KU News: Just one quality conversation with a friend boosts daily well-being, study shows

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Just one quality conversation with a friend boosts daily well-being, study shows
LAWRENCE — Conversing with a friend just once during the day to catch up, joke around or tell them you’re thinking of them can increase your happiness and lower your stress level by day’s end. These are among the results of a new study co-written by Jeffrey Hall, University of Kansas professor of communication studies and friendship expert. “Quality Conversation Can Increase Daily Well-Being” was published in the journal Communication Research.

New program to match STEM undergraduates, faculty mentors to increase diversity, mitigate effects of pandemic
LAWRENCE — A team of scientists from the University of Kansas has received a five-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to match undergraduates in STEM disciplines with faculty mentors as a means of increasing diversity in STEM graduate programs and careers while combating career challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

KU School of Business earns extension of prestigious AACSB accreditation
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Business has maintained its global accreditation in business and accounting for another five years with AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. KU is one of just 194 institutions that hold both a school and an accounting program accreditation. AACSB accreditation is the hallmark of excellence in business and accounting education, and less than 6% of business schools worldwide meet the organization’s accreditation standards.

Study shows students felt more engaged by augmented reality but learned less than those viewing video
LAWRENCE — A new study from the University of Kansas found that an augmented reality lesson scored highly among student users, who reported that they felt more engaged with the content than from a similar video lesson. However, data showed that those who interacted with the AR model learned less than those who watched the video. The results suggest that educators must carefully consider when and how to use augmented reality as part of the learning environment.

Media advisory: Social media expert can comment on ‘messianic figure’ in Nigerian election
LAWRENCE – Like Barack Obama, upstart Nigerian presidential candidate Peter Obi is younger than his main rivals and more astute in his deployment of social media. But Nigerian social media expert James Yékú said there are many differences between Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign of 2008 and the Obi-dient Movement of 2022-23 that is rallying young voters across Nigeria. Yékú can speak with reporters about Obi’s campaign ahead of the Feb. 25 election.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman
Just one quality conversation with a friend boosts daily well-being, study shows
LAWRENCE — Conversing with a friend just once during the day to catch up, joke around or tell them you’re thinking of them can increase your happiness and lower your stress level by day’s end.
These are among the results of a new study co-written by Jeffrey Hall, University of Kansas professor of communication studies and friendship expert. “Quality Conversation Can Increase Daily Well-Being” was published in the journal Communication Research by Hall and co-authors Amanda Holmstrom, Natalie Pennington, Evan Perrault and Daniel Totzkay. The study was informed by and provides further support for Hall’s Communicate Bond Belong (CBB) theory of relationships. Hall is the director of KU’s Relationships and Technology Lab.
“This paper was an attempt to define quality communication in the context of relationships,” Hall said. “The types of communication we chose to study were ones shown in past research to make people feel more bonded through conversation.”
They studied seven types of communication:
1. Catching up
2. Meaningful talk
3. Joking around
4. Showing care
5. Listening
6. Valuing others and their opinions
7. Offering sincere compliments
Over 900 study participants from five university campuses — before, during and after pandemic lockdowns — were directed to engage in one of the seven communication behaviors on a single day, then report back that night about their feelings of stress, connection, anxiety, well-being, loneliness and the quality of their day.
As it turned out, Hall said, it didn’t matter which of these quality conversations someone had. The very act of intentionally reaching out to a friend in one of these ways was what mattered most.
“One of the take-home messages of this study is that there are many paths toward the same goal,” Hall said.
He said the study also was designed to explore the effects of both the quality and quantity of daily communications.
“There’s a lot of good research that says the number of interactions you have as well as the quality of interactions are both associated with being a less lonely, happier and more connected person,” Hall said.
This study found that once is enough, but more is better. Participants who chose to have more quality conversations had better days.
“This means the more that you listened to your friends, the more that you showed care, the more that you took time to value others’ opinions, the better you felt at the end of the day,” he said.
“The experimental design means that it’s not just people who are already having fulfilling lives who have higher-quality conversations,” Hall said. “This study suggests that anyone who makes time for high-quality conversation can improve their well-being. We can change how we feel on any given day through communication. Just once is all it takes.”
The study also brought in Hall’s past research on different ways to connect in the era of social and mobile media. The study found high-quality, face-to-face communication was more closely associated with well-being than electronic or social media contact.
“If at least one of their quality conversations was face-to-face, that mattered,” Hall said.
The paper also explains why quality communication makes people feel better. CBB theory claims that people use conversations with friends to help meet their need to belong.
“Across these three studies, quality conversation mattered most for connection and stress,” Hall said. “This supports the idea that we use communication to get our need to belong met, and, in doing so, it helps us manage our stress.”
What is exciting about this research, Hall said, is that it shows there are a host of good things that come along with just one good conversation with a friend. This drives home the point that making time for quality conversation makes our days better.
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Contact: Blair Schneider, Kansas Geological Survey, 785-864-0663, [email protected]
New program to match STEM undergraduates, faculty mentors to increase diversity, mitigate effects of pandemic
LAWRENCE — A team of scientists from the University of Kansas has received a five-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to match undergraduates in STEM disciplines with faculty mentors as a means of increasing diversity in STEM graduate programs and careers while combating career challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program, Building Emerging STEM Scholars of Tomorrow (BESST), will recruit students in their third and fourth years of college, a critical juncture as students make decisions about their postgraduation futures. In addition to providing quality mentored research experiences, BESST will help students build the skills necessary to transition to graduate school or the workforce through monthly professional development workshops and the opportunity to meet with career coaches from the University Career Center.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted undergraduate students in many ways, including limiting access to research opportunities and constraining their budding professional networks,” said Blair Schneider, Kansas Geological Survey science outreach manager, associate researcher and principal investigator for the program. “The detrimental effects manifest in both the retention of majors and the retention of undergraduates transitioning into the workforce or graduate school, which has further exacerbated inequities that already existed in demographics of the STEM workforce.”
BESST, funded through an NSF Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant, will focus initially on earth and environmental sciences, with plans to broaden to additional STEM fields. It will recruit students primarily from two existing programs: the Emerging Scholars program that matches first- and second-year Pell-eligible undergraduates with mentors and the Military-Affiliated Student Community program, which includes a large population of students that have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields.
“The experience a student has in their first lab will often determine whether they choose to complete a STEM degree and continue on with additional education. If that experience is bad, we lose great potential — minds we know we need to solve the big problems facing society,” said Amy Burgin, co-PI, professor of ecology & evolutionary biology and the Environmental Studies Program, and senior scientist at the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research. “We want all students who want to be scientists to have a good experience — to engage in a welcoming community, to build a professional relationship with a trusted mentor and to gain confidence and self-efficacy that they can be a scientist and belong in science.”
Though the COVID-19 pandemic affected all college students, those in STEM majors that require fieldwork for graduation faced cancellations of field activities or required courses, deferred or delayed graduation, and changes to research projects. Effects may have been worse for populations underrepresented in earth and environmental sciences, including women and students of color. BESST is meant to mitigate these challenges.
Faculty members from three academic programs (environmental studies, ecology & evolutionary biology and geology), three environmentally focused research centers (Kansas Geological Survey, Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research and the Biodiversity Institute) and two key support offices (Center for Undergraduate Research and the Office for Diversity in Science Training) have signed on in support of the program.
“The breadth of experience means that students will be able to find a mentor who aligns with their particular scientific interests. The ability to meet a student where they are and to support them to explore their own interests is a key factor in student persistence and retention,” said Alison Olcott, director of the Center for Undergraduate Research, associate professor of geology and co-PI.
BESST will build on Emerging Scholars, an existing mentoring program operated out of the Center for Undergraduate Research that serves first- and second-year students in STEM programs. Scholars accepted into the BESST program will work with their mentors during the academic year and will be paid through the KU Work Study program, the same model used by the Emerging Scholars program.
“We hope to follow the successful footprints of the Emerging Scholars program, which has shown increased retention and higher graduation rates among their student groups as compared to the whole student population at KU,” Schneider said.
BESST will require professional development for mentors as well as students, a feature that sets it apart from many other mentoring programs.
“Mentor training is often not formally part of graduate education, so many faculty and scientists only have their own experiences to draw on when mentoring students,” said Erin Seybold, co-PI and KGS assistant scientist. “It is important to provide mentors tools, strategies and knowledge about how to effectively mentor that doesn’t rely solely on personal experiences.”
The program’s mentor training will address the unique challenges associated with field-based mentoring, field safety, and responding to hostile or exclusionary behaviors.
“Sometimes field safety issues can involve the unpredictability of being outside: weather, animals, unstable ground. Sometimes field safety issues can be more nebulous and involve ensuring that the trip leader or senior scientist is welcoming everyone, no matter their background or cultural affiliation or gender or sexuality or financial situation,” Olcott said.
BESST mentor training will incorporate strategies to help mentors understand what “safety” means in terms of their students’ experiences and help prepare them to address issues that arise based on students’ identities. The training will be required for BESST mentors but open to faculty from other programs across campus and, in the future, will be more widely available through an open-access professional development curriculum.
“For STEM fields at KU, the mentor training will be an invaluable experience that we hope will build community and engagement so that faculty and staff can better train and prepare future scientists with support from their university,” Schneider said. “Beyond this, we hope to work with other universities and colleges so that they can develop a program of their own using our framework. How great would it be to see this type of program sprout at universities across the United States?”

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Contact: Lauren Cunningham, School of Business, 785-864-9540, [email protected], @KUbschool, @ksgeology
KU School of Business earns extension of prestigious AACSB accreditation
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Business has maintained its global accreditation in business and accounting for another five years with AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
KU is one of just 194 institutions that hold both a school and an accounting program accreditation. AACSB accreditation is the hallmark of excellence in business and accounting education, and less than 6% of business schools worldwide meet the organization’s accreditation standards.
“We are honored to retain our affiliation among this elite group of business schools,” Dean Paige Fields said. “This extension of dual AACSB accreditation validates our collective work to deliver excellent, comprehensive business and accounting education.”
AACSB-accredited schools must meet standards of excellence in areas relating to strategic management and innovation, faculty research productivity, learning and teaching, and academic and professional engagement. Accounting accreditation involves an additional set of standards specific to the discipline and profession of accounting.
Every five years each accredited institution undergoes a continuous improvement review process that includes a self-evaluation report and an evaluation conducted by a team of deans or directors from fellow AACSB-accredited business schools. These peer review teams make recommendations after assessing quality and continuous improvement in relation to the school’s mission and AACSB accreditation standards. Business and accounting accreditation reviews are separate processes completed synchronously.
The KU School of Business first earned AACSB accreditation in 1925, one year after the business school was founded. The school’s accounting program first attained its accreditation in 1998.
Stephanie Bryant, executive vice president and chief accreditation officer of AACSB, congratulated each institution that recently achieved or extended accreditation.
“Every AACSB-accredited school has demonstrated a focus on excellence in all areas, including teaching, research, curricula development and student learning,” Bryant said. “The intense peer-review process exemplifies their commitment to quality business education.”

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Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”
a KU News Service podcast hosted by Kansas Public Radio.

https://kansaspublicradio.org/when-experts-attack
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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings
Study shows students felt more engaged by augmented reality but learned less than those viewing video
LAWRENCE — As virtual reality and augmented reality move into more prominent roles in everyday life, scholars hope to determine how effectively they could work in the classroom. A new study from the University of Kansas found that an augmented reality lesson scored highly among users, who reported that they felt more engaged with the content than from a video lesson. However, objective data showed that those who interacted with the AR model learned less than those who watched the video. The results suggest that educators must carefully consider when and how to use augmented reality as part of the learning environment.
Mugur Geana, associate professor of health communication and director of KU’s Center for Excellence in Health Communications to Underserved Populations, led the study in which 44 students completed an educational module about the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the infectious agent responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic). Half watched a video that shared information on the virus, its protein spikes, the virus capsule and its genome. The other half interacted with an AR model of the virus in which they used a tablet that imagined a 3D virus model in the experimental room, where they could move around the virtual model and click on the 3D graphic. While doing so, they received audio instructions with the same information about the viral components as in the video.
“We are curious to explore how we can use mixed reality to address teaching and learning,” Geana said. “We’re all familiar, especially after COVID, with watching things and learning on a small screen. So, we thought it would be interesting to see how we can move beyond that 2D environment.”
The study, conducted in collaboration with Dan Cernusca, associate professor of instructional design at the School of Pharmacy, North Dakota State University, and Pan Liu, assistant professor at Marian University, has been accepted for presentation at the 2023 International Communication Association conference in Toronto.
Before participating in the study, subjects answered questions about their knowledge of the virus causing COVID-19. They were then randomly assigned to either the video or the AR arm of the study. During the experiment, participants in the video arm had their eyesight tracked to account for their attention to the video’s graphical elements. For the AR arm participants, a camera in the room and the camera in their tablet recorded their interaction with the virtual 3D model for subsequent analysis. All the participants were then exposed to distractor videos, after which their retention of the presented information was tested. Finally, interviews were conducted to record their experiences and feedback on the instruction.
“We were interested in students’ interaction with the viral model for both arms of the study. We measured which graphic elements they were paying attention to and to what degree for both experimental treatments,” Geana said. “In the AR arm, they could take the tablet, move behind the virus, get closer or engage on other levels. We also looked at if they watched all the instructional modules or skipped some.”
The results suggest that while the AR model that projected a representation of the virus into their physical environment was novel and more engaging, that novelty likely distracted from the information it was meant to convey. And while those in the video group learned more, that does not mean that AR is unsuitable for educational purposes, Geana said. Instead, researchers need to understand how it can be successfully adapted and used in classroom or distance-learning settings to engage and inform learners effectively.
The study results were consistent with previous research findings on AR in education, Geana said, while raising new questions for future projects. Upcoming studies at CEHCUP will aim to test diverse AR educational information delivery models and their effectiveness.
Geana said he firmly believes that immersive visualization technology is the future. To that end, CEHCUP is hosting its first research exhibition featuring entirely virtual research posters presenting health communication studies from doctoral students, faculty and alumni. The AR event will take place from Feb. 15 to March 15 at the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications. A smartphone or tablet is all that is needed to experience the immersive research exhibition.
For most of the study participants, the experiment was their first exposure to a mixed-reality environment. The novelty factor and the excitement of exploring a virtual 3D model were prominent causes for the lower information retention observed in the AR group compared to those exposed to video, Geana said. As students become more used to mixed reality as part of everyday life, the novelty factor of this technology will likely decrease. Therefore, the authors argue that a better understanding of its potential and most effective use in education is increasingly important.
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The official university Twitter account has changed to @UnivOfKansas.
Refollow @KUNews for KU News Service stories, discoveries and experts.


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Contact: Rick Hellman, KU News Service, 785-864-8852, [email protected], @RickHellman
Media advisory: Social media expert can comment on ‘messianic figure’ in Nigerian election
LAWRENCE – Like Barack Obama, upstart Nigerian presidential candidate Peter Obi is younger than his main rivals and more astute in his deployment of social media. But Nigerian social media expert James Yékú said there are many differences between Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign of 2008 and the Obi-dient Movement of 2022-23 that is rallying young voters across Nigeria.
Yékú, University of Kansas assistant professor of African digital humanities, is available to comment on how the political battle is being waged online ahead of the Feb. 25 election.
Unlike Obama’s successful election, Yékú predicted that Obi will lose to one of his two main “gerontocratic” rivals – Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress or Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party – or perhaps even to a fourth contender, Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, who was once was courted by the Obi camp to join forces to upstage the more established parties.
That’s partly, Yékú said, because the realities of a class-based social media in Nigeria are often not directly translatable outside digital spaces. Also, there is the geographic (north-south) and ethno-religious (Muslim-Christian) political balancing act that successful Nigerian political leaders must consider. Having picked a northern Muslim as his vice presidential running mate, Obi is aware of this, Yékú said, but he still must contend with the common assumption that he lacks the “ground game” and infrastructure the two major political parties are known to have. Obi has claimed this advantage reflects the ages-long structure of criminality and corruption he wishes to disrupt. But as he left the PDP to run under the Labour Party banner, some commentators are not so convinced.
But Obi has clearly been a success in mobilizing followers via social media, said Yékú, whose 2022 book, “Cultural Netizenship: Social Media, Popular Culture and Performance in Nigeria,” (Indiana University Press) is a cultural analysis of his native country’s vibrant online discussion space.
Yékú said Obi has drawn strength from the online energy generated by the #EndSARS campaign that began in 2017 and, in 2020, became an intense and comprehensive movement against a culture of police brutality and corruption by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of Nigeria’s police.
“The Obi-dient Movement is basically the necessary emergence of a proverbial third force in Nigerian election discourses, because in the last couple of election cycles, the contest has always been between the PDP and the APC — two parties that are essentially the same in terms of ideologies and their constantly cross-carpeting personnel,” Yékú said.
“Being the youngest, the most progressive and ideologically sound of all the candidates, Peter comes to resemble a political messiah whom the Nigerian youth, most of whom are fed up with the country’s political elites, imagine as the man to deliver the country from the plagues of endemic corruption and economic mismanagement which they spoke out against during #EndSARS. So the Obi-dient Movement is basically this youth-based, post-#EndSARS, social media-driven campaign for Peter Obi where everybody sees him as a messianic figure as well.
“The challenge for the Obi-dient movement,” Yékú said, “is whether Obi and his supporters can translate their online momentum and the frenzy of clicks and hashtags into offline electoral victory.”
To interview Yékú, contact Rick Hellman, public affairs officer, at [email protected] or (913) 620-8786.

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