Dissertation Defenses

Doctoral students who have an upcoming dissertation oral defense are posted here. So why not take this opportunity to learn about the research that our graduate students are doing!

Dissertation Defense for Joseph Orefice

Program: Natural Resources Environ. Studies: PHD

Department Contact Email: nress.phd@unh.edu

Defense Title: Silvopasturing in the Northeast United States

Defense Date and Time: 04/01/15 11:00 am

Defense Location: Morrill 204

Defense Advisor: Dr. John Carroll

Defense Abstract: Silvopasture, the sustainable integration of livestock, forage, and trees on the same unit of land, has the potential to contribute to agricultural productivity in the Northeastern United States and concurrently encourage the ecosystems services which trees provide. However, extremely little is known regarding the ecological characteristics of silvopastures being utilized, their social and economic drivers, or their agricultural productivity. This research investigated the ecological and production dynamics of silvopastures in the Northeastern United States, their management, and the reasons for their use. Forest conversion to silvopasture, open pasture, and heavily thinned forests was utilized to investigate the ecological and production dynamics during the establishment phase of forest conversion to pasture. Silvopasture characteristics, management, and reasons for use were documented through a purposive sample of silvopasture practitioners in New York and New England. Results document the functional role of silvopastures on regional farms. Additionally, the benefits and tradeoffs of retaining trees during forestland conversion to agriculture are highlighted.


Dissertation Defense for Tracy Keirns

Program: Sociology: PHD

Department Contact Email: deena.peschke@unh.edu

Defense Title: Enduring Impact of Childhood Stressors on Adult Health: Testing Psychological and Behavioral Pathways

Defense Date and Time: 04/01/15 12:00 pm

Defense Location: McConnell 302

Defense Advisor: Dr. Heather Turner

Defense Abstract: Stress and Health has been a topic of intereset among researchers in a variety of fields such as medical sociology, psychology, public health, child abuse, and epidemiology. For decades this research had largely been conducted in silos within each of the respective fields. In recent years, these silos have started to diminish. Sociologists have begun to consider the accumulation of stressors over the life course, including hgow serious childhood stressors (such as child abuse) impact morbidity and mortality later in life. Using Wave I, Wave III and Wave IV dta from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), this dissertation adds to this growing body of research by examining the relationships between chidlhood stressors, later stress exposure, and health outcomes in young adulthood; and tests the mediating pathways of psychological and behavioral coping mechanisms in addition to the moderating effects of gender.
Findings indicated that higher levels of childhood stress were associated with higher levels of adult stress; however, the relationship between childhood stress and adult physical health was not mediated by stressors in adulthood. Additionally, the relationship between childhood stress and adult physical health (specifically, self-rated health and being over-weight or obese) were, for the most part, not mediated by either depressive symptoms or poor health behaviors. In other words, only direct effects of childhood stress on adult physical health were evident. Lastly, the impact of childhood and adult stressors on depressive symptoms, substance use, self-rated health and adult weight status were greater for women and the effects of childhood and adult stress on substance use were greater for men.
This dissertation adds to the research examining both the proliferation and enduring nature of childhood stress exposure as well as the literature exploring the pathways between childhood stress and adult health. The broader policy and health impoications include a continued emphasis on the need to ameliorate abuse and neglect during childhood, interventions in childhood, screening in young adulthood, early treatment intervention in adulthood, and greater collaboration among researchers.


Dissertation Defense for Lindsey Cole

Program: Psychology: PHD

Department Contact Email: laurie.witham@unh.edu


Defense Date and Time: 04/03/15 12:30 pm

Defense Location: Huddleston 208

Defense Advisor: Ellen Cohn

Defense Abstract: no abstract provided


Dissertation Defense for Angela Neal

Program: Psychology: PHD

Department Contact Email: amf632@wildcats.unh.edu

Defense Title: Examining Situations Involving Intimate Partner Aggression: A Dyadic Study of Agreement on Behaviors, Attributions, and Emotional Effects

Defense Date and Time: 04/07/15 2:00 pm

Defense Location: McConnell 202

Defense Advisor: Dr. Katie Edwards

Defense Abstract: There is a growing body of literature investigating agreement of partners on instances of intimate partner aggression (IPA) well as attributions for why people engage in IPA. Although our understanding has increased, there remains a major gap in the literature: the utilization of only one member of a couple’s reports of the aggression and attributions (i.e., partners’ perceptions of why an event of IPA occurred). Using a dyadic study, romantic couples were asked to independently discuss the same psychological, physical, and sexual IPA incidents in their relationship. Seeking to bridge the two bodies of literature of both perpetrators’ and victims’ attributions for the same IPA incidents, the current study found that while there was moderate agreement on whether or not aggression even happened in an instance of IPA, as well as agreement on the general type of aggression that occurred (e.g., psychological), there was little to no agreement otherwise. Partners typically disagreed on most behaviors that were enacted during instances of aggression, the attributions for the aggression, as well as the emotional outcomes related to IPA. This area of research are imperative to understanding the complexities of relational conflict in the realm of romantic relationships, as well as being vital for the development and success of IPA prevention and treatment programs.


Dissertation Defense for Megan Gray

Program: Nursing: DNP

Department Contact Email: janed@unh.edu

Defense Title: Introduction of a New Dedicated Education Unit; Influence on Practice and Education at Portsmouth Regional Hospital

Defense Date and Time: 04/20/15 5:30 pm

Defense Location: Hewitt Hall 221

Defense Advisor: Gene Harkless DNSc, APRN, FNP, C., CNL

Defense Abstract: Improving healthcare quality and safety through the translation of evidence into practice is intricately tied to the education of nurses, both at the pre-professional and practice levels (Future of Nursing, 2011). To achieve the requisite knowledge, skills and expertise required of nurses for today’s complex clinical arena, new models of pre-licensure clinical education and professional development in nursing are needed. One such model is a dedicated education unit (DEU). The DEU is believed to enhance the learning of pre-licensure students through an immersive experience in clinical practice as well as enhance the adoption of evidence-based practices (EBP) by forging partnerships between clinical agencies and nursing schools. In the DEU, students work directly with experienced nurses, and this learner-nurse dyad is then provided support and guidance through strong role modeling in evidence based practice from knowledgeable faculty. Therefore this project aimed to implement a DEU model with a focus on learning more about the DEU students’ (n=8) and the non-DEU students’ (n=50) perception of the clinical learning environment, clinical instructor, nurse leadership, and nursing care on the unit. In addition, this project aimed to examine the effect of the DEU on student’s general self-efficacy (GSE) and describe the non-DEU registered nurses (RN) (n-21) and DEU RN’s (n=6) self-efficacy related to ensuring and supporting evidence-based practice. Also, qualitative data was gathered on the patient experience (n-= 30) within the DEU.

For RN self-efficacy related to EBP, DEU RN's had higher self-efficacy scores related to ensuring and supporting evidence-based practice than non-DEU RN’s with a mean difference of 3.98 (p<. 05). For student general self-efficacy and perception of nursing care on the unit, no statistically significant differences were found between DEU and non-DEU student groups. When evaluating the student’s UNH clinical instructor, a mean difference of 5.59 (p< .05) was found between DEU and non-DEU student groups. DEU students were found to have a more positive perception of their clinical learning environment with a mean difference of 12.45 (p< .05) and a more positive perception of leadership style with a mean difference of 4.18 (p< .05) when compared to non-DEU students. The qualitative data revealed that patient’s viewed students as a “breathe of fresh air” and bringing “unintended benefits.” Overall, the findings from this implementation project supports the continuation of the DEU and begins to describe the difference between DEU and non-DEU on key variables considered to be important to promote safe and effective nursing practice.


Dissertation Defense for Cheryl Gagne

Program: Nursing: DNP

Department Contact Email: janed@unh.edu

Defense Title: Mitigating the Risk of Unplanned Transfers to Intensive Care

Defense Date and Time: 04/22/15 9:00 am

Defense Location: MORR 204

Defense Advisor: Susan Fetzer PhD, RN, MBA, CNL

Defense Abstract: Early warning score tools are used in many countries and healthcare settings to collate clinical assessment parameters and translate them into a language that can be used to predict the clinical deterioration of patients. These tools are used in spite of many conflicting studies regarding their validity, reliability and effectiveness. In this quality improvement project an early warning score was embedded in the electronic medical record at one community hospital. The purpose was to facilitate an early response by nurses to changes in patients’ assessments through alert messages programmed into the electronic medical record. Phase I of the project involved a pilot unit as an initial test of the early warning score tool. Phase I findings demonstrated an 80% reduction in the number of patients being transferred to the intensive care unit following a rapid response team call. It also demonstrated the same 80% reduction in the number of patients being admitted to the intensive care unit in a state of serious clinical deterioration. In Phase II, the project was extended to all medical surgical units with the addition of two alternative methods for communicating alerts to nurses. In Phase II nurse response times to EWS alerts improved over 80% (p = 0.0001), while the number of unplanned transfers of patients to the intensive care unit without and with signs of serious clinical deterioration increased from 1.96 to 3.33 per 1,000 patient days and from 1.14 to 1.67 per 1,000 patient days, respectively. Phased implementation of an early warning score tool led to fewer unplanned ICU transfers (Phase I) and improved response time to early warning score alerts (Phase II).


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