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We are accepting students for the 2012-2013 school year!

Dr. Mark Cummings' Research Lab class provides students with excellent learning opportunities related to conducting research in the area of family relations. He is conducting three large, externally funded studies, all of which involve cutting edge research, and have as their goals happier marriages, better adjusted kids, and prevention of family problems. His research utilizes a wide range of methodologies. Thus, students are provided with hands-on, extra-classroom opportunities to participate in advanced developments in theory, research and methodology in an important area of social science research and practice.

Throughout the semester regular meetings are scheduled for discussion about important goals and issues relating to the project, towards putting the work in its broader context. Dr. Cummings, together with members of the research team (post-docs, graduate students, and paid project staff, who are typically ND graduates) lead discussions, review important articles, and otherwise provide background and other enrichment to put the day-to-day work of the project in perspective. An extensive syllabus is provided that thoroughly describes and outlines the course of the semester, including the interlocking organization of the many facets of the goals for the semester. Students typically work in small teams with staff, graduate students, and other undergraduates working on the many interlocking elements of the project, including interaction with the children and families participating in the projects.

All of the work is overseen on a daily basis by Dr. Mark Cummings; his door is always open to students. Social events and activities are planned throughout the semester to further the opportunities for interaction among undergraduates, graduate student, post-graduate staff, and Ph.D. staff, including Dr. Jennifer Cummings, who is a licensed clinical psychologist, participating especially in our applied programs. Many students take advantage of the opportunities to travel to important national or international professional meetings, and participate in presenting this research to the discipline. Dr. Cummings and his research team spend considerable time preparing students for, and mentoring them during, professional meetings.

Examples of some of the specific tasks Research Lab students do on a regular basis include working directly with families during data collection sessions, data entry (entering data into the computer), and data management (organizing entered data so it is ready for analyses). We make all of these activities substantial learning experiences for students so that the student emerges with advanced training and understanding of these skills, for example teaching about our data entry program, so that students can apply that knowledge at the next stage of their career.

Many of our students apply for graduate work, and this experience greatly strengthens students' applications for both applied, and research oriented, graduate programs. Many of the students working on our project in the past have successfully competed for entry into some of the most competitive and prestigious graduate programs. Students are assigned to multiple tasks so that everyone can gain experience learning different skills. Other examples of tasks include maintaining contacts with our participants to stay in touch with them over the years of the longitudinal studies (including preparing a fun newsletter for our families), helping us sort through forms that we might want to include for subsequent data collection, and miscellaneous organizational tasks. Advanced students help us with literature searches and reviews, and even sophisticated statistical analyses, and some have earned inclusion on the author lines of major publications.

Because we put so much into working with students, we ask a lot in return. We ask students to commit to spending 2 semesters with us, completing 9 hours per week of high quality, self-initiated work. We teach students everything they need to know in order to complete their work, and students are responsible for getting the work completed. Most of the work can be completed at times of students' own choosing (including evenings and weekends). During the school year, we also have class meetings to discuss theory and research in this area. Those meetings are initially held every week, tapering off to every other week over the course of the semester. It is critically important for students to attend those meetings in order to get the most out of Special Studies.

In the Family Studies Center, we focus on teaching our students a lot about theory in this area and about how to conduct research effectively, attending to details, and learning what being a researcher is all about. We strive to make everything a learning experience to benefit the student. In addition, students enjoy the benefits of the lab's mentoring, advising, and assistance in applying to graduate schools.

If you are interested in joining our team or learning more about us, please contact Alayna Calabro at or 574-631-8987.

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