WestConn Research Day on May 4 highlights student projects
WCSU nursing professor and author Mary Ellen Doherty to present keynote lecture

DANBURY, CONN. Western Connecticut State University will celebrate student research and present a lecture by WCSU Associate Professor of Nursing and author Dr. Mary Ellen Doherty at the eighth annual WestConn Research Day (WRD) on Friday, May 4, 2012.

WCSU President James W. Schmotter will offer introductory remarks and Doherty will give the keynote lecture during the opening WRD public session at 2 p.m. in Science Building Room 125. The lecture, titled “The Journey to Our Book,” will discuss how Doherty and her research colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Scannell-Desch, conducted three studies that became the basis for their new book, “Nurses in War: Voices from Iraq and Afghanistan,” released April 23 by Springer Publishing Co. Their research work explored the experience of U.S. military nurses in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from 2003 to 2011, women’s health and hygiene experiences during Iraq and Afghanistan deployments, and parental separation experiences for deployed nurses with children.

The WRD 2012 program will feature a poster exhibition of research projects conducted by WCSU students in a wide range of academic disciplines during the current academic year. The exhibition will be open for public viewing from 2:45 to 4:30 p.m. in the Atrium of the Science Building on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury.

Dr. Jane McBride Gates, WCSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, will deliver remarks and present the annual Provost’s Prize at the WRD closing session at 4:30 p.m., also in Room 125. Admission to the opening and closing sessions and to the poster exhibition will be free, and the public is invited to attend.

Doherty, a Ph.D. recipient from the University of Rhode Island and member of the WCSU nursing faculty since 2008, has conducted extensive research in the areas of childbearing and women’s health, and holds certifications as a nurse-midwife, family nurse-practitioner, and maternal-newborn clinical nurse specialist. She became interested in studying the experiences of military nurses in collaboration with Scannell-Desch — Doherty’s twin sister and a professor of nursing at Mount Saint Mary College — after observing the impact of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on her students.

“My interest in military nursing was sparked when I started having nursing students deployed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with their National Guard units, and when graduating seniors knew that their first assignment would be Iraq or Afghanistan to fulfill their military obligations after college,” she explained. Her sister and coauthor retired at the rank of colonel from the Air Force Nurse Corps, she noted. “Writing the book and conducting the research studies has been a wonderful adventure for me, and I would like to share my journey with the WCSU community,” she said.

Doherty has delivered research presentations at three scientific sessions sponsored by the Eastern Nursing Research Society, as well as at research congress meetings of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing held in Ireland in 2004 and in Austria in 2007. Specific topics addressed in her research studies include nurse-client decision making, birth plans, widowhood during pregnancy, therapeutic alliance, and the experiences of midwives and their clients.

Prior to joining the Western faculty, Doherty held academic positions at Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. A specialist in the fields of nurse-midwifery, childbirth education and maternal nursing of newborns, she holds a master’s degree in maternal-child nursing from Rutgers University and a certificate in nurse-midwifery from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She founded and served as president of Concord Nurse-Midwifery Associates in Concord, Mass., and holds memberships in regional, national and international nursing organizations.

Approximately 30 student research projects have been accepted for participation in WRD 2012, representing academic departments in the sciences, liberal arts, business and professional studies at WCSU. Projects were approved by the student’s faculty adviser prior to submission to the WRD organizing committee for inclusion in the program. A WRD seminar and luncheon at the Student Center immediately preceding the public program will feature student presentations of several projects to invited guests from the WCSU faculty and staff and the Greater Danbury business and civic community.

Western faculty members will conduct judging during the poster session to select the 2012 recipient of the Provost’s Prize, which will contribute $1,000 toward student expenses for presentation of an original research project at a professional conference. Student participants in WRD who will be continuing their studies at Western during the 2012-13 academic year are eligible to be judged for the prize.

Dr. Susan Maskel, professor of biological and environmental sciences and cochair of the WRD 2012 organizing committee, observed the annual event provides an important opportunity for Western students to gain valuable experience in conducting and presenting research projects.

“They get the experience of presenting at a professional conference without the anxiety that goes with the conference setting, and the ability to share their work with other members of the university community both in their discipline and in other fields,” Maskel said. “Their experience at WRD also will be helpful to them when they are preparing to apply for advanced education or employment.”

Associate Professor of Management Information Systems Dr. Emilio Collar, cochair of the WRD 2012 committee, noted that for many undergraduate students, the projects presented at the event represent their first effort to conduct professionally rigorous academic research. “This is a great opportunity to get that experience,” he said.

WCSU sponsors for WRD 2012 include the Office of the Provost and the Office of Admissions. Additional support has been provided by the Office of the President.

In addition to Maskel and Collar, members of the WRD 2012 organizing committee include Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Sam Lightwood, Associate Professor of Art Marjorie Portnow, Professor of Nursing Dr. Catherine Rice, and University Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Brian Stevens.

For more information, contact Maskel at (203) 837-8799 or maskels@wcsu.edu, or the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.


Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

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