Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity


Previous Years: 2019

The Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity Conference (URCA) is a premier annual event at The University of Alabama that provides undergraduates an opportunity to highlight their research or creative activity. The Culverhouse College of Business is proud of its undergraduate students’ achievements in research and their participation in URCA. In 2019, 30 Culverhouse Students presented their research results at the URCA.

Watch a playlist of some of our participant’s presentations.

2020 Participants

Effects of Perspective on Donating Behavior

Elise Batchev

Mentor: Carlos Bauer

Abstract

This research examines the relationship between visual perspective and donating behaviors. Past research has shown that the visual perspective employed during the visualization process can influence processing style and emotional experience. The first-person perspective causes bottom-up processing (Soliman 2017) and enhances hedonic emotions (Hung 2012). However, the third-person perspective induces a top-down thinking process, increasing self-conscious emotions and causing one to internalize the behavior (Libby 2007). Changes in donating behavior caused by a change in visual perspective will be measured and assessed. Moreover, the relationship between visual perspective and donating behavior may be moderated by additional factors. This research will focus on how past political affiliation, religiosity, and the presence of others may attenuate or bolster donation when considering the relationship between visual perspective and donations. The methodology that will be employed for this research includes a baseline study to assess the relationship between visual perspective and donations. The initial study involves a survey that introduces the concept of visual perspective and asks participants to visualize a scenario in which they are asked to donate to charity. Participants will be told to use a specific visualization perspective and then be assessed on their willingness to donate.

Locus of Control and Charitable Giving

Connor Best

Mentors: Laura Razzolini & Mike Price

Abstract

The primary goal of this research is to examine how locus of control impacts charitable giving. Locus of control is the extent to which an individual believes they have control over the events that occur in their own life. Studying the effect locus of control has on charitable donations helps to identify the reasons people choose to give to nonprofit organizations. It also serves as an identification of what kinds of individuals are likely to give. Prior research on locus of control has studied its impact on entrepreneurship and how individuals approach the job search process, but there is a lack of existing research on locus of control within the field of economics of charity. This research seeks to fill this gap. Through both surveys and a lab experiment, data will be obtained on locus of control and charitable giving. This data will then be analyzed using Stata to determine how locus of control affects the size of charitable donations and someone’s likelihood to give.

Self-Protection Under Compound Risk and Uncertainty

Nathan Brinkley

Mentor: Paan Jindapon

Video presentation

Abstract

We conduct an experiment designed to study elicit risk management behavior and their effects on disaster risk mitigation and insurance purchase. Resident homeowners in Tuscaloosa and Mobile are given choices against risk and uncertainty in both monetary loss and gain domains, and in both general and framed contexts. Demographics such as sex, marital status, household income level, and insurance policy premiums are taken to test potential differences across populations. This study seeks to understand factors influencing Alabama homeowners’ decisions to invest in windstorm loss mitigation. Homeowners’ participation in this research is necessary to help in the design of improved homeowners’ centered solutions for managing windstorm (tornadoes and hurricane) risks. The results of this study have significant policy implications on the design, selection, and promotion of specific windstorm resistant features.

Continued Strategic Marketing for Pickens County Medical Center

Caroline Brysacz

Mentor: Jef Naidoo

Video presentation

Abstract

We initiated a marketing campaign with Pickens County Medical Center (PCMC) to develop and distribute targeted advertising to increase utilization of all hospital services with an emphasis on preventive medicine. Rural hospitals are in a crisis and are rapidly closing throughout the United States. Contributing factors to these hospital closures include unfavorable demographics (“aging, poor, and declining populations”), the financial state of the hospital, and changes in delivery of care (Wishner et al, 2016). PCMC is losing its market share and has services that are under-utilized. In addition, PCMC provides a large amount of charity care which cuts into the revenues. The closure of PCMC would have a devastating impact on the county. It would force residents to find healthcare in other counties and would force the closure of the largest employer in the county, the federal prison. In previous years, the hospital has marketed based on the premise of "use the hospital or lose it," which called into question the quality of the hospital. The quality of the hospital is one of the top factors when deciding to pursue healthcare outside their home county (Wynveen, 2009). Promoting the quality of the hospital through trials of various promotional materials is key to changing the perception of the hospital and increase utilization. Data is still being generated but we will conduct a comparison of the various types of engagements we use and determined the most impactful ones. Facebook posts have varied in form and message, and we will collect more data before doing predictive analysis. When initially completing this project in 2019, Facebook engagement has far exceeded a typical Facebook page of the same size, yet lags behind comparable rural hospitals in Alabama. Two rural hospitals had engagement rates of 45% and 10%, while PCMC had engagement rate of 6% in the same time period. Testimonials also fostered the most engagement. Further analysis will be conducted to identify the gaps between PCMC and other rural hospital marketing. Testimonials with people well-integrated in the county performed the best. Photos and videos had the highest engagement. We are continuing to gather data to test our results of last year of testimonials having the highest engagement.

Impact of Immigration Policy on Mexican Immigrant Wages: A Generational Analysis

Isabella Cooley

Mentor: Kimberly Stowers

Abstract

As the debate around Latin American immigration intensifies in the United States political arena, gaining an understanding of the long-term financial effects for immigrants can provide telling information about the effects of US foreign policy. Through the joint analysis of wages of immigrants currently residing in the US, the number of immigrants crossing the border annually, and the policies that the US has employed in regards to immigration over the past 40 years, we can begin to understand how US immigration policy relates to the growing immigration crisis.

To complete the analysis, I used information from the Department of Homeland Security website to track the number of Latin Americans immigrating to the US annually. Then, using Simmons Insight, Statistical Insight, and Statistical Abstract, I recorded calculated wages of Latin American immigrants over 40 years. Finally, I utilized HG.org to collect information regarding US policies in relation to immigration and marked the dates they went into effect. In order to begin drawing connections between the number of immigrants crossing and the laws being passed, I combined the information from these three searches into a comparison line graph (number of immigrants vs wages), with the dates of US laws marked as time stamps. An additional analysis was completed looking at this information specific to Mexico-US immigration, with Mexican policies also being recorded.

From this information, I expect to be able to demonstrate how United States immigration policy is related to the number of immigrants crossing the southern border, and how policies can disproportionately affect immigrant economic status for generations. A primary limitation of this research is the inability to accurately track wages from immigrants who are being paid “under the table.” However, despite this limitation, this study lays a foundation for analyzing what policies are most effective in creating a permanent and beneficial solution for immigration and promoting financial prosperity for Latin American immigrant communities residing in the United States

Examining Administrations: Ability and Effort in Executive Systems of Government

William Cope

Mentor: Paan Jindapon

Video presentation

Abstract

The purpose of this experiment is to compare presidential executive systems versus appointed executive systems. In a system with an executive President, the President most seek election against a competing candidate and is therefore incentivized to put forward all of the effort necessary to defeat his/her opponent, be re-elected, and remain in office. In the case of an appointed executive, however, there is no opponent candidate that the appointed executive must compete with. The appointed executive must merely remain popular enough to avoid being removed from his/her position, and therefore will put in only enough effort to be popular enough to retain control of the office. Drawing from these assumptions, we hypothesize that presidential executive systems incentivize effort more than appointed executive systems do.

We construct a two-player Tullock contest and a single-player decision game where the player’s outcome is a function of their own effort and ability and their opponent’s effort and ability to test these assumptions. We examine the effects that modifying variables such as player ability and the initial probability of winning or losing the contest will have on contest outcomes.

The New Age of NCAA Sports and Player Ranking

Sidney DiNatale

Mentor: Robert Brooks

Abstract

The debate for compensating NCAA players branding rights, advertising or athletic performance has been astronomical over the last five years. As of Fall 2019, the organization has moved to allow players to receive financial compensation for their name, brand, and image. The NCAA Board of Governors are collecting various stakeholder’s opinions across all three national divisions: current and former student-athletes, coaches, presidents, faculty, and commissioners. Between the opinions of their stakeholders, as well as interactions with legislators, the Board will obtain feedback and other results in order to append these laws into the Association. Their discussions will continue until April 2020, however, each division is asked to implement their new rules immediately, but halt changes after January 2021. 

The NCAA is a complicated and multifaceted organization, thus the focus of this research is on College Football. Looking between qualitative and quantitative defining variables of the ESPN Top Ranked 50 ranked players, my goal is to determine quantitative variables that will statistically support any athlete’s rank. The idea that birth order, hometown, jersey numbers, and other defining characteristics of one's' childhood development could strongly influence their rank or athletic prowess has been a driving force to the cultivation of this research.

A Literature Review: The Effects and Studies on Student-Athlete Transfers

Veronica Douglas

Mentor: Robert Hammond

Abstract

The focus of research is a literature review on student-athlete transfers including transfer rates, reasons and rules for transferring, and public opinion concerning the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s role. Within the last couple of years, the rates of student-athlete transfers have been increasing in sports especially men’s and women’s basketball, football, and men’s ice hockey. Due to these increases, the NCAA has created barriers for transferring athletes, such as the “academic year in residence” requirement. The residence requirement says that transferring student-athletes must sit out for one year after transferring, and the NCAA grants exemptions and waivers for certain types of transfers. I focused my study on academic journal articles that documented the effect of student-athlete transfers, not only for the academic and mental effect of the students but also on the universities.

I also studied the public opinion of student-athlete transfers and overall opinions of the NCAA, including governing roles such as the graduate student policy, the rules of transfers, and the residence requirement policy. In recent years, the NCAA has changed its policies regarding their governing roles, especially regarding the graduate student transfer policies. I analyzed those changes and their effect on student-athletes in regard to stated academic, coaching, and personal transfer reasonings. These changes mostly affect African American students by decreasing their graduation rates and the ability to transfer from small community colleges to four-year universities to further their academic and athletic careers. My results concluded that the transfer process for student-athletes has an underlying negative effect on academic goals and graduation rates. I also found that in public opinion, the NCAA policies benefit large teams and conferences such as the Big Ten and SEC over individual athletes.

Reviewing New Venture Incubation & Acceleration: Implications for Research, Teaching, & Practice

Riley Doyle

Mentors: Paul Drnevich, Kris Irwin, Craig Armstrong

Video presentation

Abstract

Incubators and Accelerators focus on assisting entrepreneurs in turning early-stage ventures into profitable businesses by providing office space, technology, legal, and administrative support resources, coaching, and other mentoring services needed to launch, capitalize, and grow a venture. Through this multi-method study, we review, integrate, and examine the current state of academic research on incubators, accelerators, related university-based or -connected programs. Using a resource and capabilities perspective and applying a value creation and capture logic, our objective is to discern the contributory roles for what type of value is created and who captures it among the key stakeholders including entrepreneurs, institutions, investors, universities, and the ecosystems in which they operate.

Through doing so, we provide a typology of the current state of research on these subjects in terms of what questions have been asked, what findings have been supported, and what their implications are for research, teaching, and practice. Key findings indicate that incubators may provide more value for novice entrepreneurs than experienced ones, that business model alignment matters most with accelerators, and that in general, when tied to a university, such programs may divert scarce resources away from other types of innovation activity and decrease patentable knowledge generation. Through this review and synthesis, we contribute to these research streams by offering implications and an agenda for future academic research and entrepreneurial practice.

Developing versus Developed Country Foreign Direct Investment (FDI): A Comparison of Factors Affecting Multinational Enterprise (MNE) Entry and Exit

Abigail Gorbett

Mentors: Paul Drnevich, Kris Irwin

Video presentation

Abstract

Increasing FDI to developing countries is an important goal of many international development organizations and policymakers, being that increased investment can result in economic growth for the host economy (Zhang, 1999). Research on foreign direct investment (FDI) focuses mostly on developed countries, sometimes at the expense of better understanding the issues of the emerging other half of FDI from and among developing countries. The home-country environment, particularly in terms of its institutional quality and political stability, plays a significant role in a firm’s strategy. Comparing the factors that differ between developed and developing country MNEs in their FDI decisions can provide insight as to which factors allow firms to develop capabilities to excel in areas of high risk. In addition, whether a firm exits a developing country, and what causes them to exit, can demonstrate if a developing country MNE can better withstand the challenging institutional environment of a developing country.

In this proposal, we focus on measuring firm-specific factors and their role in the relationship between home-country institutional environment and FDI location (Wu & Chen, 2014). In doing so, we provide insights and implications for both research and practice by expanding our understanding of the institutional factors that contribute/prohibit successful FDI investment in developing countries. In our initial findings, we find support for the proposal that the factors influencing FDI entry and exits into developing countries differ by firms in developing and developed countries. In particular, we show that firms in developing countries more familiar with similar operating conditions will be both more likely to enter and less likely to exit than firms in developed countries. Firms in developing countries will also be less deterred to enter and less likely to exit due to uncertain macroeconomic events, and are less deterred to enter a country with an uncertain regulatory environment.

Shopping While Poor: The Impact of Government Assistance on Purchase Decisions and Consumer Emotions

Martha Groninger & Erin Obrien

Mentor: Stacey Robinson

Abstract

An estimated 42 million Americans struggle to afford food. Often referred to as the bottom of the pyramid, this underresearched group of consumers may live on fixed incomes, live with disabilities, and have children. The U.S. government spent over $6.3 billion providing financial assistance to an estimated 12.4% of the U.S. population with its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP supported consumers to access their benefits via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Similar to debit and bank (credit) cards, EBT cards are used at retail outlets to pay for food. While previous consumer research examines societal perceptions of SNAP recipients and their purchase decisions (Olson et al. 2016), the present research evaluates how payment form (i.e., EBT card v. bank card), as well as the shopping environment (i.e., budget vs. high-end retailer), impacts consumer emotion and choice. While the emotional impact of using an EBT card is of interest (e.g., SNAP recipients who are depressed may be less motivated and therefore less likely to become self-sufficient), the products purchased by these consumers is also worthy of study.

As such, this work examines the effect of EBT cards on consumer emotions and product choice. Our findings reveal that consumers shopping with EBT cards experience a number of negative emotions such as shame, guilt, and a lack of worthiness. In addition to these negative emotions (e.g., shame, guilt, unworthiness), our research shows consumers shopping with EBT cards choose private-label brands over national brands in a budget retail environment (e.g., Wal-Mart) compared to a high-end retail setting (e.g., Whole Foods). What’s more, EBT users are also more likely to choose healthy items. These findings suggest retailers and policymakers may benefit from better understanding of how SNAP recipients make important decisions related to both spending and nutrition.

Quantitative Analysis for Elemental Spectra of Archeological Glasses: Exploring the Feasibility of ED-XRF through Fundamental Parameters Calibrations

Hayden Hilkemeyer

Mentor: Elliot Blair

Abstract

Objectives

Energy dispersive x-ray fluorescence (ED-XRF) is one of the most compelling new anthropological and archeological practices due to its nondestructive, convenient, and timely analysis of artifacts. Prior research has proven the efficacy of this practice for materials such as pottery and metals but has yet to prove its efficacy for glass. This research project aimed to evaluate the efficacy of this practice using a fundamental parameters approach to calibration construction.

Data Sources

ED-XRF spectra were gathered in the .csv file format from ten glass certified reference materials (CRMs) and four test samples using a Bruker Tracer III SD. These ten CRMs were sourced from the Society for Glass Technology (SGT), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), esteemed glassmaking company Corning, and the Joint Research Centre of the European Union (BCR). Two spectra were collected for each glass - one utilizing a helium flush and lower x-ray voltages to capture low-density elements (those with an atomic number less than or equal to 26 for the purposes of this study), and another utilizing higher x-ray voltages and a filter to attenuate low-density elements from the reading to capture high-density elements.

Methods

After brief explorations of commonly occurring elements in each glass spectra in the elemental spectra software ARTAX, configurations were determined in the elemental spectra software PyMCA according to each data collection method for the CRMs and the commonly occurring elements measured. These configurations were used by PyMCA to calculate the part per million concentrations of elements in separate batches for both low-density elements and high-density elements. These calculated concentrations were compared in Microsoft Excel to the true concentrations for the CRMs for each element in order to construct a linear regression for each element, excluding noted outliers and samples where it was known that there was no presence of a certain element. This regression was applied to calculated values to determine predicted values, then assessing their difference from true values using an absolute percent error for each element of each test sample.

Results

Certain low-density elements (Si, K, Ca) more commonly found and important in the identification of archeological glasses were found to have lower percent errors. Most trace elements (which vary greatly in proportion from one glass to another) were far more difficult to account for and had much higher percent errors.

Conclusions

The fundamental parameters calibrations utilized were fairly effective at determining the concentrations of elements occurring in glass samples in both greater frequency and greater amount. Further CRMs are needed to construct a calibration that features greater variation among data points for the purposes of reducing the effect of leverage points in trace elements, and that features a larger sample size in general for the purpose of more accurate and consistent regression construction.

Fake News In Social Media: Effects on Vaccine Usage and Developments

Hays Hooten

Mentor: Susan Fant

Abstract

Fake News In Social Media: Effects on Vaccine Usage and Developments 

People receive news updates constantly each day from various news platforms. These platforms have the ability to distribute information widely. Reading similar versions of headlining stories from different people as well as robots can make it hard to distinguish what is true or false. Our society is both consciously and subconsciously absorbing “fake news” every single day on social media. Fake news is news that contains deliberate disinformation to deceive readers. My research is studying the effects of fake news on social media platforms for the development and usage of vaccines.

The University of Alabama has partnered with the University of Minnesota’s “The Mono Project” which is currently developing a vaccine that could potentially prevent Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)-caused diseases, such as infectious mononucleosis, cancers, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), celiac disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). A vaccine could also potentially prevent severe illness or even death from EBV infection following transplantation, especially in pediatric patients who have not been exposed to the virus or built up an immunity.

Through running the Mono Project’s social media accounts, I am able to experience first hand the negative associations people make with the word vaccine. A research article by Andew Wakefield (1999), claimed there was a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in accordance with an increasing autism rate in British children. This was an article published in The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal. The paper has since been discredited and Wakefield lost his medical license (Public Health). There have been several studies since, but none have linked autism and vaccines. This is a prime example of how one false claim can spiral into a frenzy of fake news. Since that article was released not many people know that it has no scientific truth to it and that it was retracted. One of the dangers of fake news is that it can be extremely difficult to tell what is true and what is false. Individuals and organizations are able to post an article or discuss a topic on social media and the public will believe it is true. These organizations are for the most part well respected by the general population. This means that if they announce that a doctor released an article saying that vaccines are a direct link to autism people will believe them even if the claim is completely false. 

Researchers have now linked falling immunization rates to recent resurgences of vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2010, California saw 9,120 cases of whooping cough, more than any year since the whooping cough vaccine was introduced in the 1940s. Ten infants too young to be vaccinated died of whooping cough during the outbreak. The CDC warns that events like these will become more frequent and harder to control if vaccination rates continue to fall (Public Health). This is extremely dangerous for the United States and the whole world. The World Health Organization is concerned about the fake news associated with the coronavirus outbreak. This misinformation is shared mainly through social media posts and causes unnecessary fear and chaos around the globe (NPR).

As we move and advance into the future of technology, it seems to be pushing us back into the past with vaccines. If social media users were not sharing articles and talking about how vaccines are having horrible side effects then there may not be a rise in vaccine-preventable diseases. To keep our country healthy the immunization rates cannot fall below the 95% threshold and they have due to people no longer trusting modern medicine (Carrieri, Madio, Principe). When a population's immunization rates fall below the threshold it makes the country more susceptible to disease. 

The Mono Project is aiming to develop the first vaccine for the Epstein-Barr Virus as well as trying to change the stigma around vaccines through social media. Social media users can aimlessly comment on our social media posts talking about how horrible vaccines are when in reality they save lives every single day. My research is going to demonstrate the relationship between fake news on social media platforms and effects on the development and usage of vaccines.
 

Gauging the Importance and Long Term Effects of Study Abroad on Professional Life

Cassandra Horkan

Mentor: Diana Gomez

Abstract

The world is becoming increasingly globalized, with the economy of the United States being among the topmost global countries today. The direction of businesses around the world and especially companies in the United States is moving towards a global economy. Therefore, a greater need for new graduates to have a global mindset when they begin their careers is presented. For students, studying abroad is the way to introduce themselves to the world and establish that mindset. This research is an analysis of data from students at the University of Alabama to find the importance of study abroad in their careers post-graduation. Moreover, this study will include an agenda for further research. The research focuses on data from various surveys sent to graduated students asking questions related to study abroad experience and the level of international interaction in their careers.

BeatBox to Future Proof – How Twenty-something Year Old Entrepreneurs Created a Thriving, Multi-product Enterprise

Gretchen Johnson

Mentor: Lou Marino

Video presentation

Abstract

This case study tracks the development of BeatBox from its inception in 2013 to its restructuring into a multi-product start-up, Future Proof, by 2019. More generally, this case study identifies the successes and pitfalls that any start-up can face: large investments, tremendous growth, supply chain difficulties, and ever-increasing demand. Additionally, it highlights the unique position and niche market that BeatBox created and how success in this category led the BeatBox team to expand into the exploding categories of hard seltzer and canned wine. Finally, this case leaves room for the reader to consider what specifically made BeatBox so successful, if restructuring made the most sense, if the new product lines follow current trends, and what Future Proof can explore next to continue finding success.

The Value of Information in Sequential Contests

Sabrina Jung

Mentor: Paan Jindapon

Abstract

A contest is defined as any situation in which agents invest irreversible and costly efforts toward winning a prize. The field of contest theory has been developed to aid in the understanding and designing of contests and has applications in sports competitions, elections, litigation, insurrections, and more. Risk preferences refer to the attitudes people hold towards risk and is an important factor in behavior and decision making. The goal of this project is to understand risk preferences and contest investment decision by designing an experiment to analyze risk preferences in a specific contest. The Tullock contest is one of the most well-studied types of contests in which two players compete to win a prize by expending resources in order to increase their chance of winning. Many variations of Tullock contests have been studied, for example, contests where the odds of winning are not known by the players, one player has an advantage, or one player moves before the other.

For this project, we will be addressing a version of the Tullock contest where one player moves before the other, the first/second mover advantage puzzle. That is, we will be attempting to discern whether the first or second mover in a sequential order contest has the advantage based on risk preferences. An experiment published in 2000 found that although the first mover should theoretically have the advantage a second-mover advantage was actually observed. Additionally, Dr. Jindapon has predicted that the first/second mover advantage puzzle depends on the risk preferences of the first and second movers.

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the investment behaviors of the first and second movers in a contest in order to determine how much a player will invest to increase their chance of winning a prize, how much the second mover will invest to see what the first mover invested, and how much the first mover will invest to prevent the second mover from seeing their investment.

Participants will be students at the University of Alabama. Data sources will be whether the student was a first or second mover, how much money they invested to increase their chances of winning, and how much money they invested to prevent the other player from seeing their investment (if first mover) or see the other player’s investment (if second mover). If there is a second-mover advantage, the first mover will elect to hide information. The initial trial run will be on paper, allowing participants to write the amount that they want to invest in each scenario. There will be 12 rounds containing two different scenarios, each scenario has a control. After the trial run, appropriate changes will be made to the design and implementation of the experiment, and a simulation will be created for this contest using oTree, a software platform for economics experiments.

Interest rate swaps: Floating vs Fixed.

Matt Jung

Mentor: Robert Brooks

Abstract

Interest rates come in two main types, fixed and floating. A fixed interest rate is one that is constant and does not change over the course of the loan. A floating (sometimes referred to as variable) interest rate is one that changes over time. These floating interest rates always have a basis for their interest rates such as LIBOR or other benchmarks. As these benchmarks change they then also affect the rate on a floating interest rate loan. Interest rate swaps are a financial tool that allows companies, banks, or anyone with a loan to enter into an agreement that changes the interest rate on that loan from fixed to floating or vice versa. 

The purpose of my research is to predict whether a fixed or floating interest rate will be more cost-effective and which one will save companies more money. In order to predict this, I will be collecting historical data on these interest rate swaps daily rate as well as the LIBOR rate. I am using the Bloomberg Terminal, a campus resource with vast amounts of financial data and tools, in order to collect a large amount of data from 1988 to the present. I am using Rstudio, an open-source data analytic coding software, to analyze this data. I will be plotting this data into multiple graphs in order to visualize and to predict or confirm the results and findings we have. I will run multiple tests and analyses to confirm which one (fixed or floating) saves more money historically and use this to predict which one will be most cost-effective now and in the future. One of the analyses will be to calculate the amount of money saved or lost with each type of interest rate based on a theoretical loan, assumed date range, and the historical data. This will show in dollars how much a company could have saved using a certain method of investing in interest rate swaps.

Almost every company, bank, and the individual has debt or has had debt in the past. Our research aims to gather knowledge and evidence to find the best debt financing strategy that will have over 30 years of data to back it up. The use of this research could allow companies to save millions of dollars on interest payments as well as give investors the information to invest in interest rate swaps with low risk and good returns.

Anchoring and Overconfidence: Risk-Taking Behavior in Fund Managers

Asaf Katzir

Mentor: Christopher Whaley

Abstract

The average American investor often seeks financial return through intermediary institutions rather than directly purchasing securities in financial markets. One of these intermediaries is mutual funds, in which $16 trillion in U.S.-based assets are currently held. Investors benefit from understanding risk profiles of financial instruments which allows for more informed decisions on the allocation of their capital. For mutual funds, one notable resource that many individuals, institutions, and financial advisors employ to assist in decision making is the use of the Morningstar star rating system. Mutual funds are rated on a five-star scale, with five stars indicating top performance, and one, or even no stars suggesting subpar performance.

Existing literature gives substantial weight to competitive and efficient security pricing in comparison to that of behavioral responses within financial firms. In this study, we investigate how mutual fund managers may alter investment behavior given particular star ratings or star rating shifts. This study extracts archival data from the Morningstar Direct database and runs regression discontinuities to determine if Morningstar rating dynamics impact the implied level of risk of any given mutual fund. Using a panel of U.S. open-end, large-cap mutual funds, historical star-rating is linked to the overall risk of the fund. Initial evidence shows that there are changes to fund manager risk-taking behavior with subsequent mean regression. We further conduct a difference-in-difference design to estimate any counter-factual evidence using the same dataset. Evidence using this approach is mixed and we provide a further discussion of the resulting implications.

The Economic Implications of School Closures in the United States

Colton Lapp

Mentor: Peter Brummund

Abstract

There is no standardized national procedure that schools adhere to when deciding whether or not to close school due to inclement weather. Casual observers of "snow days" in the United States will be quick to note that there is a large discrepancy between the weather conditions necessary to justify canceling school for a day. To explain this phenomenon, we hypothesize that states/counties are making investment decisions ex-ante concerning snow infrastructure that creates the different average weather thresholds that schools are willing to close for. To test this hypothesis, we collected school closure data from state boards of education from around the United States and are matching that closure data with corresponding weather data on snow and temperature. Under our economic hypothesis, we expect to find no marginal effect of additional snow on the number of snow days a school has in a year, once state fixed effects are accounted for. Our regression results will reveal insights into the decision-making process of policymakers and educators around the United States and may point to a need for some school districts to close school less or more often. 

A Narrative of Oppression: The Historical and Literary Presentation of the Omride Dynasty

Daniel Lee

Mentor: Theodore Trost

Abstract

In this paper, I analyze the economic standing of the Omride dynasty within the historical narrative developed by archeological finds and that of the Biblical Narrative of tradition. Comparisons are made between this dynasty's activities and those of the previous monarchs. Once this analysis is complete I theorize about the Biblical Narrative's decision to make these changes.

Digital Marketing Strategies in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Hannah Marlow, Linsey Medlin, David Ford, Natalie Vaughn

Mentor: Jeff Lucas

Abstract

The MIS Capstone team has been working with client Galt Pharmaceuticals, a startup out of Atlanta, Georgia, to provide a strategic roadmap for improving prescriber outreach.  In order to fulfill this objective, the Capstone team conducted research on Galt’s current marketing strategy and strategies of other pharmaceutical companies. The team’s goal in research was to gain a thorough understanding of current problems and areas of opportunity within the pharmaceutical industry,  particularly with regard to digital marketing strategies and prescriber outreach. The team interviewed various industry professionals and supplemented these interviews with online research.

Through web research and talking with pharmaceutical representatives, the team learned that the cost and the science behind the drug are important when reaching out to prescribers.  Pharmaceutical representatives and the relationships they make with both physicians and pharmacies are the most effective channel to promote and sell a company's product. Often, these representatives meet with physicians for a short period of time to briefly inform the physician on their product and the type of patients who would benefit from it.  All of the pharmaceutical representatives and doctors who were interviewed emphasized the importance of a patient-focused strategy.  


From looking at various small pharmaceutical companies’ websites, the team noticed that many companies spend a large amount of time and money on direct and indirect marketing.  It is typical for companies to include blogs, articles, statistics, shareholder reports, and transparency reports on their corporate websites.  The purpose of this is to provide potential customers with updated information on the brand’s products and to create a sense of transparency and trust in the company.  Some companies even have social media handles or links on the corporate website, and some offer customers the ability to sign up for emails to receive routine updates about the company.  

Statistical Analysis of the Houston Astros Cheating Scandal

Michael O'Grady

Mentor: Erik Johnson

Abstract

In 2017, the Houston Astros became the best baseball team in the world by winning the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodger. Since, the MLB has come forward and confirmed that multiple cheating tactics were used by the Houston Astros to steal pitching signs from their opponents, allowing the Astros' batters to know what type of pitch was about to be thrown before the ball even left the pitcher's hand.

One specific tactic was the use of banging trash bins during players' at-bats to signal the upcoming pitch type to the current batter. Using a database of all the instances of audible trash can bangs, statistical analysis shows the extent of how much this cheating helped the Houston Astros succeed in the 2017 season. Future analysis of other MLB teams from other seasons hopes to detect unusual batter behavior and other potential cheating.

Single Item Constructs in Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Amber Payne

Mentor: Russell Matthews

Abstract

Surveys in the field of industrial and organizational psychology are used to improve crucial human resource functions within an organization such as onboarding, retention, employee satisfaction, and pay. However, many of these surveys are lengthy and redundant, which discourages survey response and completion and fosters satisficing, the behavior that occurs when respondents answer questions adequately but not to the best of their ability. This can skew the data, misrepresent validity measures, and lead to inaccurate results. Our goal of this project is to minimize these negative effects by developing single items to best represent a construct using both its definition and the relevance that potential respondents find between the item and the construct. By adopting the use of single-item measures, surveys can give human resource professionals a more accurate understanding of needed improvements, helping both the employees and the organization overall.

Application of Walt Disney World Training and On-boarding Techniques to the Automotive Manufacturing Industry

Avery Perry

Mentor: Russell Matthews

Abstract

Walt Disney World employs around 60,000 hourly employees and uses unique training and on-boarding techniques to engage them in company culture early on. This has positively affected their employee turnover rates and led to high engagement and commitment. I have examined three techniques that Walt Disney World uses in training and on-boarding their hourly employees, cross-referencing them with proven statistics concerning each technique’s effectiveness. I aim to compare these techniques with those currently used by automotive manufacturing companies in Alabama. The automotive manufacturing industry employs around 60,000 Alabamians and is a vital part of our economy. Currently, companies like Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai rely heavily on training centers and online training for their manufacturing personnel. This industry tends to report low employee engagement and high turnover, which is not optimal. This research shows that implementing Walt Disney World’s training and on-boarding techniques can positively affect turnover rates, employee engagement, and total quality management. 

Applications of Microservices in IS Research

Rachel Porter

Mentor: Greg Bott

Abstract

Microservices is an architectural design pattern in which large systems are delivered through a collection of extremely small, independently deployable services or functions.  Prior to 2014 microservices did not appear in the research literature.  In the years since there has been an increasing amount of energy spent on the topic, but this research has been exclusively focused on engineering principles and uses of the pattern.  The goal of this study is to introduce microservices to the business research community.  The aim is to define the pattern for the IS community, outline the prior research on the topic, and identify research streams within the IS research community in which the impact of this emerging design pattern deserves further investigation.

Investigation of Wildlife Trafficking Supply Chains

Jonathan Oakley Prell

Mentor: Burcu Keskin

Video presentation

Abstract

The illicit trade of wildlife is a dreadful and global reality that threatens life on Earth. Each year, $23 million USD is generated in the criminal economy through wildlife trafficking. This complex system is comparable, shares many resources, and has linkages with other illicit trades such as drug, weapon, and human trafficking. There has been much research and media awareness published about the conservation and moral wrongs of wildlife trade, but little is known about the supply chains behind this illegal activity. This research highlights findings that have been observed through an operations and supply chain approach to this issue. By understanding these challenges and opportunities faced in wildlife trafficking, there will be groundwork to future developments in the detection and elimination of this illegal trade.

Improving Patient Outcomes: Developing a Mobile Application to Allow for Early Detection of Preeclampsia

Jemarcus Pullins

Mentor: Kimberly Stowers

Abstract

A mobile application (app) was developed to aid in the identification of symptoms of preeclampsia, an often untreated pregnancy complication that leads to high blood pressure and damage to organs like the liver and kidney. The goal of the app was to help identify early symptoms of preeclampsia and expedite patient-doctor communication. In order to assess the quality of the app, a Qualtrics study was created to collect public opinions on the usability of the app. The data will be collected and analyzed using a mixed-methods approach, collecting both qualitative and quantitative data analyzed separately and simultaneously. The information from the study will be used to make improvements to the app. Once finalized, this app will help to increase the prevalence of technology in the wellness environment. It will also help pregnant women recognize early symptoms of preeclampsia and get treatment in a timely manner.

Bankruptcy Commonalities

Lance Rodriguez

Mentors: Josh Pierce, Rachel Li

Abstract

I am analyzing 10k and proxy statements from the year previous of a company's bankrupt filing year. Some areas that we are the top executives' age, start firm-year, start position year, salary, bonus, total compensation, and their biographies. 

Turning Diversity Upside Down: The Impact of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) on Growth

Ashton Royal

Mentor: Theresa Welbourne

Abstract

In more recent years, businesses have realized that diversity has an impact on customer relations. Given this and an attempt to create more workplace inclusivity, businesses have started to implement employee resource groups, or ERGs. At its base level, ERGs are groups of employees who join together in their workplace based on shared characteristics or life experiences. Their basis was to give people in underrepresented groups a voice, and while that still holds true, more recently ERGs have evolved to prove their value to a business in a plethora of ways, including talent management, innovation, and employee development to name a few. This led us to complete a literature review in which we found that ERGs impact growth in the following areas: personal, ERG, and overall company growth. In our data analysis of 2018 ERG Summit Research Findings as well as extending our literature review, we found that there are lower scores when it comes to the ERGs’ impact on the overall company growth. We thought it was strange and interesting how ERGs had such a positive impact when it came to personal and professional growth and how that did not translate at all into overall company growth. With this finding, we decided to extend our research to a second part to look at why there is a disconnect for ERGs impact on overall company growth. This consisted of another literature review as well as analyzing each company’s website from those that are listed on Great Place to Work’s Best Workplaces for Diversity™ 2019 list. We analyzed how information for ERGs was presented on each website and how readily available that information was in terms of ease of finding it. We quantified this by counting how many clicks it took to get to information on ERGs, if the information was available at all, and we saw how that coordinated to both its Great Place to Work’s Best Workplaces for Diversity™ 2019 ranking and its Glassdoor reviews. The second part of this research is still in progress. 

Broadening State Capacity

Andrew Schmidt

Mentor: Traviss Cassidy

Abstract

The paper “Broadening State Capacity” finds the effects of the introduction and change of the State Income Tax: a critical component of state capacity. Using archived data on the State Income Tax from 1900-2006, the difference-in-difference research design allowed for the analysis of the staggered introduction of state income taxes. An increase in the State Income Tax was found to lead only to short term gains in government revenue and expenditure. In the long term, taxpayers migrate from the state of tax introduction or increase to new states with no income tax thus shrinking the tax base and offsetting the gains of the tax increase. Per capita revenue and expenditure were, however, found to permanently increase. This migration effect was found to affect higher income earners the most, and so the migrant outflow has the potential to be of sufficient size to completely negate the increase in government revenue.

The paper also finds a significant difference between the introduction and expansion of State Income Taxes. The introduction of a new tax is found to have a greater migratory effect than the expansion of an old tax, even if the actual amounts that taxpayers pay are the same. Two explanations for this finding are administrative cost and expected tax growth. It is much more difficult for a state to introduce a new income tax than to expand an old one as the administrative structures necessary to collect and enforce the tax are expensive and complicated. Taxpayers are also more likely to expect a new income tax to be increased in the future, thus factoring the future tax rate into their decision making; while an existing tax raise has no further effects beyond the concrete increase in the rate. My job as it relates to this paper is to collect more data on the introduction of state income taxes pre-1941, providing a more accurate and complete model.

Beyond average health: higher moments in health distributions

Nickolas Schwartz

Mentor: Chris Whaley

Abstract

This project investigates the impact of classic variables like medical care and lifestyle choices on the mean, variance and skewness of several health distributions. We achieve this by positing health as an output from a stochastic production process, a seemingly practical advantage over much of the deterministic literature. We leverage this unique approach to estimate how a set of explanatory variables impact the conditional moments of several health distributions. We then use these moments in a maximum entropy framework to analyze the shape impact on these health outcomes. We find evidence that medical care utilization significantly impacts the variance and skewness of the distribution of the ten leading causes of death in the United States. 

A Data-driven Investigation of Inventory Management Practices

Trip Starkey

Mentor: Nickolas Freeman

Abstract

Inventory management has been extensively studied in the operations management literature. Several best practices regarding inventory management have emerged from this body this research and can be found in numerous textbooks and trade publications on the topic. Although inventory management has received a lot of attention in the literature and has clear implications on companies’ bottom lines, there is little empirical evidence regarding inventory management techniques used in practice. In this research, we harvest publicly available data from a large retailer of home improvement products and use this data to study their inventory management practices.

Uniquely Alabama: Community Engagement across UA

Taylor Steen

Mentor: Chapman Greer

Abstract

This project, done in coordination with the General Education Taskforce, is an in-depth inventory of the efforts of the individual colleges within the University to give back to the community by means of community engagement and outreach programs. This will serve as a benchmark for the inclusion of a University-wide civic engagement requirement in the new core curriculum being designed by (and for) UA. It is imperative that the new core emphasize aspects unique to UA, distinguishing it to draw attention from a greater number of prospective students. Through this study, we can answer the question, "what is uniquely Alabama?", allowing for a more robust core.

A New Approach to Valuation of Fuel Economy

Tyler Trupke & Jed Henderson

Mentors: Alecia Cassidy, Traviss Cassidy

Abstract

We have compiled a dataset containing historical automobile characteristics from multiple sources for the years 1984—2009. It contains revisions to fuel economy labeling for each car. For a given make and model (or, if possible, VIN stub), we are able to access car and engine attributes merged with data from DOE guides (much of this information is publicly available, but in a virtually unusable format).

Valuation of fuel economy is important because policymakers think that there is an "energy efficiency gap," where people undervalue energy costs when making purchases because of behavioral failures. Policymakers use this gap as one justification for why we need fuel economy standards. Our goal is to use thresholds created by an incentive program to characterize consumer preferences for fuel economy in a static framework. This will tell us about heterogeneity in consumers’ willingness-to-pay for fuel economy.

By examining automobile transactions from the Car Allowance Rebate System (informally known as “Cash for Clunkers”), we can observe tangible incentive thresholds and their effect on consumer purchases.

Putting Words in Their Mouths: The Effects of Providing Customers with Pre-Written Social Content

Caneel van Nostrand & Bryan Gilliland

Mentor: Clay Voorhees

Abstract

Online customer reviews and social media comments drive consumer purchase decisions to the extent that 97% read these posts prior to making a purchase decision and 88% trust the opinions shared at least as much as they would an opinion from a close friend (Local Consumer Review Survey 2017). Given the importance of user-generated content, many firms have rushed to invest in social media spending to spur engagement with consumers, but few executives have seen any return on these investments (CMO Survey 2019). Given these lackluster results, firms like Amazon have developed new tactics to influencing online reviews: putting words in consumers’ mouths by providing them with suggested content for a post. In this research, we examine the efficacy of these emerging strategies through an experiment and analysis of secondary data from IMDb.

The results reveal that providing consumers with pre-written content can result in a substantial increase in sharing rates, bolstering a brand’s online presence and customer engagement. Specifically, the results of the experiment demonstrate that both neutral and positive pre-written comments are shared more often than a general request to share without content. The follow-up analysis of the IMDb social media footprint shows a substantial spike in the effectiveness of their efforts to provide customers with automated content for their social media posts in 2018. Taken together, our results reveal that firms could increase their social footprint by increasing the convenience of posting online by pre-writing content for their consumers to share on social media.

Factor Analysis of United States Incarceration Rates

Jacob Waggoner

Mentor: Junsoo Lee

Abstract

This project utilizes the econometric methods of a principal component model and a dynamic factor analysis to determine if there are common drivers of incarceration rates and their racial makeup in the United States. By using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, this project attempts to determine the proportion of each states’ incarceration rate that is a result of national and regional factors for four groups. The groups being analyzed nationally and regionally are white males, black males, white females, and black females.

The goal of this project is to identify any common components of the incarceration rates across states, determining how dependent these states are upon one another for their incarceration rates. Due to the division of prisoners into racial groups, the analysis will also demonstrate how a state prison system’s racial makeup is influenced by the makeup of other states. This analysis will provide valuable insight to those with interests in the state of American law enforcement and imprisonment, providing a valuable perspective when receiving media reports of law enforcement and legal system discrimination and providing suggestions as to whether state or national policy will be more effective in prison reform.

Designing an Equitable Food Bank Network with Minimum Disruption Risk

Lauren Williams

Mentor: Irem Orgut

Video presentation

Abstract

Alabama is the fifth state with the highest food insecurity rate in the United States, with 16.3% of the population lacking reliable access to sufficient food. In the United States, food banks serve the food insecure population by distributing food donations via a network of charitable agencies. The locations of the food banks and their service areas are critical decisions in terms of achieving equitable and effective distribution of food donations. Further, food bank operations are highly affected by natural disasters so when strategic decisions are being made on where to place the food banks, the risk of supply chain disruption due to disasters should also be considered.

We present mathematical models for achieving the following objectives: The first is to minimize the disparities between the agencies in different counties in terms of the distance they need to travel to access the food bank through an envy measure. The second is to minimize supply chain disruption risk by utilizing The Fujita scale as a measure to determine each counties’ risk of destruction as a result of a tornado. Our goal is to develop a resilient food bank network that provides equitable access to beneficiaries.

Analyzing Stress and Recovery Using Heart Rate Monitors and Heart Rate Variability with Tennis Players

Blake Wright

Mentor: Jenny Mainz

Abstract

We will use a heart rate variability app to record each players’ stress and recovery levels every day before practice or match and monitor these with the goal of keeping them as healthy as possible. We will use these numbers to help us lower injury risk and increase performance. In the future, we will get sensors that will even work while they play and monitor the players during their practice and gather their training load as well as their recovery intervals to help them perform their best in matches.

 

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