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Juniata Sociology Class Tackles Community Studies

(Posted April 1, 2003)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- A team of Juniata sociology students are learning how to create solutions to social problems by creating analytical and diagnostic pretests and post-tests on how to stop smoking for a Huntingdon counseling center.

The two tests were researched and compiled by a team of two Juniata students: Jennifer Bowen, a junior from Leeper, Pa. and Rachel Locke, a senior from Altoona, Pa. The students took on the project as part of the Social Science Research Methods class taught by Duane Stroman, professor of sociology. Stroman uses the class to work extensively with local agencies in need of outcome studies, needs assessments or consumer surveys.

Stroman received a $2,904 grant from The Pennsylvania Compact, a federally funded initiative aimed at involving college students in service learning.

"We do four to six projects each year," says Stroman, who teaches the course every spring. "The students come away from the experience by learning all about a community social agency -- how it works, what its goals are. It's a pretty good experience for community citizenship. At the same time, they are providing a service for that agency by giving a service the agency cannot do or does not have the resources or time to do."

The smoking pre-test project is a collaborative project for the Huntingdon-based center Mainstream Counseling, which offers counseling for mental health issues and substance addictions. The clinic used state-approved pre-tests and post-tests for its adult clients, but did not have any specialized testing materials for adolescents.

"We've done a lot of research on the many different methods for smoking cessation and prevention," Bowen says. Locke went through a six-hour training session that focused on how to lead a smoking cessation group.

The other projects scheduled to be completed this semester include:

--A two-part project to assess the regional impacts and needs of a program called Experience Works, a job training and placement program for people older than 55. One team of students will assess employer attitudes toward older workers and the expectations employers have for older employees. Another research team will determine which computer-training method is most effective for older workers.

--A team of five Juniata students will conduct a needs assessment for low-income housing for those with disabilities. The students will be working with the Huntingdon County Housing Authority.

--Two other students will research and writea study to determine the effectiveness and benefits of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Huntingdon County.

"By working in teams the students learn how to work effectively together," Stroman says. "Sometimes that's the most important lesson they learn."

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.