Undergraduate Research & Creative Activity

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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.

2022 Award Winners

  • Max Bergstrom: 1st place (tie), Business: SHARING Project: Food Rescue (Faculty Advisor: Emmett Lodree & Irem Orgut)
  • Matthew Gaines: 1st place (tie), Business: Beyond average health: higher moments of the health production function (Faculty Advisor: Chris Whaley)
  • Sawyer Weed, Mason Mulnix, & Jamar Strother: 2nd place, Business: UA Experiential Learning Opportunities (Faculty Advisor: Chapman Greer)
  • Erin Barksdale: 3rd place, Business: Working Capital in the Local Service Sector (Faculty Advisor: Craig Armstrong)
  • John Winschel: 3rd place, Virtual Presentations: Accessibility of Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms for US Health Facilities (Faculty Advisors: Dwight Lewis & Thomas English)
  • Ryan Griffin, Jay Johnson, Mike Heller, & Jack Underwood: 3rd place, Health Sciences: Effects of Statutory Nurse‐to‐Patient Staffing Requirements on Bed Availability, Access, and Cost (Faculty Advisors: Thomas English & Dwight Lewis)

Recipients of the Outstanding Mentorship of the Undergraduate Students in Research

  • Dr. Thomas English
  • Dr. Dwight Lewis

All 2022 Participants

Critical Access Hospitals ‐ Where Should We Add More Beds?

Erica Hummeldorf, Diana Darr, & Ariana Jackson

Mentors: Tom English, Dwight Lewis


The literature on hospital closures in rural America and disparities in physical access to hospital care among rural residents in the US is well established. Designated by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), critical access hospitals (CAHs) are designed to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals in the US and to improve access to healthcare among rural communities. CAH status should be considered if it is appropriate for the community's needs. CAH’s goal is to provide as many services as a “normal” hospital. CMS closely monitors the performance of CAHs. As of July 2021, there were 1,353 CAHs in the US. The objective of this study is two-fold. The first objective of this study is to examine physical access to hospitals in the US with focus on the Southeast Region with hopes of understanding the empirical impact of existing CAHs. The second objective of this study is to determine new locations ideal for the CAH designation with the goal of promoting physical access to care.

Physical access to hospital care was operationalized using the Enhanced Two-Step Floating Catchment Approach (E2SFCA) with a decay function representing an idyllic scenario where prospective patients prefer to travel to their closest hospital to receive care. Attributes of US community hospitals come from the American Hospital Association, while population data come from the US Census American Community Survey. The estimated travel time between each population’s US Census Tract centroid to each community hospital was generated using ArcGIS Pro © and StreetMap Premium ©. Differences between the E2SFCA scores of each US Census Tract with and without the inclusion of CAHs are examined to identify areas that benefit the most from CAHs. Using policy constraints established by CMS and considering hospitals at-risk for closure, a location-allocation model was used to identify locations for new CAHs in the US.

Equitable access to hospital care is paramount in promoting population health in the US. Given consideration of recent COVID-19 Pandemic trends of limited hospital capacity during past waves, we hope our findings will facilitate solution-oriented dialogue on physical access to hospital care. Our analysis will show geographic areas that meet criteria for the implementation of a CAH. We will utilize literature to convey the importance of an increase in CAH to promote access to care. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of meeting public demand for access to healthcare across the country and the need for CAH.

Physical Access to Emergency Response Acute Ischemic Stroke Treatment in Alabama Hospitals

Abigail Gunter, Kenneth (Matthew) Haynes, & Robert (Rob) Cullison

Mentor: Dwight Lewis


Stroke is an often-underdiagnosed medical condition that accounts for roughly one out of every 19 deaths in the US and is a leading cause of disability that can be very expensive to treat in the long term. The stroke belt spans the southeastern region of the United States and illustrates the disproportionate stroke incidence rate experienced by residents of southeastern states. Preliminary research with data from the AHA found that one of the states in the stroke belt, Alabama, has the lowest proportion of hospitals with stroke or TeleStroke services. Despite known evidence-based practices in the treatment of acute ischemic stroke, some stroke patients in the US do not receive effective treatment due to limited proximal distance to neurological experts. TeleStroke is a healthcare service made available to provide increased access to neurological care for stroke patients unable to get to medical facilities with on-site stroke-related care in a timely manner. Given this information, Alabamians could benefit most from the introduction of TeleStroke technology to existing facilities which is what this study aims to suggest.

The objective of this study is to examine spatial accessibility to ischemic stroke treatment in the US by accounting for sites that have in-person neurological care and TeleStroke services. Also, this study aims to identify new hospitals primed to offer TeleStroke services, which will increase physical access in Alabama.

Data on hospitals in the US that offer evidence-based stroke care come from the American Hospital Association. Hospitals that have staffed neurologists or offer TeleStroke services are considered as being able to offer ideal stroke care. The population of interest in this analysis is between US citizens aged 45 years and older, and US citizens aged 65 and older. Population counts and additional characteristics at the US Census Tract level came from the US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-year estimates. We measured accessibility to advanced maternal care birthing hospitals using the Enhanced Two-Step Floating Catchment Approach (E2SFCA). Travel time estimates for the E2SFCA were generated using ArcGIS Pro© and StreetMap Premium© and transformed into prehospital travel time using previously published formulas. A location-allocation model was used to identify hospitals ideal to host TeleStroke services with the goal of increasing access to at-risk populations.

There have been significant advancements in the treatment of stroke care, but it is most effective when offered within three hours after the onset of a stroke. Findings from our analyses can help us identify populations at risk of not receiving timely care and identify locations for possible future TeleStroke facilities.

Access to OB care in Alabama

Jala Watkins, Sarah Neuser, & Mckenzie Cochran

Mentors: Dwight Lewis & Thomas English


Despite being one of the most prosperous countries in the world, the United States ranks 60th worldwide in terms of maternal mortality rates. Research findings from the CDC suggests that pre-existing diseases and birthing complications are linked to these high maternal mortality rates, particularly in rural areas where only basic obstetric care is available.

The purpose of this study is to examine the spatial accessibility in birthing hospitals with level II (i.e., specialty care) and level III (i.e., subspecialty care) care among women living in underserved communities. To generate our results and conclusions, we are using the Enhanced Two-Step Floating Catchment Approach (E2SFCA).

The American Hospital Association (AHA) and the American Journal of Obstetrics Gynecology (AJOG) provides data information on the number of beds and levels of maternal care from each hospital in the U.S. We have narrowed down our specific data to hospitals in Alabama that provide level II and level III maternal care. The population counts of women of childbearing age (i.e., 15-44 years) and additional characteristics at the US Census Tract level come from the US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-year estimates. We measured accessibility to advanced maternal care birthing hospitals using the Enhanced Two-Step Floating Catchment Approach (E2SFCA). Using this approach reveals spatial accessibility sequence that is more precise with intuition and delineates more spatially explicit health professional shortage areas. Travel time estimates for the E2SFCA were generated using ArcGIS Pro© and StreetMap Premium©.

From further research, the CDC suggests that two-thirds of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. Recognizing early warning signs in women and receiving quality care in an appropriate diagnosis can be a major factor in lowering the number of maternal deaths. Women with these at-risk conditions, according to our findings, are more likely to live in underserved communities and have less access to maternal care.

Effects of Statutory Nurse‐to‐Patient Staffing Requirements on Bed Availability, Access, and Cost

*3rd Place: Health Sciences

Ryan Griffin, Jay Johnson, Mike Heller, & Jack Underwood

Mentors: Thomas English & Dwight Lewis


Previous studies have highlighted that some regions in the US have challenges maintaining adequate nurse staffing. Twenty years ago, the California Nurses Association successfully sponsored and lobbied the California Legislature to pass A.B. 394, which was designed to improve nurse staffing. This state law was the first, in the US to require healthcare facilities to implement minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios to reduce the odds of nurse burnout and improve quality of care outcomes. Findings from the literature suggest that minimum nurse-to-patient staffing requirements are associated with lower inpatient mortality and improved employee retention among nursing staff.

Given the constraints presented by nurse-to-patient staffing requirement policies, the objective of this study is to examine accessibility to medical surgical hospital beds in a hypothetical scenario of a national nurse-to-patient staffing policy. In addition, this study aims to estimate the increased costs associated with increasing nurse staff at each hospital to meet staffing requirements in the US.

The bed count and nurse staffing at US community hospitals come from the American Hospital Association (AHA). US Census Tract population counts and additional characteristics came from the US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-year estimates. Cost estimates come from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (USBLS). Average nursing working hours come from a 2019 study of newly licensed nurses published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. In this hypothetical national policy, we mandated that a nurse cannot oversee more than five beds at a given time, as the 5:1 ratio was standard for various hospital specialties in California. We also projected that full-time nurses work 39.4 hours a week, while part-time nurses work 27.58 hours. Each hospital bed requires 168 work hours to be adequately maintained. So, under the hypothetical policy, five hospital beds can be feasibly maintained for every 168 weekly nurse staffing hours available at a hospital. Using this logic, the number of beds available at each hospital will be restricted to available nursing staff. We measured accessibility to hospital beds given this policy using the Enhanced Two-Step Floating Catchment Approach (E2SFCA). Travel time estimates for the E2SFCA were generated using ArcGIS Pro© and StreetMap Premium©. For hospitals with more beds than nursing staff, given our 5:1 ratio, we projected the costs to maximize accessibility to hospital beds based upon nurse salary estimates from the USBLS. To develop our Cost of Quality Metrics (CoQ), we are basing the projected quality improvements on a 2014 study published in The Lancet. The study found that medical-surgical nurses in Europe had a 7% reduction in inpatient mortality per one less patient attended to. Based on the 2014 study, AHA, Census, and wage data from the USBLS, the study will be able to illuminate the per-patient projected capital and manpower requirements to decrease mortality using reduced nurse-staffing ratios.

Medical-Surgical nurses play a critical role in the viability of our healthcare system, and given reported shortages in the US nurse workforce, an examination of this policy and its implication on healthcare access is imperative. Given this consideration, we hope that our analyses facilitate productive data-driven dialogue on the practicality of a nationwide adoption of this topic.

The Empirical Impact of the Closure of Poor Revenue Generating Hospitals in the United States

Jack Mason, Luke Denney, Sam Blincoe, & Waggs Greer

Mentors: Thomas English & Dwight Lewis


According to The University of North Carolina’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, there have been 181 rural hospital closures since January 2005, with 28% of those closures happening after 2017. Despite increased focus on hospital closure in the literature, there is also evidence of new hospitals being built the past several years. Nevertheless, with documented rural disparities in physical access to hospital care in the US, additional closures of rural hospitals in some locations may further exacerbate an existing public health challenge. There are multiple factors that classify as barriers to rural healthcare. These include transportation and disease, shortage of workers, health insurance in rural areas, internet access, bad health literacy, and privacy issues.

The objective of this study is to examine physical access to hospital care with consideration of potential closure of fiscally vulnerable hospital locations.

US community hospital data, in addition to each hospital’s bed counts, was provided by the American Hospital Association. Population estimates and neighborhood characteristics at the census tract level came from the US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-year estimates. We measured accessibility to hospital care using the Enhanced Two-Step Floating Catchment Approach (E2SFCA). We generated key travel time estimates for the E2SFCA using ArcGIS Pro© and StreetMap Premium©. Fiscally vulnerable hospitals were identified from a list published by the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. Differences between the E2SFCA scores of each US Census Tract with and without the inclusion of financial at-risk community hospitals were examined to identify areas that will be most impacted by future hospital closures.

At times, the principle of economics with increased competition of health service offerings may lead to underwhelming revenue streams for less competitive hospitals with limited quality of service. As such, it is our hope to identify key hospitals whose closure would be most detrimental to already existing rural health disparities.

Accessibility of Airborne Infection Isolation Rooms for US Health Facilities

*3rd Place: Virtual Presentations

Mentors: Thomas English & Dwight Lewis


Airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIRs), also known as negative pressure rooms, are areas within health facilities designated to isolate patients with airborne infectious diseases. AIIRs leverage air pressure technology to contain pathogens to a singular, confined area to protect healthcare workers and other immunocompromised patients within a facility. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for greater provider protection from airborne agents, a function for which AIIRs are designed. While there have been studies highlighting the importance of, lack of facilities for, and methods of achieving ad hoc use of AIIRs in health facilities, none have looked at the scope of the nation’s AIIR access and utilization and how improved infrastructure may aid future airborne infection crises.

The purpose of this study is to examine the US’s current capacity of AIIRs in response to a widespread airborne infection event using COVID-19 as a case study. More specifically, the study investigates the supply, location, demand for, and accessibility of AIIRs. Lastly, the current analysis highlights a strategy to optimize accessibility to AIIRs.

Health facility data for the analyses come from the American Hospital Association. Population data come from the 2015-2019 US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year estimates at the census tract level. COVID-19 related hospitalization data during most stages of the pandemic come from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical access to AIIRs was operationalized using the Enhanced Two-Step Floating Catchment Area method with a logistic cumulative distance decay function. Accessibility scores were categorized into quantiles and examined by rurality and neighborhood-level poverty status. As a retrospective case study experiment, a hypothetical solution is presented where mobile AIIR hubs are allocated to each state so that portable AIIR units can be distributed to hospitals in need of additional units. Accessibility scores from the hypothetical scenario are compared to the base case using the current AIIR supply at community hospitals. SQL Server Management Studio, ArcGIS Pro, and ESRI StreetMap Premium were used for most analyses.

Protecting the health status of the US healthcare workforce is critical to its functionality and viability. An understanding of findings from this study will aid in identifying hospital locations in need of AIIRs in times of an airborne infectious disease outbreak.

Analysis of Data Linked to Sex Trafficking for Network Construction and Pattern Recognition

Audrey Kim

Mentor: Greg Bott


Human traffickers rely heavily on the internet to advertise their victims. While there are existing products that aim to help law enforcement identify and track individual activity by running specific information through a large database of posts, Dr. Bott and his team focus on identifying higher-level patterns by harvesting large amounts of data from escort advertisements on sites linked to sex trafficking. Dr. Bott’s team works to identify groups of posts by post text, phone number, and image hashing.

Grouping advertisements helps law enforcement agencies determine circuits (a group of cities a particular sex trafficking organization rotates between) associated with post groups as well as predict future movements. To better group advertisements, research on the implementation of facial recognition on these sites has begun.

As well as implementing facial recognition on advertisements, we have begun research on the escort review site, which is set up for clients to leave reviews about prostitutes. Our primary goal is to build and analyze a network of clients and providers and then connect the data from the network to the escort database. This will assist our goal of finding what providers are real people, to ultimately determine potential sex trafficking victims.

How Does Remote Work Impact the Diversity and Inclusion Within a Company's Leadership?

Victoria Whisenant

Mentors: Allen Johnston, Jeff Lucas, & Jamie Hillman


It has been brought to light in recent years that few underrepresented minorities, namely women, have had the opportunity to obtain leadership roles in the workforce. We define a leadership role as one that leads a team through formal power. Women have often been forced to choose between familial and work responsibilities. As many corporations must be flexible between in-office and remote work, new opportunities may arise for women to occupy more leadership roles. The idea of remote work was often seen as dormant and rare among companies before the pandemic required organizations to adapt to telecommuting and fully remote work. As many may know, remote work is not a new phenomenon by any means. It has been an option for companies that had the resources which allowed certain employees to work remotely. Remote work has seen a steep rise in the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies were quickly forced to convert their everyday schedules to completely at-home practices due to the severity of the pandemic. As companies are allowing employees to return to the office, we look at the results of remote work and how it has affected women and their opportunity to rise into leadership roles.

We believe remote work will provide additional flexibility thus providing opportunities for women who in the past were often forced to choose between work and family. We plan to conduct this research through interviews, surveys, and with case studies of organizations that have embraced remote work options and with those that have not. We hope this research will answer the question of whether remote work will increase the number of women occupying leadership roles in the workplace to ensure the flow of ideas and opposing outlooks on problems.

It’s Different This Time: First Response Strategies to Cyber Attacks

Brooke Bailey

Mentor: Jef Naidoo


The prevalence of cyber-related crises in society is growing exponentially, resulting in an increasing number of incidents regarding data loss, data and network breaches, denials of service, hacks, therefore disrupting normal business operations. Customers and stakeholders are directly impacted by cyber crises, and upper management of organizations must respond swiftly to defend and renew their image after being victimized. Generally speaking, upper management as a whole have had fairly consistent ways of responding to traditional crises, such as external or environmental devastations – but communication strategies for disruptive, unforeseen events such as data breaches are still in their infancy. In our research, we will investigate organizational responses to data breaches following a cyber-attack.

The data corpus will comprise of press releases issued following the breach, and text analysis will be employed to parse the content. The responses will be compared to conventional strategies employed in crisis management to ascertain whether emergent or novel communication paradigms are manifesting. The study employs exploratory factor analysis to investigate the underlying theoretical structure of the emerging communication phenomena. Within the theoretical framework, we will be conducting a systematic literature review on organizational resilience theory and associating the presence of resilience to a higher rate of adaptability after a data breach. This study will develop a new strategic communication approach to how organizations should mitigate and respond holistically after cyber crises occur.

Individual Contributions in Non‐Swing vs. Swing States Through Election Years (2004‐216)

Nicole Kozhukhov

Mentor: Sugata Ray


There is always a battle for the “battleground” states or swing states. Candidates have different strategies to tackle the challenge of swinging the state to vote for them. However, the road to the presidency starts long before the November election. Individuals can donate political contributions to parties or candidates at any time to help fund campaigns. This paper seeks to explore the degree of significance and discrepancy between individual contributions in non-swing states versus swing states in election years.

Significance tests were used for comparison between swing states and non-swing states. Multiple linear regression models were implemented to test the significance of a variety of variables to a variety of outcomes. These tests found that there was ample significance between the mean of swing states and non-swing state contributions in election years. For the various multiple linear regression models and the logistic regression model, results included significant variables such as being from a swing state or not, state, and the transaction amount.

Cloud Computing and Existing Business Management Architecture

Brendan Granger

Mentor: Jef Naidoo


There is a long history of past technologies that make enormous leaps in human capabilities. Some of these technologies include: the printing press, the telephone, and the internet. Among the latest of these groundbreaking technologies is cloud computing. Therefore, the goal of this study is to systematically review the literature in the business management domain, specifically focusing on its effects on business management practices and paradigms. The study seeks to survey the current literature on cloud computing and business management architecture. The data was gathered using database management software Scopus. The findings of the search resulted in a data corpus that can be divided into the following sub-categories: the interaction of management and cloud computing, SME adoption, business conversion to cloud computing, the advantages of cloud computing to business, determinants of cloud computing adoption, previous studies of cloud computing in business, cloud computing in non-business contexts, and contextualization within common theoretical underpinnings.

The Technological Environment Organizational (TOE) framework (Tornatzky et al. 1990) is commonly leveraged in cloud computing research to explain determinants of cloud computing adoption. Our study explores this theoretical framework in detail in an effort to elucidate supporting constructs and evaluate its use for future research. The ostensible dearth of studies on cloud computing in the management domain makes this study very valuable in terms of its contribution to the body of literature in this subject area.

401(k) Mismanagement Lawsuits: Exploring the Aftermath of Fee Litigation

Julia Maylone

Mentor: Rachel Li


Among the most popular types of retirement accounts is the 401(k) plan, which is a company-sponsored retirement account that employees can contribute income to while employers can match contributions. Providing the benefit of contributing pre-tax income towards retirement, a 401(k) plan serves as a method for employees to maximize contributions. However, no 401(k) plan is perfect, and there are times when the investment options of such a retirement plan underperform in the stock market due to either market conditions or intentional mismanagement on behalf of the plan’s fiduciary.

Compared to other types of investments, there is a large discrepancy in reacting to fiduciary misconduct when it comes to retirement investments, having resulted in hundreds of lawsuits and more than $1 billion paid in out-of-court settlements (Hallez, 2020). The technical advancements in fee litigation have contributed greatly towards decreasing the information asymmetry between investors and fiduciaries, giving investors greater power and fiduciaries greater accountability (Wille, 2020).

Recent research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College indicates three main complaints that cause mismanagement lawsuits filed against plan sponsors: inappropriate investment options, excessive fees, and self-dealing. The research also highlights possible consequences that often come about because of fee litigation, including an increase in shifting from active to passive investment options, a reduction in niche, industry-specific specialty assets, and more fee transparency (Mellman and Sanzenbacher, 2018).

Utilizing the prior research of 401(k) plans, the present research takes a closer look into the aftermath of ten companies in various industries who have dealt with lawsuits aimed at their respective retirement plans, derived from either one of the three previously mentioned causes, as it measures their financial performance and changes in investment options against that of two control companies in the same industry. The present research analyzes how the ten companies’ retirement plans performed prior to being sued, how each lawsuit was handled, what changes were made to their retirement plans, and if these changes reflected a fiduciary reaction towards the lawsuit or overall shifts in retirement investment options among companies in their industry. This work provides an insightful glimpse into the impactful consequences that fall onto a company’s retirement plan when sued for mismanagement, as well as the continuation of previous fiduciary activity when loopholes in fee litigation are found that provide a greater benefit to companies than investors.

ERGs Excellence Stories

Breanna Bryant

Mentor: Theresa Welbourne


The research team started this project to mainly focus on diversity to get feedback from the individual ERGs within different companies and see what they are doing to keep up with the changing world we live in today. Employee resource groups, also called ERGs, many companies have ERGs for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and disabled people. In the last two years, all the data came from a form given to ERG leaders in the springs of 2021 and 2022. A consulting company distributed the form, but the consulting company works with ERGs and universities. The research the team wanted to do was different excellent stories. We asked the ERG leaders to describe their 'excellence story,' which is the ERG's activity they felt had the most impact. Before I started to work on the ERG excellence stories, I saw that I had to break the coding into three groups.

We wanted to see what groups the different companies helped and what they did to help all the other organizations and their people. We first had to determine the focus of each excellence story for the project, whether they were focused on their ERG or their ERG and people outside it. The second section we had to put the stories into was it the story was diversity or no diversity group. The central part of the excellence stories is diversity, but we wanted to know if the ERG's work focused on promoting diversity or other goals. The last section we had to break the stories into was the target. We needed to determine if the story's target was based on employees or beyond employees. Meaning did the company help people or didn't help people inside the company.

When reading the stories, I saw that all these people belong to an ERG. About 74 percent of the companies have an organization inside the company they are a part of. More than half of the stories I read were about diversity, but you could see that people outside an organization are helping more than just themselves. Most of the companies are listed more than two times, having different excellence stories, each time with other organizations. The purpose of this coding and reading the excellence stories are to reveal that diversity plays a significant role. You can see how most of these companies operate with organizations inside and outside the business. You can tell the ERGs positively impact everyone, especially the groups the companies are trying to help. Each story was trying to help another part of the company's community. The ERGs we have been looking at helps find the employee's roles with different organizations. The employees could be a part of the group and assist you in the long run. Also, the employees didn't have to be part of the groups to help them. It could have been the companies helping different groups and not just assisting the groups in they could be a part. We are still analyzing all the data, but these are the results I have found as of now.

Using Contents Theory to Understand the Group Size Paradox and Perceptions of Fairness

Sammy Geraci

Mentor: Paan Jindapon


Random and dictator games are two forms of contests in which rewards are either allocated by one of the participants or randomly, and then the other participant has the chance to reject that allocation. The likeliness of the participant to reject can reveal their perception of fairness as they may feel more unfairly treated if the rewards are allocated by a dictator than by random chance. Whether or not they are competing in a group or as an individual is also a variable with the potential to affect people’s perception of fairness.

This study uses random and dictator games to focus on what behavior participants in group contests view as unfair from their opponents. Participants first play random and dictator games as individuals to establish how they perceive fairness. Then they are placed in groups and repeat those games so that the rewards they gain also directly affect the rewards of everyone else in their group. Comparing the difference between the likelihood of participants to contest dictator games and random games in groups versus as individuals could indicate if and how people’s perception of unfairness by their competition is amplified in groups. Through this, this study will shed a light on how people in groups view the actions of the opposing participants in competitions.

The Value of Inclusion: An Exploration of the Benefits of Product Design for Marginalized Consumers

Helen Babb

Mentor: Stacey Robinson


In today’s world, many groups of people face challenges using products and services designed for mainstream consumers. These product designs often exclude individuals from effectively utilizing a good or service. For example, a product designed for one type of user in the mainstream market, such as a male with average physical characteristics (e.g., 5’10” tall), may perform poorly for individuals outside this range. These marginalized markets, relative to the mainstream target, often include populations such as females, minority groups, and those with disabilities. Product designs, or inclusive designs, focused on these marginalized markets consider “the needs and capabilities of the whole population to decrease the actual or perceived mismatch between the user and the design object” (Hollenbeck and Patrick 2021). However, based upon this definition, a majority of goods and services on the market today are not inclusive, with many individuals falling outside of the user target for products.

This work proposes that through inclusive product design, goods and services could better aid marginalized consumers, while also improving the mainstream consumers’ experience. Inclusive design has not yet been quantitatively tested. The present research is a work in progress to empirically demonstrate the value of inclusive design. Across two studies, participants were asked to redesign a consumer package good or a service element. The results suggest inclusive product designs - designs focused on marginalized consumers - are superior to mainstream market designs.

The Implications of Employee Wellness Benefits on Customer Loyalty

Autumn Jilek

Mentor: Michelle Daniels


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought substantial shifts to how we behave in the world. As “Work from Home” became a buzzword for the workplace, so did “The Great Resignation.” Professionals shifted their mindsets about their careers, with over a third of people saying they are considering leaving their jobs in the first half of 2022 (Robert Half, 2021). In September of 2021, a record number of 4.4 million people quit their jobs (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022). It is increasingly important to consider what drives people to be more productive, find work-life balance, or enjoy their job. However, we rarely think about how the treatment of employees can impact consumer perception of brands. Extant research investigates how relationships, brand personalities, and rewards programs impact customer loyalty. However, it neglects to consider employee wellness. This research adds to the brand loyalty literature by looking at how consumer perceptions can form from knowledge of a company’s internal operations. In this study, we aimed to understand how employee benefits offered by a company can impact various consumer perceptions. We hypothesized that consumer perceptions would be influenced by whether a company offers standard benefits versus wellness and leisure benefits.

We surveyed 322 students who received course credit in exchange for participating in a survey. The survey consisted of two groups: no_wellness and high_wellness. In the no_wellness condition, participants viewed a graphic of employee benefits that included medical insurance, retirement planning, and dental and vision insurance. In the high_wellness condition, participants viewed a graphic of employee benefits that included medical insurance, retirement planning, dental and vision insurance, and a $200 monthly leisure and wellness budget. Then, they responded to the same set of questions on a 7-point Likert Scale that measured various perceptions of the company.

We conducted t-tests across all measures. Most focally, for the survey question “How innovative is Company X?” respondents in the high_wellness condition viewed the company as significantly more innovative (M = 4.40) than respondents in the no_wellness condition (M = 3.92, t = 3.31, df = 318.2, p < 0.005). Additionally, we did a mediation analysis (Model 4, Hayes 2013) where employee wellness benefits was the independent variable, perceived innovation was the mediator, and brand loyalty was the dependent variable. Based on the analysis, innovation fully mediated the relationship between brand loyalty and employee wellness benefits (B = .29, CI95: .11, .48).

As companies continue to explore how to maximize employee retention and increase employee efficiency, it is also important to understand the implications this has on consumer perception. This research begins to show that encouraging employees to engage in wellness and leisure activities can be beneficial beyond internal results. Specifically, in this study we find that additional wellness benefits increase perceptions of a company’s level of innovation, which ultimately increases customer loyalty. We are currently conducting another survey that attempts to expand upon and replicate initial data from this study.

SHARING Project: Food Rescue

*1st Place: Business (tie)

Max Bergstrom

Mentors: Emmett Lodree & Irem Orgut


Food insecurity refers to limited and/or uncertain access to nutritious food. Worldwide, food insecurity affects nearly 11% of the population – about 820 million people. The United States faces a troubling dichotomy, where the rate of food insecurity faces high rates of food waste. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the food insecurity rate in the U.S. was about 11%, which equates to 37 million people, including 11 million children. Since the pandemic, this number has increased to over 50 million. Ironically, rates of food waste in the U.S. are anywhere from 30% to 40%, over 60 million tons. Closer to home, the State of Alabama is one of the most food insecure states in the country. Around 919,670 Alabama residents experience food insecurity representing 19.2% of the state’s population.

This project addresses both food waste and food insecurity by considering the food rescue problem. Food rescue refers to the reallocation of food that is safe, edible, and otherwise to be wasted, from donors to food insecurity people within a community. By repurposing food that would otherwise have been wasted, food rescue combats the mismatch between the demand for food from food insecure households and the supply from potential donors. We aim to create a plan that will facilitate food rescue by agencies from donors. Our food rescue problem optimizes the food recovery process by determining when to pick up food from where and in what amounts. Inspired by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina’s (FBCENC) Retail Donations program, this problem considers a context where an agency needs to rescue the available food in the community, and retailers (such as restaurants and grocers) have unsellable food leftover to donate.

We develop a linear programming model to represent our food rescue problem. The objective function minimizes the total holding cost of unrescued food plus the cost for an agency to rescue the food. However, considering that the product of holding cost and amount of food available for rescue at a given donor is a constant, we simplify the objective function to become a maximization problem, instead. Our model considers agency storage capacity, rescue capacity, and food rescue supply constraints. We employ Gurobi Optimizer through the Python programming language solve the linear programing model, which specifies optimal food rescue plans. We also develop an intuitive algorithm based on the knapsack problem to solve the agency food rescue problem and find that the algorithm's solution agrees with the optimal solution for all of the problem scenarios tested. Our preliminary results convey that agency rescue cost and the objective result are inversely related. The work presented here can be employed to further shrink the disparity between completely edible food available for rescue on behalf of commercial donors in the community and the demand for edible food from food-insecure households the nation and world over.

Beyond average health: higher moments of the health production function

*1st Place: Business (tie)

Matthew Gaines

Mentor: Chris Whaley


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.

How Socioeconomic Status Impacts Perception

Alexandra Barskiy

Mentor: Michelle Daniels


Socioeconomic status plays a critical role in how individuals form perceptions of others. For those from lower socioeconomic statuses, these judgments are often negative. For example, that lower income women are perceived as less fit for leadership roles and are deemed as worse romantic partners (Lott & Saxon, 2002). Alternatively, wealthier individuals are expected to perform better academically, even from a young age (Speybroeck et al., 2012), and are perceived to be more attractive and sociable (Gilmore and Harris, 2008). However, Gilmore and Harris (2008) did also find that lower income individuals were perceived as more agreeable and creative. These studies all show various judgments based on socioeconomic statuses, but there are conflicting conclusions on which group is judged more positively. Our study aims to elaborate on these results by providing more clarity in the way that individuals of different socioeconomic status are judged, and when those judgments differ in valence.

The primary goal of our first study was to understand how individuals who have lower socioeconomic status are judged at the collegiate level. To conduct our study, we first showed participants an image of a student, Jessica, conducting a presentation along with a short blurb about her- including background information on her socioeconomic status. Half of our participants were randomly assigned a condition that stated that Jessica was lower class while the other half were randomly assigned to a condition stating that she was upper class. Participants are then prompted to make judgments on a Jessica’s morality, warmth, competence, preparedness, and overall performance.

We hypothesized that participants would perceive Jessica more negatively when she was from a lower socioeconomic status. However, our initial data did not support this hypothesis. In fact, Jessica was viewed more positively in the lower class condition across nearly all measures. We currently hypothesize that these results may have been impacted by perceptions of Jessica’s work ethic, as opposed to just her socioeconomic status. In our initial study, the lower-class condition described her as a student who also works in order to pay for her own schooling, while in the upper-class condition, Jessica does not work. We are now in the process of running a second study that alters this wording to state that Jessica does not work (unaffected by whether or not she is lower class), in order to see if this causes us to receive different results. We hope that this research can help us better understand how individuals of lower-socioeconomic class are judged, and how we can combat potential negative stereotypes associated with lower income levels.

Working Capital in the Local Service Sector

*3rd Place: Business (tie)

Erin Barksdale

Mentor: Craig Armstrong


Working capital is very important for a small business, and we have investigated the working capital levels in local restaurants and bars. We are seeking the answers to how owners and managers are using their working capital and if they are using it effectively.

Accessibility to National Designated Cancer Centers for Metastatic Patients

Emory Crenshaw, Bailey Albright, & Paris Hairston

Mentors: Dwight Lewis & Thomas English


According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US and has a $150 billion impact on the US economy. Some cancers are more virulent than others and require specialized care. Leukemia is the most common form of cancer in children and teens. It accounts for almost 1 out of 3 cancer diagnoses. Most childhood leukemias are acute (fast growing) and are either Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) or Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). The acute forms of cancer require intensive treatment, often in specialized centers for treating childhood cancer. National Cancer Institutes (NCI) Cancer Centers are federally funded facilities designed to provide specialized care for cancer patients, as well as advance research in cancer. Being classified as an NCI Cancer Center is a designation bestowed by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) as the most rigorous credential that a cancer center can achieve in the US. Previous studies in this area highlight that residents in metropolitan areas are more likely to have higher physical access to NCI Cancer Centers. To date, no studies have published research on new NCI Cancer Center locations to improve physical access to advanced cancer care in the US.

There are two objectives in this study, The first objective, like previous studies, is to examine physical access to NCI Cancer Centers using the Enhanced Two-Step Floating Catchment Approach (E2SFCA). Unlike previous studies, we used a less aggressive decay function to reflect travel patterns because we made an underlying assumption that patients experiencing advanced forms of cancer are more willing to travel further, than those experiencing less severe forms of cancer. The second objective of this study is to identify other community hospitals with reasonable staffing and research resources to become a new NCI Cancer Center.

Data on NCI locations were obtained from a NIH website. The bed count and other attributes regarding NCIs come from the American Hospital Association. US Census Tract population counts, and additional characteristics came from the US Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-year estimates. We measured accessibility to hospital beds at NCI Cancer Center s using the Enhanced Two-Step Floating Catchment Approach (E2SFCA). Travel time estimates for the E2SFCA were generated using ArcGIS Pro © and StreetMap Premium ©. To evaluate solutions of increasing E2SFA scores given new hospitals, large non-NCI Cancer Center designated community teaching hospitals were selected as candidate sites to become an NCI in a location-allocation model. The E2SCFA score is the objective function in our location-allocation model.

Cancer patients that receive care from NCI Cancer Centers have lower mortality rates than those that seek care elsewhere. As such, more equitable access to these centers has promise in reducing deaths due to cancer in the US and advancing research in this area.

Impatience in Multilateral Bargaining

Nathaniel Burns

Mentor: Cary Deck


This experimental research aims to examine the effects of impatience on bilateral and multilateral bargaining. The situation mimics buyers and sellers negotiating the price of a good. The study furthers previous work surrounding experimental bargaining games by applying an unstructured, continuous-time design with discounting implemented through exogenous risk of breakdown. Economic theory suggests that bargaining outcomes should be distinct for patient individuals (those who do not drastically discount the future) and impatient individuals (those who do drastically discount the future) when negotiations take place across bilateral and multilateral markets. Specifically, impatience should hurt market participants in bilateral markets while the impact in multilateral markets is ambiguous when facing equally patient opponents.

The current state of the literature surrounding bargaining games is rich in characterizing behavior in structured bilateral markets. To a lesser extent, previous work has extended study to multilateral negotiations. We employ a 2x2 experimental design, varying buyer discount rate across number of sellers in a market. This unique design accommodates heterogeneous discounting in an unstructured format because time-pressure is applied through common-knowledge probabilities that a participant’s ability to realize earnings from negotiations ends after a certain amount of time, regardless of whether a deal is reached. Data was collected in a controlled lab setting over eight 48-round sessions, each containing ten participants. The data suggest that impatience harms buyers in one-seller markets, as predicted, but has little impact on buyers in two-seller markets.

IPO Class of 1996: The 25‐Year Reunion

Kaley Ward & Brinkley Cottingham

Mentor: Theresa Welbourne


Each year, hundreds of companies become publicly traded through an initial public offering (IPO). An IPO is when a private company first sells shares of its stock to the public. Following an IPO, some companies survive and thrive, while others meet their demise. Understanding what factors contribute to the life and success of companies after going public will provide a breakthrough in the business industry and allow future companies to plan ahead to ensure success following an IPO.

In 1996, the United States hit a record-breaking number of IPOs with close to 900 companies becoming publicly traded. From the 1996 cohort, only 100 of those companies were still alive in their original form (not acquired) and still trading on a major stock exchange 20 years later. But what happened to these 100 organizations between 2016 and 2021, which is 25 years post IPO, particularly the high impact effects that COVID-19 had on so many businesses?

Our first step was to uncover which of the 100 firms that survived to 2016 were still alive 25 years later. For the companies still alive, we identified similarities in their initial growth patterns and compared the companies’ sectors, number of employees, and stock price as of December 31, 2021. For companies that did not survive past the 20-year mark, we identified each of their sectors, offering price, and analyzed economic data trends from the death date to correlate factors potentially contributing to their demise.

In 1996, 872 organizations filed for an IPO, with 100 companies left at the end of 2016. As of December 31, 2021, there were 67 organizations remaining alive. The data analysis shows that several factors can play into the existence, maintenance, and success of an IPO.. A majority of companies that survived to the 25-year reunion experienced an initial growth pattern of stability or growth in price. This is illustrated by Revlon Inc.’s growth pattern.

By examining the death dates of companies and the historical economic trends during the past 5 years, we were able to connect the deaths of companies to major events, including COVID-19. Stage Stores, Inc., following an unsuccessful holiday season paired with a negative impact on sales due to the pandemic, filed for bankruptcy in 2020.

By analyzing the initial offering price, number of employees, sector, and quality of management, we were able to identify factors that contributed to the acquisition of Yahoo, Inc.. Yahoo’s offering price was relatively higher than most of its peers in the technology sector. After the mismanagement of their subsidiaries, like Flickr and Tumblr, combined with competition with Google, Yahoo sold to Verizon. There was reported evidence of poor leadership and an unclear vision that reports indicated were factors contributing to the acquisition of Yahoo.

Our results illustrate correlations between the offering price, industry, growth pattern, and historical economic trends that impact the life and success of companies following an IPO. The implications of our research can provide support for how new companies preparing for an IPO can ensure future long-term success, ultimately saving more jobs and increasing wealth by helping IPOs live longer.

Own, Don't Buy: An Analysis of The Real Estate Market's Shift From Accessible to Impossible

Ashley Hollingsworth

Mentor: Grayson Glaze


Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions many people make in their lives. Prior to the creation of the modern mortgage market in the 1950’s, buying a house was not incredibly accessible to low and middle income families - it was a territory dominated by a wealthier portion of Americans. Following World War 2, the establishment of the Federal Housing Authority and Veterans Administration (VA) home loan programs radically changed the formula; this new era of cheap and easy financing quickly changed the face of the average homebuyer. Prior to this, the standard down payment was 20 to 50 percent, and loans were paid off over a 5 or 7 year period; now, buyers had the opportunity to secure loans with much lower down payments, and pay them off over 25 or 30 year periods. At this time, the median household income was $2,990, and the median home value was 2x this amount at $7,400. Homebuying was, for the first time, accessible to the average American.

Fast forward to 2010, and this statement no longer rings true; the median household income is $49,445, and the median home value is 4.5x this amount at $221,800. Average median household income has not been able to keep up with average median home values, and buying a home is no longer accessible to lower and middle income families. This prompted us to ask the following question: “Why has the accessibility of becoming a homeowner plummeted since the creation of the modern mortgage market to now?” This led to a literature review in order to analyze the events that caused the market to shift from one that aided low and middle income homebuyers, to one that seems no longer accessible. This research is important as we face an ever-increasing decline in the amount of entry- and mid- level priced houses on the market, causing housing prices to skyrocket and accessibility to be restricted even further. This work is a step towards understanding why the market has changed so drastically, and creates an opportunity to search for long-term solutions to the housing crisis.

UA Experiential Learning Opportunities

*2nd Place: Business

Sawyer Weed, Mason Mulnix, & Jamar Strother

Mentor: Chapman Greer


The client of this project is Dr. Drew Pearl, Director of Community Engagement Research and Publication at the Center for Community Based Partnership (CCBP). The Center for Community Based Partnerships seeks to fulfill The University of Alabama’s mission of “advanc[ing] the intellectual and social condition of the people of the state, the nation and the world through the creation, translation and dissemination of knowledge with an emphasis on quality programs in the areas of teaching, research and service” through community engagement and experiential learning. Prior to our project, there had not been a centralized system of collecting these opportunities on campus. We were tasked with creating a database to strengthen the CCBP’s ability to fulfill their goal.

Our mandate is to create a comprehensive and dynamic database of ELOs offered through UA. The purpose of the dashboard is to display opportunities to different stakeholders. Each type of stakeholder — administration, faculty and staff, students, community partners, and the global UA community — would have a different view in the dashboard, tailored to their needs and interests. These tailored views better connect faculty, staff, students, and community partners in mutually beneficial partnerships, with features facilitating intercollege collaboration between faculty, encouraging student participation in projects, and conveying the importance of ELOs to stakeholders. This project is predicted to have a significant impact on UA’s ability to successfully complete, promote, and grow ELOs throughout Tuscaloosa, the State of Alabama, the nation, and the world.

The first step in this project was defining what constituted experiential learning within The UA community. We benchmarked 93 colleges and universities to determine how they were defining and displaying ELOs. Ultimately, we defined experiential learning as a hands-on, mutually beneficial partnership between the local communities and university. ELOs include a learner, an educator, a real-world context, and reflection. Our preliminary research included exploration of UA’s course catalog and other UA websites detailing ELOs. We created lists of faculty and staff currently working with community partners and setup interviews to learn more about their work within ELOs. We organized into seven teams — Final Presentation, Database, Dashboard, Transition, Interviews and Stories, Publication, and Final Report — each assigned to complete a key component of our final deliverables. The work performed by these teams culminated in a website prototype that implemented the original design of our mockups. The prototype has fully functioning features for faculty and staff views and the foundation for the views of other stakeholders.

We produced a final report document that included our final deliverables and our mockups. The report contains a project summary, methods, findings, recommendations, and conclusions for our client. The report discusses the key final deliverables of the database, automation process, dashboard visuals and mockups, and stories and connections with faculty and staff.

Our conclusions show that all universities need a centralized system to showcase experiential learning to bring students, faculty, and staff together. An updated and dynamic database will facilitate growing any university’s influence and impact across the globe.

Prurient Zoning

Lewis Fischer & Abby Morthland

Mentor: John Acevedo


At the intersection of alcohol regulation, obscenity laws, and the dynamic nature of business lies the issue of prurient zoning. The stripclub industry is calling into question whether state and local governments are infringing on their First Amendment rights. These laws have been notoriously difficult to find and record in the past because they are locally focused, so Dr. John Acevedo is the first in his field to gather such data and attempt to draw conclusions about the effects of harsh regulations. Industry leaders await his findings which will provide more clarity surrounding the effects of government regulation on their industry.

The study first gathered legislative data for state laws using a database known as WestLaw, with the goal of understanding how different levels of government control the retail and wholesale of alcohol. These alcohol regulations are widely theorized to be the most effective legal avenue for circumventing a constitutional protection of sexual speech. We then selected 16 states for a more in-depth analysis, which will provide us with a closer understanding of how particular local ordinances correlate to declining industry trends.

This project aims to answer whether a protected right of sexual speech is unfairly limited by otherwise technically legal government regulations. Our working theory is that the limits placed on alcohol distribution and zoning are intentionally harming the stripclub industry, and the data will draw inferences on government action, societal behavior, and civil liberties.