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2021 Winners Selected for W. Frank Steely Library Research Award

June 14, 2021
Colorful composite of thoughts and comment bubbles with silhouettes of people thinking, gears, science experiments, etc.
Tala Al Masri, Master of Social Work, Class of 2021, Faculty Mentor: Dr. Suk-hee Kim

Excellence in research has earned two graduate students at Northern Kentucky University recognition as winners of the 2021 W. Frank Steely Library Research Award. Each spring, undergraduate and graduate students who participate in the Celebration of Student Research and Creativity project are invited to apply to for a chance to win the award and a monetary prize.  

In May, the award committee, made up of faculty from Steely Library and other campus departments, rewarded outstanding student research in topics ranging from drug use in rural Kentucky, to the impact of COVID-19 on older adults.  The applicants were asked to describe how Steely Library resources and services influenced their research experience. Student submissions were rigorously evaluated for masterful examples of accumulated knowledge and the use of key information literacy concepts in the development and application of their final projects.  Both prizewinners received $500 each for their thoughtful incorporation of Steely Library resources. 

After a thorough selection process, we are delighted to announce we have identified two deserving winners of the 2021 W. Frank Steely Library Research Award: graduate student, Tala Al Masri, and graduate student, Sarah Martin. “NKU’s Steely Library was fundamental in my extensive research findings and accurate information, and without it, the study and research would not have been possible,” said Martin. 

Photo: Sara Martin, Master of Social Work, Class of 2021, Faculty mentor: Dr. Suk-hee Kim)

Tala Al Masri is a recent 2021 graduate of the MSW program at NKU.  “I was fortunate to have been selected by Dr. Suk-hee Kim, Associate Professor and GEARUP Ambassador in the College of Health and Human Services School of Social Work, to serve as the graduate research assistant on a funded study that focuses on the impact of rurality on the opioid crisis in America. The research will help build the foundation to implement the Quick Response Team (QRT)/OD Map Training in Bracken County, Kentucky. The study was a systematic review that examines the barriers that people who use drugs (PWUD) face in rural areas, such as lack of access to substance abuse treatment options and the excessive rates at which physicians prescribe opioids. It also takes a closer look at the societal dynamics of rural communities and how it may promote opioid misuse. Stigmas surrounding receiving substance abuse treatment in a close-knit rural community and the criminalization of drug users can discourage utilization. The studies show that administering the needed services in rural areas to help with the opioid crisis can be burdensome – physically and financially, adding to the problem. Despite these challenges, the studies examining programs targeted at the opioid epidemic in rural areas have found promising results.”   

Al Masri recently passed the licensure exam, and has accepted a position at the Children’s Home of Cincinnati to serve as a school therapist.  

Sara Martin is a recent 2021 graduate of the MSW program at NKU.  “I was a graduate research assistant and field practicum student to Dr. Suk-hee Kim in the school of social work. It was my privilege to be mentored by Dr. Kim directly through her funded research project and expertise related with older adults’ population in Northern Kentucky community. With the help of Dr. Kim, I completed my research project for Celebration 2021 on COVID-19 and the impact on older adults. I chose to study this topic because of its relevance to today’s older adult population as well as my passion for working in the gerontology field. My research focused on the impact of social isolation and COVID-19 and how that combination negatively impacts the older adult population community. My future plans include passing my social work license exam in July 2021, working in the hospice setting, or any area of gerontology in the NKY/Cincinnati region to help and advocate the lives of older adults in the community, and getting married one day to my boyfriend, Josh.”  

Congratulations Tala and Sarah! We are honored to acknowledge and celebrate this year’s exceptional student researchers.  We are proud to be a part of NKU’s research community with you!