2023 PURI grant recipient: Breanne Sandstorm

December 20, 2023 - Brandon Drain

The Provost’s Undergraduate Research Initiative (PURI) grant allows College of Social Science undergraduate students a unique opportunity to conduct transformative research – either one-on-one with a tenured faculty member, or part of a research team. This is a university-wide effort – spearheaded by The Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Office at MSU – to provide all undergraduate students opportunities to engage in research, or creative activity throughout their education, regardless of their academic discipline or academic abilities. This year, the School of Social Work had three of its undergraduate students receive the award: Breanne Sandstorm, Jasmine Zavala Gonzalez, and Yasmen Alsuraimi.  

Breanne SandstormThis opportunity grants Breanne Sandstorm the chance to fuel her project which aims to explore, “the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in Long Term Care (LTC) settings and the relationship ICTs have with quality of care and health outcomes,” Sandstorm explained. Sandstorm, alongside School of Social Work grad student Stephanie Cuevas, has used this past semester to collectively gather a complete literary analysis around ICTs in the LTC settings. The two plan on taking the analysis work to form preliminary questions to ask social workers, nurses and other staff who operate in LTC settings.

Sandstorm’s interest in LTC work was spurred by her year-long volunteering endeavor with Heart-to-Heart Hospice, where she gained firsthand knowledge in LTC settings, residential care, and overall experience. “I have been volunteering with this organization for over a year now and I have visited with residents in various different long-term care settings and have seen how they run firsthand,” Sandstorm explained.

Sandstorm will be partnering with School of Social Work professor, and avid aging and technology researcher, Paul Freddolino. Freddolino takes on the role of principal investigator for the project, as well as a mentoring role for the budding researcher. “Professor Freddolino has been a helping hand throughout my experience with research,” Sandstorm said, explaining the value of working alongside tenured faculty. “Coming into the project, he knew I didn’t have much experience with research in my past and has been very understanding and a guide throughout the process, allowing me to learn about research hands on and as I go.”

The PURI grant has given Sandstorm the unique opportunity to develop her skillset in conducting research, offers firsthand quality mentorship from an experienced tenured faculty member, and the chance to transform the lives of those who operate in LTC settings. “I hope our research will positively impact the quality and outcomes in long-term care homes,” Sandstorm explains. “I am hopeful that new technologies are being used, and where they are not being used, that our research outcomes can help individuals see the true impact of technology and can allow for increased quality of care in LTC settings that may have not had access to ICTs prior.”

Often students see their research published in academic papers or journals. Sandstorm will also have the opportunity to showcase the results of her research at MSU’s University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF): an annual, university-wide forum that grants students the chance to present their research findings, scholarship and creative activities with faculty, staff, peers, and external audiences – with the chance to win a grand prize up to $500.