Christina’s Proposed Projects

Project Proposal #1: Implementation of a Summer Workshop Series for Students with Autism
Incoming freshmen college students with autism report significant stress and anxiety. However, most colleges don’t provide freshman programming specifically for this population of students. The proposed research will design, implement, and evaluate a summer training focused on classroom readiness, social skills, self-advocacy skills, and computer-mediated communication skills designed to support students with autism as they transition into college. This study will instruct future programming targeting students with autism as they meet the challenges of an increasingly complex online and offline college social environment.

Set of Personas
Unprepared Ulric: Ulric enrolled in college at CSI, but knows very little about the college experience. His high school and his strong-willed parents pushed him to take classes without providing him with the computer-skills that he’ll be required to use in his freshman year of college. Ulric was not diagnosed with autism, but displays many autistic-like characteristics.

Sheltered Sally: Sally is an incoming freshman with a lot of ambition to go to college. She’ll be the first in her family to attend a 4-year institution. Having gone through the NYC public school system as a student diagnosed with autism, Sally was given a personal aid and a strong support network from the school. Sally will be starting school in the fall of 2014 and although she’ll be connected with the Center for Student Accessibility at CSI, she is unsure how different college life will be from her experiences in high school.

Introverted Inna: Inna is an incoming 2014 freshman college student at CSI with a milder form of autism. She has numerous social difficulties in peer groups stemming from her lack of understanding about social norms and her inability to pick up on nonverbal from others. Consequently, Inna doesn’t have many friends and has always wanted to build a stronger support network. Inna is hoping that college provides her with opportunities to make new friends that share her interests. She has always wanted to use online social networks, but has been too intimidated to try them out.

Use Case Scenario
Unprepared Ulric: Ulric reluctantly enrolled in the summer transition program at his parents’ request. Although he was hesitant to engage during the first week of the workshop, in the second week Ulric is starting to feel more confident about college having learned about some of the computer-mediated skills he’ll be asked to use. Ulric is starting to understand the Blackboard learning management system, and hopes that he’ll be able to help his peers if they have questions about the system.

Sheltered Sally: Sally’s older siblings warned her about the difficulties of college life, so Sally was eager to engage in the summer workshops. Sally is learning more about the student-professor relationship, and how this relationship differs from the student-teacher relationship in high school. The workshops have also provided Sally with the skills to use an online planner to keep track of her classes and assignments in the fall.

Introverted Inna: Inna was slow to open up to the group, but has realized that she has a “knack” for some of the computer skills in the workshops. Inna is quickly gaining confidence in her interactions with her peers, and is starting to make friends through the workshops that are both on and off of the spectrum. Inna is looking forward to connecting with her new friends through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Full-Fledged Version
Throughout the spring 2014 semester, the research team will be working on identifying focus areas and then developing a sequence of training modules for the summer programming. As a collaborative effort, the team will work with current students in Project REACH to build modules focusing on computer-mediated communication skills. The pre-existing training modules (classroom readiness, social skills, and self-advocacy skills) will all be modified based on the evaluation feedback received from the previous three semesters of the Project REACH model.

Phase I: Recruitment: First year college students with autism will be recruited for this project from the CSI’s Center for Student Accessibility (CSA) and through informal workshops held at local high schools on Staten Island in the spring of 2014. During the recruitment phase, the research team will design and modify content areas identified from a current study the researcher is conducting at CSI.

Phase II: Workshop Design and Pre-Testing: The first round of focus groups will be held in early-July. Based on recordings from the focus groups the research team will design/modify content for each of the workshops. Workshop content areas previously identified by Project REACH and by the computer-skills study at CSI (email, Blackboard, social networking) will be used as the foundational skills that the research team will build from.

Phase III: Skills Workshops: Workshops will occur two times each week for 2-hour increments of time from mid-July through mid-August. During each of the workshops, students will be given time to demonstrate and practice their skills with their peers, their undergraduate mentors, and the workshop facilitator (the graduate student instructor).

Phase IV: Post-Testing: At the conclusion of the workshops in August, students will be asked to complete the same videotaped role-plays and standardized measures conducted before the workshops began.

Phase V: Program Evaluation: Students will engage in a final round of focus groups in late-August to discuss any barriers during the intervention, and to obtain students’ recommendations for future interventions. These focus groups will also serve as opportunities for the researchers to modify and/or develop training modules for recommendations of future programming efforts at the CSI and other colleges.

Current Skills
The researcher has a working skillset surrounding workshop instruction and has used the Project REACH training modules in a group environment. Depending on the specific areas of computer-mediated communication skills identified by the incoming cohort, the researcher may need to become more knowledgeable about the Blackboard website, specific social networking sites (Twitter, etc.), and/or other areas of potential interest for this cohort.

Stripped-Down Version
The stripped-down version of this project will include one workshop held in the summer of 2014, in which the workshop will focus on only one computer-mediated communication module – Blackboard or social networking. Up to 20 students will participate in this 2-hour workshop to learn more about the skills they’ll need to succeed in their first year of college.

Project Proposal #2: Creation of a “Teaching Hub” for Graduate Student Instructors in Psychology
Doctoral students enrolled in the CUNY campuses often teach one or more undergraduate classes in the CUNY system. However, preparing to teach a new class for the first time can be a daunting task and there are few “teaching of psychology” websites with open-access availability for teachers. The proposed project will use the GSTA website to host teaching activities for graduate student teachers.

Set of Personas
Rushed Rita: Rita is a second year graduate student that takes classes within and outside of the CUNY system, in addition to working a part-time job at a non-profit children’s organization. As part of her funding package, Rita is required to teach this upcoming fall semester. Since she’ll be teaching at Hunter (as is contracted by the Psych Department), she is unsure which class she’ll have until August. Rita knows she won’t have much time to prepare for the class and is worried about fitting it into her already busy schedule.

Clueless Connie: Connie is a graduate student transferred from a university in the Northwest. She is still becoming acquainted with the CUNY system and is trying to learn the locations of each campus. Her new advisor is pushing her to try teaching his semester, but she’s unsure how to teach, where to teach, and where to find resources for teaching.

Lazy Leonard: Leonard is an 8th year graduate student in the Psychology Department. He has put off teaching in graduate school, as he’s only interested in his research. However, due to his lack of employment and graduate student status, Leonard has been financially forced to pick up a teaching position at a community college outside of the CUNY system.

Use Case Scenario
Rushed Rita: Rita found out about the Teaching Hub from a classmate a few months before the fall semester began. She has begun to use the Hub to start putting together “course packs” for the 3 potential courses that she is likely (and qualified) to teach at Hunter. Rita feels more confident that she’ll be prepared for whatever class at Hunter gets thrown her way.

Clueless Connie: As the GSTA faculty advisor, Connie’s advisor told her about the Teaching Hub. Connie has been exploring through the teaching activities and based on the syllabi from the website, she is starting to narrow down the types of classes that she’d like to teach. Although she’s still learning about the many CUNY campuses, Connie has narrowed down a few campuses that are closer to her apartment in Queens.

Lazy Leonard: Leonard has waited until the week before the fall semester to begin preparing for the Introduction to Psychology class that he’ll be teaching at one of the community colleges. However, Leonard was given the link to the GSTA website by a friend, so he is now starting to put together materials for his course. Although Leonard has waited till the last minute, his students will have well-structured and empirically validated educational activities in their psychology class.

Full-Fledged Version
Beginning in the middle of the spring 2014 semester, the GSTA page will be updated by members of the organization. Consequently, the researcher will have access to the site during this time to begin making updates to the site. This project will be on-going project through the summer to prepare he site for a full launch in the fall of 2014. Once the site has been piloted with a subgroup of graduate student teachers, the full site will be revised to reflect feedback from the graduate students, and then the site will be launched again to the CUNY graduate student psychology community.


Phase I: During this phase, the researcher will solicit materials from the graduate student community in the Psychology Department. Some of these materials will be collected from an online pedagogy and psychology text currently being written by students and faculty. The researcher anticipates that activities for the site will continue to come in throughout the summer.

Phase II: Most of the work done during this phase will include website development and modifications. The current state of the GSTA website is not fully functional (and not user-friendly), and as such, the researcher will be using her editing skills acquired through the IT Core II course to make revisions to the site. The following revisions are suggested:

1. Create a modern user interface with drop down menus and tabs, making the GSTA website more functional. The researcher anticipates that the following tabs will need to be added: (a) Syllabi, (b) Teaching Activities, (c) Teaching Tips/Tools – Blog Link, and (d) a list of current graduate student teachers in the psychology department.

2. Make corrections to any uploaded syllabi to maintain the confidentiality of the graduate students submitting the documents. Upload teaching syllabi and other materials to the GSTA website.

Phase III: In this phase, the researcher will pilot the website in July-August of 2014 with fellow graduate student teachers, many of which will likely come from the GSTA. This period of the summer also tends to be the time when student teachers receive their teaching assignments and are most likely to be seeking teaching resources online. After the pilot run, the researcher will request feedback from each student via email. Final revisions will be made to the site by the end of August based on the instructor feedback.

Phase IV: Beginning in the fall of 2014, the GSTA Teaching Resource Hub will be launched to the psychology graduate student instructor community. An email will be sent out through the psychology listserv that describes the website. To maintain website sustainability, including upkeep and consistent revisions, the maintenance of the site will be turned-over to a newly-formed GSTA Teaching Hub Committee.

Current Skills
I’ve heard from other students in the GSTA that the website support software is not easy to use, and has a steep learning curve. My limited background in modifying webpages will require me to learn more about the Wild Apricot site design. I plan to rely on my fellow GSTA members currently using the site, online tutorials, and probably external reading materials related to website building. As I’m beginning to understand the nuances of WordPress, I’m hoping that some of these skills will carry over to Wild Apricot as well.

Stripped-Down Version
The basic version of this project would include an online resource for a few psychology course activities with tutorials on how to use the activities in classrooms. I would exclude the syllabi as well as any other supplemental teaching material. The piloting phase will also be removed from this project, as activities are solicited, uploaded to the site, and then the psychology graduate student instructors at the Graduate Center will be given access to the site and it’s materials.