Jonathan Evanick

Jonathan Evanick is a sophomore majoring in public health with a minor in economics. Together with Visiting Assistant Professor Aimee L. Ward, the pair are researching and evaluating the problem of college student homelessness in the state of Ohio. Their project seeks to provide information about student homelessness trends and suggestions to colleges on how they can improve their resources and methods on the issue.

What is your research about?

Evanick, Jonathan: We were specifically looking into college student homelessness in the state of Ohio. Over the summer, we interviewed the administration at four universities throughout Ohio to help formulate our survey questions. As of now, we are sending out the survey and still interpreting those results. But from our interviews, there were three common findings: The need to destigmatize receiving assistance, determining who needs access to this assistance, and identifying community partnerships. We found that some universities were referring students to pantries and shelters in the area. But, because a college campus can be considered a city on its own, these community resources are at risk of being overwhelmed and potentially running dry. So, the most concerning finding would be that universities would need to establish their own student resources.

Ward, Aimee: Jonathan and I decided that he would interview student services at various universities in Ohio to investigate current resources for homeless college students. The purpose of those interviews was to get some questions answered to provide context. For example, at what point do colleges consider a student “homeless”? What resources do colleges offer to those facing housing insecurity? Then, we created a survey and sent it out to a broad audience of students.

What do you feel universities should be doing to combat student homelessness?

Evanick, Jonathan: Kent State is an excellent example of what universities should be doing. They established the Crisis, Advocacy, Resources, Education, and Support (CARES) center, which can help with anything from financial assistance to housing assistance to connecting students with mental health resources. It is a single place where students can go, so receiving aid is not too confusing. Students can quickly figure out where they need to go because different departments are not scattered across the university. They can visit CARES, and the center can help students directly or connect them with proper resources.

Also, about the need to destigmatize receiving assistance, many students think that their university does not have the resources to help them. I was familiar with our resources myself when I started doing this research. One way we can help students learn about them is at first-year orientation. I think talking to them about it, not only directly saying to students, “In case you are ever struggling financially or mentally, these are resources that you can access.” But also suggesting to them that if they know somebody is struggling financially or mentally, they can refer that person to these resources. Other good ideas include putting a statement in all class syllabi and placing posters around the student center or other buildings around campus to advertise these. A social media presence is an excellent way to get students involved in what we are doing also, such as the CARES Center Instagram account @KentStateCARES.

How did you become involved in SURE?

Aimee Ward: In the past, working overseas, my role had been as a researcher and teaching was more secondary. My family and I arrived in Kent in late 2019, and when the pandemic happened, my role became more teaching focused because I did not have a lab or any students to do any research with me. I learned about the SURE program through a student because they asked me if I would mentor. I read about it, and I realized this could be a way for me to start researching again on a regular basis. It is an amazing program because it provides practical experience for students, as well as supporting research-active faculty. 

Evanick, Jonathan: It started in the Provost Leadership Academy. We were looking into college student homelessness at the university. Then once that program ended, I felt like I could not let go of the project. There was much more work to be done and data to be collected on a larger scale. Representatives from the SURE program came in and talked to the Provost Leadership Academy about continuing our research, so I went into the SURE program with the intention of continuing this project. I sat down with Director Ann Gosky, who helped me find my mentor, Dr. Aimee Ward, and rather than working on one of her projects, Dr. Ward gave me the opportunity to continue the one I have been working on by starting my own. That has been incredible.

Why did you want to work with Jonathan specifically?

Ward, Aimee:  I was struck by his professionalism because he was a first-year student when he came to talk to me. I have never had a freshman come to me to talk about research. Seeking out a faculty member face to face is not an easy thing for a student to do, let alone a first-year. I was very impressed by that. He has confidence and he speaks for himself, and he is interested in learning new things.

How did your student progress as a researcher while in SURE?

Ward, Aimee: I have seen progress in his research skills. One example, when we started, he would sometimes use the wrong terminology when talking about some of the methods we were using. Because he does a fantastic job of taking onboard notes and criticism, his understanding of the research process, beyond just posing his research question of interest, grew. He was a bit nervous at first, I think, - and fair enough, research interviews can be stressful! - but he was able to overcome that quickly. 

Has this research broadened your sphere of academic study?

Ward, Aimee: Absolutely. While it has always been a concern of mine, I never considered homelessness as a topic of research before now. I am originally from the West Coast, where the climate is more temperate, and more resources exist for those who experience housing insecurity. Thanks to Jonathan and the SURE program, now I have an excuse to investigate it. There are so many spatial aspects to housing insecurity; it is both a geographic and public health issue. I am happy Jonathan brought the project to my attention. Now I get to learn about a new topic and practice my skills right along with my student. It is a complete win-win.

Do You feel like you've gained important experience or skills in the during your time at the SURE program?

Evanick, Jonathan: Definitely. Not only through my mentor and doing research but also through the people that surround me. The people that I lived with, and the people that I worked with, were all from different countries. They were studying many different things, and they were very involved in what they were doing. I would have conversations with various people on a daily basis. I would always learn something new, and that was incredible.

Has the program given you ideas for career paths in the future?

Evanick, Jonathan: Originally, I was open to the idea of research because I wanted to go to medical school. But after getting more involved in the research experience, I have decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Biostatistics. I believe that focusing on creating new knowledge rather than applying it will help me better advance our medical field.

Do you have any advice for a student who's interested in getting involved in undergraduate research?

Evanick, Jonathan:  Be very confident in yourself. Just know that research involves a lot of trial and error. You are going to have a lot of failures, but you walk out of that lab or office with your head held high every single day, and you take that failure as a lesson learned and not as a negative aspect of your job. You hold your head high because you know you will take that knowledge and do better the next day you walk in. Even though you are likely going to fail again, it is inevitable. You are going to learn again. You accept that, and you are going to improve. Failure is a very important aspect of growth, and it is something we need to embrace in research and our lives.

 Also, do not be intimidated to reach out to a mentor. These are professors who volunteered themselves to work with students. They want to be involved in undergraduate research. They want to be mentors to younger kids. They are teachers, not just researchers. That is their passion, and they would not put themselves in the position to be involved with you if they did not want to work with you.

POSTED: Wednesday, December 14, 2022 02:59 PM
Updated: Thursday, December 15, 2022 01:33 PM
Evan Garrett