Winning Research

This team’s hard work culminated in a winning research focused on human trafficking in Delaware.

Intrigued by the opportunity to do original research, Kimberly Colder, Laurie Guinard and Kaitlin Meinhaldt each responded to Dr. Johanna Bishop’s invitation to become part of a research team, selecting human trafficking as their topic. Then the hard work began.

All three were from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences: Colder in the Administration of Human Services graduate program; Meinhaldt, a Behavioral Science undergrad; and Guinard, who was studying Psychology. Yet they didn’t know one another. That would all change as they spent hours reviewing the literature, poring over locally published articles about human trafficking, constructing interview questions, and conducting survey research to gauge the level of awareness in New Castle County about human trafficking.

The team surveyed citizens at the WilmU library, on Main Street in Newark — even at a local Walmart. They interviewed professionals in the field, volunteers with faith-based organizations, and attended meetings conducted by the Delaware Human Trafficking Coordinating Council. Transcribing and coding all the data was the final step before writing the research paper, Exploring the Dark Side of the World As We Know It: A Descriptive Case Study of Human Trafficking Awareness in a Mid-Atlantic State.

The paper was accepted by the Eastern Sociological Society for presentation at its January conference in Philadelphia. Months of research and writing culminated in the students and Dr. Bishop presenting portions of their research at three separate sessions.

Colder, who graduated in May 2017 and is applying to doctoral programs in counseling psychology, describes the research process as “a rigorous experience,” but she enjoyed meeting professionals from other universities around the country at the conference.

Guinard was motivated to join the project. She says she would be “learning the reality of doing research.” She plans to complete her undergraduate degree in January 2018, then pursue a graduate degree in mental health counseling.

Meinhaldt graduated from WilmU in January 2017 and plans to study Human Sexuality in graduate school. At the conference, she not only learned about current research findings but also intriguing research methods like ethnography. “This experience definitely prepared me for grad school — research, writing, applying the skills that we learned — will all be valuable to me,” she says. “This project is a real-world application of knowledge.”

And to Dr. Bishop, who the team calls a teacher and mentor, they say, “Thanks for a great experience.” WU

—Lori Sitler