Dissertation Defense Announcements

Candidate Name: Meredith Griffin Harrison
 June 22, 2021  11:00 AM
Location: Virtually via Zoom

Romantic relationships have an impact on both partners health and well-being, however, much remains unknown regarding how health behaviors are shaped in the early stages of dating. The developmental time of emerging adulthood targets an age group where romantic relationships and alcohol use commonly intersect and may contribute to lifelong patterns of use. This study utilized novel research methodology of combining new couple’s text messages during the early stages of dating (<6 months) with survey data as well as advanced statistical methods (i.e., Actor Partner Interdependence Model) to examine how emerging adult couples text messaging about alcohol early in their romantic relationships impacted each partner intra- and interpersonally in terms of alcohol use and attitudes. Additionally, using the moderated Actor-Partner Interdependence Model this study examined how relationship factors (i.e., relationship power and relationship satisfaction) linked to health outcomes and engagement in risk behavior moderated these relationships. Results indicated that text messages between partners about alcohol were significantly positively correlated with alcohol use, but not attitudes, and in a dyadic context text messages predicted one’s own frequency of alcohol use but not their partners. Moderation analyses were underpowered due to a small sample size. These findings indicate that communication about alcohol via text messages may play an important role in frequency of alcohol use among early dating couples, particularly on one’s own behavior. Research and clinical implications of this work are also discussed.

Candidate Name: Megan Elizabeth Carpenter
Title: Effects of Check-In/Check-Out on the Behavior of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder Who Have Extensive Support Needs
 July 09, 2021  10:00 AM
Location: Online via Zoom

Students with extensive support needs (ESN) are a heterogenous group of students with the most pervasive and ongoing support needs who typically receive special education services under the categories of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disability, or multiple disabilities and often qualify to take their state’s alternative assessment (Taub et al., 2017). Students with ASD who have ESN may have elevated support needs for social behavior (Jang et al., 2011; Matson et al., 2011; Shogren et al., 2017). Although there are several evidence-based practices to support the behavioral needs of students with ASD who have ESN (Steinbrenner et al., 2020), educators often have difficulty implementing these practices with fidelity (Brock et al., 2014; Morrier et al., 2011; Robertson et al., 2020). School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) is an evidence-based framework to support the social and behavioral needs of all students with evidence-based practices, data-based decision making, and systems to support teacher implementation fidelity (Horner & Sugai, 2015; Sugai & Horner, 2006, 2009). However, students with ASD who have ESN are not consistently included in SWPBIS (Kurth & Enyart, 2016; Kurth & Zagona, 2018; Walker et al., 2018). Check-in/Check-out (CICO) is an evidence-based intervention commonly used as a Tier 2 behavioral support within a SWPBIS framework (Conley et al., 2018; Maggin et al., 2015). CICO is effective for K-12 students without disabilities and students with high incidence disabilities (Maggin et al., 2015). The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of traditional or adapted CICO on the adherence to schoolwide expectations and challenging behavior of students with ASD who have ESN. Results of this single-case, multiple baseline across participants study indicated there was a decrease in challenging behavior for two of the four participants when adaptations were made to the standard CICO protocol. Additionally, educators, students, and parents found CICO feasible and socially valid. Limitations, implications for practice, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Candidate Name: Wen-hsuan Chang
Title: Experiences and Perceptions of Parents of Youth with Disabilities Toward School-based Parent Engagement Strategies
 June 28, 2021  10:00 AM
Location: Online via Zoom

Youth with disabilities continue to show poor in-school and post-school outcomes. Parent engagement remains as one key component to bring about positive outcomes in youth with disabilities. Despite schools’ widely adapted strategies on parent engagement, parent perception on various parent engagement strategies is largely unknown. The purposes of this dissertation were (a) to identify parents’ experiences and perceptions on the school-based parent engagement practices in secondary transition, and (b) to understand the facilitators and barriers of parent engagement strategies for engaging parents of youth with disabilities. Using a nonprobability snowball sampling, this cross-sectional mixed-method survey study included 642 parents of youth (ages 14-21) with disabilities across the United States. Each parent reported their experience and perceived helpfulness toward each school-based parent engagement strategy, on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (rarely experienced/not at all helpful) to 5 (always/extremely helpful). On average, participants reported they “sometimes” experienced each of the 23 strategies with the lowest rated strategies being (a) discussion of cultural values and beliefs and (b) connecting with service providers or agencies. Across the race/ethnicity groups, results revealed racial differences in the perceptions of parents of youth with disabilities in secondary transition on the 23 school-based parent engagement strategies across five domains: knowledge and skills, communication, collaboration, relationship, and culturally responsive practice. Compared to parents of non-Hispanic White, parents of colors reported lower scores across all five school-based parent engagement domains for both experiences and perceived usefulness. To identify further thoughts regarding parents’ perceptions toward parent engagement, deductive, inductive, and thematic analysis of three open-ended questions uncovered four major themes pertaining to facilitators and barriers of parent engagement. The four themes included home-based factors, school-based factors, system-based factors, and existing situations (i.e., children’s disabilities/characteristics, family’s work, lack of transportation, time conflict, COVID-19, and weather). Implications for practice, limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Candidate Name: Marie Angelina Huggins
 June 22, 2021  10:00 AM
Location: Zoom

This study examined the experiences of recovery among African American college students participating in collegiate recovery programs (CRPs). A phenomenological qualitative approach was utilized to collect and analyze data. The purpose of this study explored the role of collegiate recovery programs in the recovery process for African American college students who identify as being in recovery from substance use disorders. The study answered the following research questions: 1. How does engagement in CRPs promote recovery for African American college students in recovery from substance use disorders? 2. How do CRPs enhance the recovery capital of African American college students in recovery from substance use disorders? 3. How does racial identity affect recovery capital for African Americans in the CRP pursuing recovery? To gain an in-depth understanding of participant recovery from substance use, data was collected through a background and demographic questionnaire (BDQ), semi-structured interviews, and a reflexive journal to gain rich, thick descriptions of their six-month recovery journey thus far. A comprehensive review of the existing literature indicated a void in the inclusion of African American college students’ lived experiences in recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs) while attending college. Thus, this study sought to fill a gap in the counseling and substance use research and utilized a recovery capital theoretical framework to examine the recovery experiences of African American college students in recovery participating in CRPs. Based on the data analysis, three themes emerged: (a) advocate for recovery in the CRPs, (b) pro-recovery supports in the CRPs, and (c) recovery barriers and resiliency factors for African Americans in recovery in the CRPs.

Candidate Name: Danielle Marie Torp
 June 24, 2021  10:00 AM
Location: https://uncc.zoom.us/j/99362031303?pwd=S3RVOWFXRmpTZ25rR3ovSXhwa3hVZz09

Individuals with chronic ankle instability (CAI) often demonstrate abnormal biomechanical patterns which may be associated with the onset of posttraumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). There is a lack of interventions capable of changing gait impairments and targeting the sensorimotor dysfunction in this population. The use of external focus of attention biofeedback during walking has shown to be capable of improving biomechanics in real-time, however, the retention of these changes needs to be further explored prior to implementing into clinical practice. Further, technological advancements have shown ultrasonography of the talar articular cartilage is a plausible mechanism to monitor joint health, yet the associations of ultrasound-based images and biomechanical patterns in patients with CAI remains unknown. This dissertation focused on three main research questions: 1) Does incorporating an auditory biofeedback device during common rehabilitation exercises improve biomechanics during a single session, 2) Is there a relationship between abnormal walking biomechanics in patients with CAI and ultrasound-based measures of talar articular cartilage health, 3) Does incorporating an auditory biofeedback device into a 2-week gait training program improve biomechanics and ankle joint health in patients with CAI compared to a control condition. First, we identified auditory biofeedback is effective at improving biomechanics during functional exercises in addition to its improvements in gait. Next, we found significant correlations between abnormal walking biomechanics, talar cartilage thickness, and echo intensity. Finally, our 2-week gait training intervention has shown to be effective in improving walking gait in patients with CAI immediately and up to 1 week following the intervention. The findings of this dissertation have found the relationship between biomechanical gait patterns and ankle joint health which will guide clinical practice in identifying modifiable factors to potentially mitigate the onset of PTOA after an ankle injury. This dissertation has also identified a clinically applicable mechanism to improve the abnormal biomechanics that are related to cartilage joint health.

Candidate Name: Shanshan Jiang
 June 17, 2021  1:00 PM
Location: Zoom Meeting ID: 999 7040 7659 Passcode: 834935

Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) models have become the mainstream method in Artificial Intelligence (AI) areas for computer vision tasks like image classification and image segmentation. Deep CNNs contain a large volume of convolution calculations. Training a large CNN may take days or even weeks, which is time-consuming and costly. When we need multiple runs to search for the optimal CNN hypermeter settings, it would take a couple of months with limited GPUs, which is not acceptable and hinders the development of CNNs. It is essential to train CNN faster.

We have proposed a novel Conditional Reduction (CR) module to compress a single 1×1 convolution layer. Then we have developed a novel three-layer Conditional block (C-block) to compress the CNN bottleneck or inverted bottlenecks. At last we have developed a novel Conditional Network (CRnet) based on the CR module and C-block. We have tested the CRnet on two image classification datasets: CIFAR-10 and CIFAR-100, with multiple network expansion ratios and compression ratios. The experiments verify our methods’ correctness with attention to the importance of the input-output pattern when selecting a compression strategy. The experiments show that our proposed CRnet better balances the model complexity and accuracy compared to the state-of-the-art group convolution and Ghost Module compression.

We have proposed a flat reduced random sampling training strategy and a bottleneck reduced random sampling strategy. We have proposed a three-stage training method based on the bottleneck reduced random sampling. Furthermore, we have proved the data visibility of a sample in the whole training process and the theoretical reduced time by four theorems and two corollaries. We have tested the two sampling methods on three image classification datasets: CIFAR-10, CIFAR-100 and ImageNet. The experiments show that our proposed two sampling strategies effectively reduce a significant training time percentage at a very small accuracy loss.

Candidate Name: Allison Toth
Title: Your Work-Family Conflict (WFC) Is Hard on Me Too: Employee Reactions to Coworker WFC
 June 15, 2021  12:00 PM
Location: Virtual

Researchers working in the work-family conflict (WFC) literature have a long history of focusing on how conflict between the work and family domains influences employees and their experiences inside and outside of work (Eby et al., 2005). However, missing from the literature is how a coworker’s WFC, specifically in the direction of family interfering with work (FIW), can go beyond influencing the person experiencing the FIW to impact other people in the work environment, such as other employees. The present study used a weekly diary study and multilevel modeling to investigate how fluctuations in coworker FIW are related to fluctuations in a focal employee’s helping behavior, as well as how engaging in that helping behavior may influence the relationship quality between coworkers and focal employees and may lead to increased role overload, work interfering with family (WIF), and need for recovery for the focal employee. The study also tested whether having higher levels of prosocial motivation moderates the relationship between coworker FIW and focal employee helping behavior. Results from the multilevel analyses indicated coworker FIW was not related to whether or not a focal employee will engage in helping behavior, and prosocial motivation levels did not moderate this relationship between coworker FIW and helping behavior. However, engaging in helping behavior was related to increased focal employee role overload and relationship quality, but not to WIF or need for recovery. Implications and limitations of these findings for the WFC literature are discussed.

Candidate Name: Lydia G. Roos
Title: Reappraisal and Health: An Investigation into Reappraisal Ability and Stressful Life Events as the Missing Links
 June 11, 2021  12:30 PM
Location: https://uncc.zoom.us/j/97133728690?pwd=bWdVLzM3RmtqanFwT2RZbmRiSlNxUT09

Inadequate emotion regulation may underlie the development of psychopathology as well as worsened physical health, particularly in the context of stress. Cognitive reappraisal is typically considered an adaptive strategy to manage negative emotions. However, the extent to which reappraisal is beneficial may hinge upon contextual and individual differences. Specifically, it is unclear how the ability to reappraise effectively (i.e., reappraisal ability) and exposure to stressful life events moderates the association between habitual reappraisal and health. Using a series of questionnaires and an experimental task designed to measure the ability to effectively down-regulate sad emotions using reappraisal, this dissertation examines the interactive effects of habitual reappraisal, reappraisal ability, and exposure to stressful life events on depressive and anxiety symptoms as well as self-reported physical health. Results indicate that habitual reappraisal may protect against elevated depressive symptoms and worsened self-reported physical health for people exposed to stressful life events, and that reappraising often appears to be particularly important when people are less effective in their attempts. These findings provide novel contributions to the field of emotion regulation and health by clarifying that exposure to stressful life events is an important moderator in the association between reappraisal and health and by elucidating the important roles of both habitual reappraisal and reappraisal ability.

Candidate Name: Danielle C. Wysenski
Title: Effects of Online Professional Development on Teachers’ Instructional Reading Adaptations for English Learners through Data-Based Individualization
 June 25, 2021  10:00 AM
Location: Virtual Defense

English learners (ELs) make up a significant portion of the nation’s K-12 student population who come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. ELs bring a wealth of diversity to the United States’ education system; however, teachers’ limited knowledge and practices of how to integrate ELs’ cultural, linguistic, and prior educational experiences in the general education curriculum can contribute to low academic growth and overidentification into special education programs, particularly for learning disabilities in reading. This study examined the impact of online professional development on general and special education teachers’ knowledge of data-based individualization (DBI) and curriculum-based measurement (CBM) to adapt validated reading interventions with culturally and linguistically responsive practices (CLRPs) for ELs with persistent reading difficulties. Results indicated very large effect sizes of online DBI/CBM + CLRP professional development on teacher knowledge; however, a functional relation could not be determined due to the study ending before all teachers finished the professional development components. The findings of this study provide several implications for online DBI professional development and adapting validated reading interventions for ELs. Suggestions for future research are also offered.

Candidate Name: Katie Christensen
Title: Factors Related to Weight-Bias Among Counselors
 May 24, 2021  10:30 AM
Location: Zoom

More than two-thirds of adults and one-sixth of children and adolescents in the United States experience higher levels of body fat and/or obesity (Hales et al., 2020). Individuals with higher levels of body fat often experience weight-bias, prejudice, and discrimination from various sources including mental health professionals in the fields of psychology, social work, and marriage and family therapy (Cravens, et al., 2016; Davis-Coelho, et al., 2000; Pratt, et al., 2015; Young & Powell, 1985). However, little is known about the presence of weight-bias within the counseling field. Literature shows that weight-bias can negatively impact physical and mental health (Friedman & Puhl, 2012; Himmelstein et al., 2017; Puhl et al., 2017). Counselors may be exhibiting weight-bias towards clients, thus causing harm (Feister, 2012). The counseling profession has committed to developing multiculturally competent counselors, yet body weight is not included in discussions of bias, prejudice, oppression, and power (Bergen & Mollen, 2019). This study used a correlational, non-experimental research design and a standard multiple regression to explore relationships between weight-bias and race, gender, weight-bias education, multicultural competence, and personal experiences with weight-bias among licensed counselors (N= 587). Results indicated there were statistically significant relationships between weight-bias and gender, weight-bias education, and multicultural competence. The group of predictor variables explained a significant portion of the variance in weight-bias among counselors (F(5,553)=9.459, p<.001, R^2=.079, adjusted R^2=.070), which accounted for 7.9% of the variance.