Maple Scholars social work research has been accepted into the National Conference of Undergraduate Research. Leah Yoder, a senior, and 2009 graduate Melissa MacGregor have been selected to present the group’s research at this year’s conference hosted by the University of Montana.

Yoder and MacGregor worked with Carol Jarvis, associate professor of social work last summer, studying the relationship between the Amish community and a grief center called Ryan’s Place.  Located in Goshen, Ryan’s Place is a non-profit organization that helps children and their families go through the mourning process.

Recently, members of the Amish community have been seeking services provided by Ryan’s Place.  It’s significant that the Amish are reaching out and seeking help from a center outside of their community.

Much of the Maple Scholars’ research focused on how and why the relationship between the center and the Amish worked. MacGregor and Yoder conducted interviews with the Amish community throughout the eight weeks of the program and studied the factors that move the Amish to voluntarily find help.

What they found was that the overall cultural-consciousness the center displayed helped to create a welcoming environment.

“Our study surmised that Ryan’s Place was successful at eliminating participation barriers, continuously demonstrating cultural sensitivity, building personal contact, taking time to build relationships and recruiting members for leadership roles in the agency, all while maintaining a safe and approachable environment,” MacGregor said.

Since they were dealing with sensitive issues, MacGregor and Yoder knew they had to be careful and sensitive to the Amish families they talked with. Instead of just one-on-one, they handled many interviews in a potluck setting with food to help the interviewees feel more comfortable.

Their research provided good insight for Ryan’s Place for the future.

“The key lesson for us was not to make assumptions on how we should serve any group [but] rather to find out  (by asking them) what their needs are and how we can best deliver services to them,” said Aileac Deegan, executive director of Ryan’s Place. “The research helped us to know not only how to serve the Amish community better, it gave us ideas on how to reach out to other minority groups.”

Applying to the National Conference of Undergraduate Research was not one of the groups’ goals in the beginning. MacGregor opted to apply the Maple Scholars’ research to the National Conference just for fun.

“I thought it'd just be for kicks and giggles,” MacGregor said.

The 2010 National Conference of Undergraduate Research will take place April 15-17 at the University of Montana.