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COLLEGE STATION — Emily Bost, a recent graduate of Texas A&M University, made the most of her undergraduate career with research published in the 25th-anniversary edition of the Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education.
Bost took a specific look at the photo narrative teaching method and how it could transition learners from ethnocentric to ethnorelative worldviews. Her analysis of archival data from former students’ photo narrative artifacts discovered that their views had changed, shifting from ethnocentric to ethnorelative worldviews, after participating in the photo narrative process.
In turn, photo narrative increases understanding and empathetic response between dissimilar groups.
Her work on The Photo Narrative Process: Students’ Intercultural Learning in Agriculture can be viewed at http://aiaee.org/index.php/25th-anniversary-special-edition/1728-the-photo-narrative-process-students-intercultural-learning-in-agriculture.
As a journalism major with minors in both Arabic and international development in agriculture, Bost decided to devote her time and studies to areas that further piqued her interests, such as intercultural understanding and international exposure.
“Because I was passionate about these things, working on my thesis never felt like a chore,” she said. “I was always happy to approach its contents and devote long hours to working on it. In a way, it supplemented what I was academically and personally interested in already.”
Bost began her research under the guidance of Dr. Gary Wingenbach as part of his study abroad high-impact experience. Wingenbach is a professor in agricultural leadership, education, and communications at Texas A&M and senior scientist for the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture.
“Our role in this department is to help students understand their roles of bridging human gaps in knowledge, especially how it affects technology transfer,” Wingenbach said. “We must get off of this campus, get out of this state, leave this country, and go meet people where we actually can practice making human, face-to-face contacts in the technology transfer process.”
Bost noted the educational value of photo-narrative assignments, a comparative learning technique developed by Wingenbach. The photo narrative instructions’ non-specific nature gives them the potential to be used as tools by educators to impact students’ intercultural sensitivities, which in turn impacts students’ abilities to operate in diverse, multicultural academic or professional settings.
“Through qualitative data analyses, my research findings reinforce the significance and real-world applicability of intercultural sensitivity,” she said. “This study sets the groundwork for the potential development of curriculum that could focus on students’ growth in intercultural competence.”
Joining Wingenbach in the high-impact learning experience in Costa Rica, Bost decided to conduct research simultaneously with her study abroad. She pursued the research idea on her peers while in Costa Rica and focused on the multicultural engagement of students by utilizing their cell phones to incorporate photos and videos with the written word in order to gain a better perspective of other cultures and heritage.
Upon their return from Costa Rica, Bost presented her research at the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture research conference where it was published. However, she was not finished. She returned from the conference knowing she wanted to pursue the topic further and signed up for the Undergraduate Research Scholars program, a high-impact learning experience including thesis work.
“The LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research Scholars program offers a mini-graduate student experience for the undergraduate student,” said Dr. Sarah Misemer, a professor in Texas A&M’s department of Hispanic studies and associate director for the LAUNCH program.
“In this program, undergraduate researchers work under the mentorship of a TAMU faculty advisor to complete an independent research project and thesis,” she said. “And through this experience, we expect they deepen their understanding of research methodology, hone their writing and communications skills, and pursue learning outside of the classroom.”
With several years of data, Bost graduated in May having defended her undergraduate thesis focused on the effects of the photo narrative process on students intercultural learning in agriculture.
Wingenbach said publication of her work by a respected journal was proof of its quality and academic vigor.
“She would be my nomination as the poster child for high-impact learning and what can be gained from a progressive level of participation,” he said.
“LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research is delighted to celebrate Emily’s success and the publication of her research project in an internationally recognized venue,” Misemer said. “Her work is emblematic of the curiosity, passion and drive we encourage students to develop through undergraduate research.”