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A Summer of Study & Research

Every year, the UNH Graduate School awards Summer Teaching Assistantship Fellowships (STAF). These fellowships are intended to support research or study during the summer for individuals who have held a teaching assistant (TA) position during the current academic year and have performed exceptionally well as a TA and student. What did the STAF recipients do during the summer of 2017? We will be featuring their stories, research, and pictures throughout the fall semester.

Meaghan Dittrich

PhD in English Composition and Rhetoric (5th year)

This summer, I was fortunate to have access to the Bowdoin College archives and delved into the Esta Kramer Cookbook Collection at Bowdoin College library’s special collections. I made a total of four visits so far to Brunswick, Maine (about an-hour-and-a- half drive north) and plan to visit at least once more during this coming fall semester to finish out my archival research for my dissertation project. Thanks to the STAF award, I’ve had the time (and gas money) to devote to this work.

photo of UNH doctoral student Meaghan Dittrich

Meaghan Dittrich, immersed in her
research at Bowdoin College

My research examines multiple instances of women throughout American history (some famous, some lesser known) who have contributed in new ways to conversations about food. A large part of that story begins with the traditional cookbook. That particular medium will feature heavily in my dissertation, as well as moments of activist rhetoric that women have used in other modes of communication (memoirs, speeches, etc.). Cookbooks, however, were a foundational vehicle.

Bowdoin’s Esta Kramer collection has over 700 cookbooks in its holdings. While I would never be able to look at all of these amazing volumes, I did get the opportunity to thumb through a large portion of them (well over 100). In that sampling, I discovered 32 different cookbooks that have the potential to contribute to my dissertation. For instance, Bowdoin holds a copy of an 1815 printing of American Cookery by “an American Orphan” (originally published in 1796). This American orphan is one Amelia Simmons, the first American to publish a cookbook in the U.S.

The archivists at Bowdoin have been indispensable to me in helping me navigate their large collection of cookbooks. These mavens know the ins and outs of their stores and have wonderful tidbits and details that help fill in gaps and paint a larger picture of what the collection offers. I am grateful to them.

Beth Founauf

PhD in Education (3rd year)


I am a third year doctoral student in the education department and have worked as a TA for the past two years, supervising interns preparing to become elementary or special education teachers.


This summer I began the first phase of a longitudinal qualitative study focused on prospective teachers.


The general aim of my study is to understand how a teacher’s sense of agency develops during their practice teaching experience for the specific goal of teaching inclusively. Teaching inclusively is conceptualized as teaching through acknowledging student differences, rather than attempting to remediate differences by categorizing them as deficits (often operationalized as disabilities in schools).


This study will explore the extent to which pre-service teachers perceive their competence for advocating and attempting inclusive teaching, with particular attention paid to instructing students who bear the potentially marginalizing label of dis/ability.


Time is an important variable in this study, and my summer was spent gathering and coding baseline data. I conducted initial interviews with each of the study participants individually, and spent the bulk of the remaining months coding and analyzing. Because I am interested in how an agency develops and changes over the course of the school year, I will continue to interview the same participants as they engage in their practice teaching experience.


The Summer Teaching Assistant Fellowship has afforded me the time to focus on getting this research off the ground this summer. Having the time to devote to meeting with participants and code and analyze my initial data has put me in a good position to continue working during the school year. I am so grateful for the opportunity.


Petra Varsanyi

Master's, Electrical and Computer Engineering

For my summer research, I worked on creating a computational tool that could be used to analyze collaboration in multi-device environments. I gave participants eye tracker devices so we could create recordings using the cameras on the devices and also map their gaze on all frames on the videos.

photo of Kaitlyn in the fields on October 1, 2016

Multi device environment setup with a
horizontal and a vertical large scale touch
surface, personal devices of different sizes,
and eye tracker devices with LEDs applied
to them.

With this, I could observe where they were looking at and what exactly they did while they were solving a simple task together. The task that they had to solve was about selecting 5 school projects together that they would give funding to.

Over the course of these months, I conducted experiments of five sessions with four people per session, with each participant sitting around a large-scale multi-touch table while working on a simple task together. The sessions had different devices placed in the environment.

Other sessions involved smartphones and smaller table or wall size. I recorded videos of the experiments through the mobile eye trackers that I gave to each participant to see what people exactly do and how do they interact with the devices during collaboration. Their field of view proved to be informative. My goal was to annotate these videos based on the visual focus and to generate statistics based on it. I’ve written a code to make this process automatic.

I’m happy that I could pay my summer housing fees thanks to the grant and plan to extend the research as my thesis.

—Compiled by Kristen Melamed


Please visit the UNH Graduate School for more information about the STAF awards. For information about how to apply, please see our STAF Application Instructions.