Undergraduate Research and Creativity Alumni Profiles 

Crystal Holmes-Smith, B.S. '15, M.S. Ed. '16

Foreign Language Co-Teacher, Peace Corps 
Major(s): Childhood Education, Social Studies Education

What research or work have you done since graduating from Buffalo State?

I returned to Buffalo State for graduate school and completed the Literacy Specialist Program while working as a graduate assistant for the Elementary Education Department and a substitute teacher for Buffalo Public Schools. While in graduate school, I also participated in a three-week study abroad program known as the Anne Frank Project’s annual drama-based education program in Rwanda. This was my second study abroad program at Buffalo State, as I also participated in a service-learning trip to Chile while still in undergrad. After graduating from my graduate program, I taught abroad in Honduras for one year. I was a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at a private bilingual school, Moriah School, which also happens to be one of Buffalo State's IPDS schools. I taught English, math, and science. Now, I am currently a Peace Corps volunteer working as a foreign language co-teacher in the TEFL program in Nicaragua.

Why did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?

I decided to do an undergraduate research project because of encouragement from my mentor. After a semester of my involvement in Global Book Hour as an administrative assistant, my mentor asked if I would like to take on the role of researcher. Originally, she suggested I find out “why children keep coming back to Global Book Hour?” However, my growing interest in the field of literacy led me to pose different questions. I was more interested in finding out how Global Book Hour impacted children’s literacy development. Rather than just what kept them coming back, I wanted to know what about Global Book Hour, if anything, caused children to become more interested in literacy. I drafted up an outline of what I wanted the project to be and sent it to my mentor for approval. Upon receiving my proposal, not only did she approve of my project, but she insisted that this project would be fitting for an Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship. She strongly suggested that I apply, and I did.

How did your undergraduate research experience influence your career path?

My undergraduate research experience influenced my career path by helping me discover that I had a strong interest in literacy, which led to me applying to the literacy specialist program for graduate school. Participating in this research project also led to me beginning another research project in literacy but in the international context. My second project was titled Perspectives and Challenges on Promoting Reading among Children: A Cross-Cultural Comparison, and I compared literacy perspectives in the U.S. with those in Chile, Rwanda, and Honduras. After completing that project, I am now living and working abroad.

Describe the research you did and if you presented it at any professional conference, juried art exhibit, or other off-campus location.

The purpose of my proposed research project was to study literacy development in children. I looked at this through three different domains. The first focuses on children and the effects of introducing children to literacy at a young age. Also, how valuable exposure to literacy outside of the classroom is to children. The next, centers in on parents and their involvement in their child’s literacy development. I sought to determine if exposing parents/families to literacy activities with their children increases the likelihood that they will continue these activities at home. Finally, I looked at what strategies teacher candidates use to make literacy engaging for children. The three will tied together under the umbrella of social motivation. Specific questions I had included: How can the collaboration of families and the community foster academic development in children? Can being a part of a social group for reading create intrinsic motivation in children? The specific community collaboration example I used was Global Book Hour. Global Book Hour is a one-hour session held at the Wegman's supermarket that provides an interactive read aloud with reading strategies and activities to local children and families. It also integrates geography, music, and art in an effort to make reading more enjoyable for children.

I presented this research at the National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) annual conference in Atlanta in March, 2015.

Undergraduate Research Mentor: Dr. Kim Truesdell