USM student Kacey Foesrster Source: submitted photo

By Haley Hersey, Staff Writer

Fourth-year English major with a K-8 pathway in education, Kacey Foerster, has been conducting research on the effects of reading to Alzheimer patients, due to having been nominated for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). Being a part of the UROP allows Foerster to conduct official research with funding and a faculty mentor.

Kacey Foerster’s grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease and she would frequently read to him when she visited him in memory care facilities. She loved seeing the joy on her grandfather’s face as she read to him. After seeing the positive effects of reading to him , she expanded her reading within the facility. Kacey reached out to her former professor, Melinda Butler, to receive some suggestions for books to continue her volunteering, and this resulted in Melinda nominating Kacey for USM’s UROP, a research fellowship. 

According to the UROP’s website, “Through a broad range of research initiatives, we help communities find sustainable solutions for complex societal and environmental issues. University of Southern Maine (USM) research extends beyond the traditional: our faculty and staff bring extensive experience and multidisciplinary approaches to create, investigate, question, and explore — with the goal of advancing knowledge that can be applied in the real world.”

In regards to her nomination of Foerster, Melinda Butler shared, “When Dr. Alec Lapidus, chair of our department (Literacy, Language, and Culture) contacted me and recommended that I nominate an undergraduate student for the UROP research program, I immediately thought of Kacey.” 

She elaborated stating, “Kacey was enthusiastic and we worked on the application together, although Kacey did almost all of the work herself.”

Professor Butler insisted that Foerster “is remarkable. She is inquisitive, enthusiastic, responsible, and has a great heart. I am honored to be her mentor through this research process.” 

Professor Butler will be aiding in Kacey’s research and serving as her faculty mentor.

Kacey Foerster is currently reading to patients in two local memory care facilities. Her focal interest is on the impact reading has on specifically Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. She is currently waiting for her Institutional Review Board (IRB) proposal to be approved in order to officially start her research. The IRB is responsible for determining if experiments are ethical and humane. Due to her being involved with data collection, no findings can be shared for the time being. 

Having recently applied for the Extended Teacher’s Education Program (ETEP) at USM, Foerster intends on graduating in 2022. Following her graduation, she aspires to begin her career teaching locally.

Foerster divulged that she is “also very interested in teaching those with special needs. I have been very involved with students with special needs ever since I was in middle school, and now I have the amazing opportunity to work with an amazing group of teachers at the Shooting Stars Program in Scarborough.”

In regards to her research, Foerster shared, “This research is important to me because I want to bring moments of connection and joy into these resident’s lives, especially in the midst of the pandemic.”

For those interested in learning more about research programs at USM, various contacts can be found here. Additionally, the Director of Office of Research & Director of the Cutler Institute, Kris Sahonchik, can be reached at [email protected] or 207-780-5856.

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