Undergraduate student's research opens world of opportunities

August 17, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- For Kaitlin Farnan, a Penn State junior from Hollidaysburg, Pa., economics comes pretty easily. But the history and education major knows from tutoring that it's a difficult subject for many of her peers. Because of this Farnan decided to base her undergraduate research project -- which received an award at Penn State's annual Undergraduate Exhibition from the honor society Phi Kappa Phi, for outstanding junior research and first place overall at the Penn State Altoona campus undergraduate research fair -- on finding a more extensive way of teaching micro- and macroeconomics to college students.

In an education psychology course taught by Kay Chick, Penn State Altoona associate professor of curriculum and instruction and one of Farnan's project advisors, Farnan studied psychologist Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, which claims that people can have 10 different categories of intelligence, or ways of learning. Farnan decided to research his theory more and incorporate all 10 intelligences into her own economic lesson plans.

"People who teach have not necessarily been educated in instructional methods," said Chick. "A lot of them are experts on the subjects they teach and by nature only lecture during each class, but they should think about implementing more ways of teaching, to reach more of their students more easily."

Not only did Farnan's project find success at Penn State, it also found success globally. In March, Farnan was invited to present her findings at an international business and economics conference in Japan, where she was able to network with professors and graduate students from all over the world. It was her first opportunity to travel internationally.

"One minute I was listening to lecturers describe how the U.S. credit crisis was effecting their own countries and the next I was sitting at a lunch table with someone from Guam, Japan and Korea," said Farnan. "The experience was surreal."

In high school, Farnan planned to study opera in college until a hand injury prevented her from playing the piano, a mandatory subject in that field. She resubmitted her college applications to study education and history instead. She studied for two years at Penn State Altoona and moved to the University Park campus this summer. She spent her summer "break" studying Arabic in two summer intensive courses for her minor in Middle Eastern studies. Her hope is that if she doesn't end up teaching, or before she starts to teach, she can work as a cultural analyst in the U.S. Department of State. She's also a member of a research team doing a sociological study of economics on atheism and enjoys learning more about various religions and military history. 

"Kaitlin is a very determined student," said Chick. "She is a risk taker, which is unusual at her age, and she tends to be very good at whatever she tries to do. She's always trying new things and isn't afraid to venture into the unknown."

  • Kaitlin Farnan

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated November 18, 2010