SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Five Morningside University faculty members received funding for projects through the Ver Steeg Faculty Development Grants this spring.

The grants are used to provide faculty with funding that enables them to complete scholarly research that would enhance their reputation and, by extension, the reputation of the university. The grant recipients for the 2023-24 cycle are Anni Moore, Jessica Pleuss, Susie Lubbers, Elizabeth Coody, and Shelby Prindaville.

Dr. Anni Moore, associate professor in the Natural & Mathematical Sciences Department, received funding for a project titled “Differences in Microbiome Composition and Succession in Differently Prepare Decompsing Bodies and Their Environments.” The purpose of this forensic microbiology project is to compare how the normal microbial flora of deceased mammals and birds changes over the primary decomposition period, as well as how different preparations of these bodies influence the microbial community composition inside and on the surface of these bodies and their surrounding environment. We are looking to determine whether the microbiome signature from differently prepared bodies (frozen vs. fresh, clothes vs. no clothes) is distinctive enough that it could have a potential application in forensic analysis of crime scenes, or other fields, such as taphonomy, that examine the conditions of fossilization. 

Dr. Jessica Pleuss, associate professor of psychology, will conduct a study on how toys prepare children for school and the development of opportunities titled “Mind the Toy Gap?: Opportunity Gaps in Available Play Materials.” The study will look into how “opportunity gaps” shape children’s development and the possibility that access to high quality play materials is an area in which that gap exists. In order to assess that, Pleuss is working on a way to measure access to play materials that doesn’t require a physical visit to each home from a researcher. The funds will be used to test the measure on a diverse sample of up to 200 parents/homes in Siouxland. This will yield meaningful data regarding what toys are actually available in individual families’ homes, and allow for assessment of whether hypothesized “opportunity gaps” in play materials do actually exist. 

Dr. Susie Lubbers, associate professor in the education department, is focusing on Emotional Intelligence in specifically college women’s basketball athletes. The study, “The Influence of Emotional Intelligence on Individual and Team Performance on College Women’s Basketball,” aims to examine the impact of Emotional Intelligence on individual performances of athletes, team engagement, and team performance. Emotional Intelligence is a critical component of success in sports and can influence an athlete’s ability to manage stress, regulate emotions, and build strong relationships with coaches and teammates.

Dr. Elizabeth Coody, assistant professor of religious studies, will be working on “Inspiring Interfaith Education at Morningside.” Coody is working to bring Morningside students skills and knowledge to effectively engage with people who have different beliefs from their own. Interfaith dialogue is a keystone of contemporary education and a foundation of working relationships for students in any part of the workforce. Coody will work with one devoted and well-prepared student intern senior religious studies major Sarah Brown through the 2023-2024 school year to create several opportunities for students to experience interfaith programs on-campus and in site visits while she collects information and builds relationships to create a future session of the Iowa Interfaith Conference.

Shelby Prindaville, associate professor and head of the visual arts department will be serving as an artist in residence at Phoenix Athens, where she will develop a new body of artwork based on Athenian ecology and atmosphere. The work culminates in a solo exhibition in the Phoenix Athens galleries in Athens, Greece. Prindaville will document endangered local tortoises and flora while working atop papyrus, old tiles, and old pieces of marble. This fall, Prindaville’s recent work will be on showcase in the Eppley Art Gallery as well.

Dorothy A. and Clarence L. Ver Steeg established a fund designed to provide support for faculty involved in research endeavors that would result in a new scholarly product (a monograph, article, presentation, art installation, etc.). Ver Steeg grants may be used for equipment, non-disposable supplies, student assistants, travel to scholarly collections, release time, or other appropriate expenses in support of faculty scholarship. The grants total $13,600 annually and faculty members may apply for individual grants ranging from $500 to $13,600.