Education & Psychology Research

Whether it’s helping children to learn better in school, providing training for teachers or addressing autism in children, faculty research in education and psychology at The University of Southern Mississippi is addressing a myriad of societal issues.

Sleep research

Dr. John Harsh, professor of psychology and director of the USM Sleep Research Laboratory looks at linkages between sleep patterns and academic function, along with a variety of children’s health and developmental issues among preschool students. After collecting sleep data among children for the past decade, Harsh and his team have found linkage to academic and social skills deficits, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and substance abuse.

Battling autism

The Gulf Coast Autism Project, a $1.3 million education program developed through a partnership between the university and the Mississippi Department of Education, will provide a school-based program for children with autism.

Literacy strategies

Education faculty, equipped with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education, are helping prepare middle school teachers to improve student language arts and comprehension while connecting those skills to subject areas beyond reading and writing.

Improving services for students with disabilities

 A five-year program “Realizing Excellence for All Children in Mississippi” (REACH-MS), is aimed at improving educational services for students with disabilities in Mississippi public schools by focusing on literacy, positive behavior support and family involvement in the educational processes.

Dolphin behavior and cognition

A key element of the Gulf Coast ecosystem, dolphins have proven to be as resilient as their human counterparts at re-establishing their homes following Hurricane Katrina says psychology professor Stan Kuczaj, who has studied the storm’s impact on the animals. Another dolphin research project has been forged in Honduras in conjunction with Southern Miss International Programs and the Roatan Institute for Marine Science.

Kuczaj’s marine research on dolphin cognition and communication has gained international attention, including as the subject of an upcoming episode of the television documentary series NOVA to be aired in the fall of 2010. His dolphin research has also been spotlighted in a show on Japanese public television in July 2010.

Religion and disasters

Professors Jamie Aten (psychology) and Sharon Topping (business) head up the Church Disaster Mental Health Project, supported by a grant from the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute and Pew Charitable Trusts. Exploring ways that mental health professionals and spiritual leaders can help those impacted by disasters, the project provides active outreach and education to help pastors and church leaders, especially those in the African-American community.

Anger management

Evaluating the effectiveness of anger management treatments is the focus of a three-year study by Drs. Eric Dahlen and Mitch Berman. The project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is aimed at comparing the effectiveness of a combined cognitive-relaxation coping skills treatment with a new exposure-based treatment.