Five Altoona students compete in Behrend Undergraduate Research Competition

Altoona students at Behrend's Undergraduate Research Competition

Penn State Altoona students Yursa Haroon, Makaylah Bangura, Riley Fegley, Shannette Wahor and Lily Reid showcase awards they received for their project "Rape Myth Acceptance: Does Endorsement Influence Sentencing Decisions?” created with lab colleague Ellee Garver, University Park; and under advisement from Rachel Kosaka, Penn State alumna now with California State University; Alexander B. Kinney, Penn State alumnus now with Houston State University; Sam Gavin, St. Bonaventure University; Nicholas Rowland, Penn State Altoona; and Nathan E. Kruis, Penn State Altoona, at the spring 2024 Penn State Behrend Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference.

Credit: Penn State

ALTOONA, Pa. — Five students in Penn State Altoona’s Integrated Social Science Research Lab (ISSRL) competed in the 32nd annual Penn State Behrend-Sigma XI Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference on April 20.

Makaylah Bangura, Riley Fegley, Ellee Garver, Lily Reid, Yusra Haroon and Shannette Wahor placed second overall in the Humanities/Social Sciences Poster Division of the competition for their collaborative project “Rape Myth Acceptance: Does Endorsement Influence Sentencing Decisions?” Their study empirically demonstrates that gender-based bias and myths about sexual assault are present in the criminal justice system, which can influence case outcomes and lead to discriminatory treatment within the system.

“What is so great about this project is that it stemmed from multiple campuses and institutions,” said Nathan E. Kruis, assistant professor of criminal justice and ISSRL co-director. “We have students from Altoona working with students/alumni from University Park and California State University, as well as faculty members from St. Bonaventure University and Sam Houston State University. The collaborative nature of research like this inherently leads to more innovation and a better learning environment for our students.”

“This is one competition that we try to attend every year,” said Nicholas Rowland, distinguished professor of sociology and ISSRL co-director. “There is something about filling a van full of undergraduate student researchers and taking them on a multi-day adventure to compete in a research competition that really fosters team building. Our lab team always returns to Altoona closer and more capable as scholars. It is a great experience.”

This is the third time that project team leader Makaylah Bangura has placed at the conference.

“Each year, I aim to deliver a strong presentation, feel knowledgeable and confident in our findings, and improve my presentation skills," Bangura said. "This year, I grew; next year, I intend to grow some more.”

The work presented was funded by the Penn State Altoona Office of Research and Engagement. The Integrated Social Science Research Lab is made possible by Penn State Altoona's Division of Education, Human Development, and Social Science, headed by Leigh Ann Haefner, associate professor of science education.