Human Ecology MS Grads Assess Mindfulness App, COVID-19 Adaptations

Children playing at daycare

Image: Daycare by tylerhoff, cc

Paula Drew, Jillian Clemens, and Eli August have graduated from SoHE’s Applied MS in Human Ecology this summer after completing capstone projects that investigated childcare and child services providers’ adaptations to COVID-19 and also the effectiveness of a mindfulness app for college-aged young people from diverse backgrounds. Read more in their project summaries below.

Paula Drew

“Early Care and Education Program Administrator and Family Child Care Owner Experiences and Choices in Wisconsin at the Onset of COVID-19”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for child care programs. Drawing on interviews with 20 child care providers across Wisconsin, this study seeks to understand the complex issues they are facing. Working in collaboration with the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, I wrote a series of six blog posts (published at wisconsinearlychildhood.org) that highlighted the themes I discovered during my analysis. The three most common themes that arose in these interviews were issues around financial security, concerns about health and safety, and the ways in which providers collaborated with others in the field to figure out how to function in this pandemic environment. The findings of this report shed light on the real stories of early care and education programs in Wisconsin and the decisions they made during this time. Understanding what particular events or experiences changed their operations will inform future crisis responses.

Bonus: Hear Paula discuss this issue on an episode of NPR’s Marketplace earlier this summer.

Jillian Clemens

“Supporting Community-Based Agencies’ Responses to COVID-19 and Future Events that Require Service Adaptation”

I have developed an internal guidance piece for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the DCF contract administrators who monitor and support contracted agencies that provide family support primary and secondary child abuse and neglect prevention services and programs. This internal guidance piece is a toolkit that outlines possible language additions to be used in the administrative contracting process and sub-recipient monitoring processes DCF carries out. The components of the toolkit provide a way for contract administrators to attend to new program policy needs that have arisen during COVID-19 for contracted agencies. This is intended to operationalize support and technical assistance to community-based agencies as they respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic and any future events that may cause disruption to in-person and in-home family support programs and services.

Eli August

“Faith, Race, and (Mobile) Meditation: A User-Experience Study”

In partnership with Healthy Minds Innovations (HMI) and the Fetzer Institute, we are conducting a user-experience (UX) study of HMI’s mobile meditation platform. This study addresses many questions around student wellbeing; the role of meditation and mindfulness as a tool for flourishing; mobile wellness technology; and the intersection of faith and mindfulness. The general goal of the study is to understand the experience of college-aged students from diverse backgrounds as they use HMI’s app. This app, the Healthy Minds Program, is a mobile-based wellbeing program that teaches meditation through a mixture of guided practices and mini-lectures. Prior to our project, HMI had conducted some limited user-experience studies and was interested in expanding the reach of its program to target college-aged students.  We set out to design a study that would target Christian students and students from a diverse mix of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and worldview. We are now analyzing the results of this study to inform HMI’s future programming.


Learn more about SoHE’s Applied MS in Human Ecology, including the broad array of issues the students engage through the degree and afterwards in their careers, by reading the May 2020 graduates’ project summaries as well.

Recent graduate Jessica Fischer leveraged her degree into a prestigious fellowship with the DC-based GlobalGiving for the 2020-21 school year.

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