Sheva Guy leads an action-based research session with BMI PhD students.
Sheva Guy leads an action-based research session with BMI PhD students.

Batsheva (Sheva) Guy, PhD in Educational Studies, is bringing innovative research methods to her new role as the biomedical informatics (BMI) program’s Graduate Program Coordinator. Data collection is an integral part of biomedical informatics—so why not collect data on the BMI program itself?

BMI graduate students recently gathered together for an afternoon of roundtable qualitative research led by Sheva. As students filtered in and took their seats around the table, they were surrounded by posters with various prompts. Each was given a colored marker and instructed to walk around the room and write their answers on each poster.

The room filled with discussion, debate, and even laughter. Students answered prompts about the program’s strengths and weaknesses, their needs and worries, and professional development opportunities. Concepts ranged from the specific (“One thing I would change about the BMI PhD program is…”) to the abstract (“If the BMI PhD cohort was an animal, it would be a…”).

In a display of the unique ways participant-driven research can extract valuable insights, even the seemingly silly “animal” question revealed an eloquent meaning. Students agreed that the program is best represented by the Cincinnati Zoo’s baby hippo, Fiona. “Fiona is in the early stages of her life,” explained one student. “Because she was born prematurely, they weren’t sure if she would make it. But now she’s thriving and growing at a fast rate. She’s a lot like our program.”

Summarizing the colorful answers they’d written on each poster, the group identified key takeaways, including the need to take greater advantage of the graduate program’s diversity and networking experiences.

This collaborative and interactive process allowed Sheva to collect data on the BMI graduate program straight from the students themselves. This is the strength of her chosen research method, called a Group-Level Assessment (GLA). The GLA method brings together a large group of participants to identify their collective needs and priorities. Researchers guide the group through generating data, reflecting and understanding the results, and developing a relevant action plan.

Sheva has used this method for various projects in Educational and Community-Based Action Research, in which she will earn her PhD this spring. Her research interests include exploring the experiences of women in STEM fields, diversity and intersectionality in higher education, and women’s reproductive rights.

“As an action researcher, I value input and collaboration from multiple stakeholders, and one of my main goals is to facilitate sustainable collaborations between Children’s and UC,” Sheva says. “My initial focus will be promoting student success through academic and programmatic support, as well as connecting them to the various professional development opportunities that UC has to offer. I also hope to implement innovative, grassroots recruitment strategies to attract a diverse group of prospective students.”

As the meeting came to an end, each person took turns stating their “commitment to action.” Students committed to catch up on end-of-semester papers and presentations. Sheva committed to continue her work on program coordination projects—and judging from the success of her research meeting, she will certainly keep that commitment.

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