as much from your student as they can from you,” Wells stated.

A year-long endeavor, the project first focused on gathering information, including 225 adoption advertisements, and writing an academic research paper concerning the subject.
This semester, the information they gathered is being put to good use.

“I am very excited about this project,” Boehl said. “Our whole goal in creating this was to produce something tangible. We are currently in the stages of filming a 30-second TV commercial, a 15-second radio spot and designing a billboard and an informative brochure, all based off of our research.”

The project hits home for Wells.

“I adopted two older children and would consider more,” she said. “I realize I cannot save the world, but maybe I can make the world want to save these children.”

The adoption project is one of 10 Mentor-Mentee projects this year.

Dr. Greg Smith, assistant professor of English, and sophomore Nicholas Jenkins of Lamar, Mo., are working on a Mentor-Mentee project titled, “Richard Nixon is Rosemary’s Baby: Cultural Zeitgeist in Vietnam Era American Horror Films.”

The pair has spent the last year watching horror films from the late 1960s through the 1970s. In addition, they extensively researched what was happening culturally and socially in those time periods and discovered parallels between the references and themes within the films.

“We found that this genre of film really reflected and mirrored the social turmoil of the period. We proved that it was hard to fully understand this movie art form unless we placed it within its cultural context,” Smith said.

Other Mentor-Mentee projects sponsored by WWU this year include:
• Dr. Joseph Kyger, assistant professor of chemistry, and junior Kathryn Golden of Crystal Lake, Ill., “Utilizing High Resolution Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectromety with Stable Isotope Analysis to Measure Calcium Absorption in Premature Infants”

• Terry Martin, professor of art, and senior Alex Orear of Jefferson City, Mo., and December 2007 graduate Jennifer Costello of St. Louis, Mo., “Healing Arts in the Community”

• Dr. Linda McClaren, associate professor of equestrian science, and senior Jessica Billham of Wright City, Mo., “Retraining the Problem Horse”

• Jane Mudd, assistant professor of art, and senior Adam Dresden of Quincy, Ill., “Investigation into the Glazing Techniques of Five Master Painters”

• Gary Mullen, associate professor of equestrian science, and senior Kate Woodard of Van Meter, Iowa, “Implementation of First Special Olympics Equestrian Event for the State of Missouri”

• Karen Pautz, clinical instructor or equestrian science, and sophomore Patricia Clark of Frankfort, Ill., “Development of Horse Show Associate Record-Keeping Software”

• Dr. Mary Spratt, professor of biology, and senior Ashley Miller of Tebbetts, Mo., “Annotating Prokaryotic Genomes: Participation in a Multi-Institution Collaboration”

• Dr. Marilyn VanLeeuwen, associate professor of psychology, and December 2007 graduate Jessie Brown of St. Charles, Mo., “Dimensions of Optimism”

Spratt is one of the program coordinators of the Mentor-Mentee Program and she knows just how important and beneficial this program has been.

“It’s a wonderful way for students to have a chance to do independent research and collaborate on creative projects with a faculty member. It sets undergraduate students apart from the majority when applying for graduate school or entering the work force,” said Spratt.

“In addition it gives faculty members the chance to help a student in an apprentice-type way in preparing for a career. It also gives the faculty members help with their own research.”