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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU College of Education recognizes Emerging Scholars in research

Five faculty members at New Mexico State University’s College of Education have been named Emerging Scholars for their innovative research efforts.


Man and woman standing in front of a machine
Yong Woo An, an assistant professor in the Kinesiology and Dance department at New Mexico State University, works on his research into the neuromechanical links between the cerebral cortex and muscle coordination during balance performance following an anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, injury. An’s undergraduate research assistant, Cydnee Plant, helps An measure her balance using a Biodex machine. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)
Woman standing on a machine
Yong Woo An, an assistant professor in the Kinesiology and Dance department at New Mexico State University, works on his research into the neuromechanical links between the cerebral cortex and muscle coordination during balance performance following an anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, injury. An’s undergraduate research assistant, Cydnee Plant, helps An measure her balance using a Biodex machine. (NMSU photo by Adriana M. Chavez)

The college’s Emerging Scholars Initiative, which was started last year by Dean Don Pope-Davis, aims to support and promote innovative research efforts of untenured, tenure-track faculty and research faculty that will advance scientific knowledge or creative works in a specific field or area of professional activity, and develop skills to be successful at securing external funding. The initiative is designed to support all methods of research including qualitative, quantitative and mixed method. It also provides financial support for each selected research project with the condition that the project must be completed within two years.

“This is a way for the college to recognize some of the important research being conducted by our faculty,” said Susan Brown, interim associate dean of research for the College of Education. “It also allows for faculty members to become familiar with applying for grant funding and gain critical experience that will help these research projects grow.”

Last year, the college recognized seven faculty members as Emerging Scholars. This year’s honorees are Andres Perez-Rojas and Na-Yeun Choi, both assistant professors in the Counseling and Educational Psychology department; Bijoyaa Mohapatra and Randa Keeley, both assistant professors in the Special Education and Communication Disorders Department; and Yong Woo An, an assistant professor in the Kinesiology and Dance Department.

Perez-Rojas said the initiative speaks to the commitment the College of Education is making to support junior faculty and ensure they have the resources to conduct their research and be competitive in securing funding.

“I think receiving the Emerging Scholar award will have a positive effect on the college in general, as well in that it will enhance the research infrastructure at our clinic, which will generate an archive of valid, reliable and clinically relevant data and yield many different studies,” Perez-Rojas said. “It will allow us to attract more graduate and undergraduate students interested in learning more about what makes counseling and psychotherapy work, how to integrate research and practice in meaningful ways, and how to conduct research using a variety of methods commonly used in counseling psychology and psychotherapy.”

Perez-Rojas’ research project involves studying why some therapists are generally more effective than others.

“Part of the goal of the NMSU Counseling and Psychotherapy Research Project is to investigate therapist variables that might shed light upon what makes a therapist, and thus therapy, more effective,” Perez-Rojas said. “In particular, we will examine variables such as the therapist’s ability to detect and manage their reactions to clients that stem from the therapist’s personal difficulties and/or emotional vulnerabilities, and the therapist’s cultural humility, or how open, curious, non-arrogant and interested therapists seem toward their clients’ cultures.”

To advance these research goals, the NMSU Counseling and Psychotherapy Research Project will be housed in the NMSU Counseling and Educational Psychology Clinic, located in O’Donnell Hall. The methods to conduct the research will be varied, Perez-Rojas said, and will include examining a variety of data from clients as well as counseling graduate students training to become counselors and psychotherapists at the clinic.

Undergraduate students are also helping conduct important research in other projects, including An’s research into the existence of long-term functional disability in some patients with an anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tear, despite having had surgery. An is conducting his research with the help of undergraduate research assistant Cydnee Plant. An and Plant are both studying a person’s balance, among other tests, to determine why functional joint instability has been linked to result from failure in the neuromuscular control system.

“I believe that the proposed research will advance our understanding of the neuroplastic changes occurring among a variety of patients with musculoskeletal pathologies in long-term joint health and function,” An said. “Further, it will provide valuable information to both professionals and the medical community about scientific evidence for novel clinical and translational intervention approaches.”