Published on October 25, 2016 by Mary Wimberley  
SURF students

Five Samford University students will present their work at the inaugural SoCon Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF) Oct. 28–29 in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

They are among about 100 students and faculty from the 10 Southern Conference institutions who will present research projects in all disciplines of the arts, humanities, science, technology, engineering and math.

“The event will be a valuable opportunity for undergraduates to gain worthwhile experience in presenting and explaining research they’ve performed in previous semesters and over the summer months,” said Samford Senior Associate Provost Tom Woolley.

The forum is hosted by Wofford College as part of the Southern Conference Academic Exchange, an initiative started in 2014 for member institutions to work collaboratively on academic-related matters.

Samford representatives and their topics are as follows:

Courtney Allen, a senior business major, Brock Scholar and University Fellow from Madison, Alabama, “The Oregon Effect: Do alternative uniforms affect on-field performance in college football?” Her research adviser is sociology professor Chuck Stokes.

Stephen Boutwell, a junior classics major from Helena, Alabama, “Freedom and vengeance: How late-period Egypt and the late classical Greek city-states mutually contributed to the decline and fall of the Persian Empire.” His research adviser is classics department chair Randy Todd.

Austin Ferrer, a senior journalism and mass communication major from Bradenton, Florida, “Doofus or hero? George Bush in political cartoons related to terrorism.” His research adviser is JMC professor Julie Williams.

Caroline Shunk, a senior psychology major from Brentwood, Tennessee, “The effects of costly signaling in college dating relationships.” Her research adviser is psychology department chair Stephen Chew.

Caroline Prieskorn, a senior nutrition and dietetics major from Texarkana, Texas, “The effects of coconut milk and beet puree on the nutritional, physical and sensory characteristics of raspberry ice cream.” Her research adviser is nutrition and dietetics professor Pat Terry, who will serve as Samford faculty representative at the forum.

In her project that she undertook for an experimental foods class, Prieskorn sought to increase the nutritional value of an ice cream recipe without decreasing flavor by adding beets and using coconut milk instead of heavy whipping cream.

While the original ice cream had 0 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of fat, the revised recipe had a much healthier 4 grams of dietary fiber and 1.2 grams of fat. Iron, she reports, was increased by 6 percent.

And taste approval? “There was no significant difference in the acceptability of the two ice creams, which is exactly what we wanted, so this was super exciting,” Prieskorn said of the resulting fuchsia-colored treat.

The research was more involved than she expected, said Prieskorn, who spent many late nights in the foods lab trying different recipes, and many more late nights running statistical data and preparing her poster.

“Even though it was time consuming, it was so worth it,” she said. “I feel as though all my hard work has paid off.” Earlier this fall, she presented her work at a national nutrition conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

Researcher Ferrer examined more than 200 cartoons before narrowing them down to 27 for his senior thesis, which studies how political cartoons portrayed President George W. Bush before the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in the two years after the tragedy, and after the 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein.

“My research observes and discusses how depictions, stories and messages displayed in a variety of political cartoons directly correlated with President Bush’s approval ratings while in office,” explained Ferrer, who will use Powerpoint during his oral presentation.

“Having the opportunity to mesh my passion for politics with the skills and strategies I learned as a Samford journalism student made my senior thesis a challenging and exciting adventure,” he said.

“I am grateful for the professors who have prepared me for SURF. I look forward to representing Samford,” said Ferrer, who will take a break from a fall semester internship in Washington, D.C., to join the other presenters in South Carolina.

In his work as a congressional intern for Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, Ferrer works with constituent correspondence, analyzes and researches policy issues, and conducts capitol tours for visitors from east Tennessee.

Student presenters at the conference will represent SoCon member institutions University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, The Citadel, East Tennessee State University, Furman University, Mercer University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Virginia Military Institute, Western Carolina University and Wofford.



Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.