On Jan. 13, Michigan State University hosted its sixth annual Diversity Research Showcase, featuring oral and poster presentations from undergraduate students exploring diversity issues to advance inclusion across a variety of disciplines.
Broad Spartans have participated in the university-wide event for years, as part of MSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration, and have landed in the winner’s circle since 2019. This year, business students excelled once again, earning first- and second-place prizes for their work.
Hospitality business students Olivia Brenner, Layna Cho and Miquela Ochoa and linguistics student Lauryn Davis won first place and a $700 prize for their oral presentation titled “Exploring the Impact of K-Culture Experience on Cultural Diversity Understanding: Do Gender and Race-Ethnicity Matter?”
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“I think it is a great experience for our generation to be able to share ideas that could very well change businesses, industries and the world,” Brenner, a hospitality business junior, said. “Diversity is especially important in the hospitality industry because it’s an industry built on inclusivity and culture. Humans travel our world to explore and appreciate different cultures, people and experiences. The industry must stand behind these values to remain successful.”
The students wanted to explore how K-culture’s popularity — which has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — can affect cultural understanding. Specifically, they explored how K-culture exposure impacted Americans’ willingness to better understand Korean and Asian cultures, alleviate Asian hate crime and get to know differing ethnicities and races.
In addition, Ochoa, a hospitality business senior, earned second place and a $500 prize for her individual poster presentation, “Why DEI is Critical to Rectifying the Labor Crisis.” This is Ochoa’s second year in a row landing in the winner’s circle at the event.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working under Dr. MiRan Kim on the DEI study, which started actually as a research proposal at last year’s Diversity Research Showcase,” Ochoa said. “My co-researcher and I won the Research in Progress Award last year and decided to run with it. We spent about three weeks (much less time than is typically expected) and developed a survey, which we sent to HB alumni. We received great support and ended up with really telling findings and implications.”
Ochoa’s study examined how DEI policies are impactful in influencing employee perspectives leading to retainment and attraction. She also looked at why DEI is important to leaders in the hospitality industry and what goals hospitality businesses are trying to achieve by adapting current policies.
Beyond the Diversity Research Showcase, Ochoa has presented her findings at two other conferences, earning first place with co-researcher Live Cannella, hospitality business senior, for Best Presentation Paper at the THEREPS Conference, as well as showcasing her work with the college’s Real Estate Investment Management industry board.
“Now that I have a few conferences and presentations under my belt, I can absolutely say the Diversity Research Showcase is the most comfortable environment for an undergraduate researcher and greatly showcases the talent MSU has to offer,” she said. “I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity and platform this showcase has given me in fostering my research.”
MiRan Kim, associate professor in the School of Hospitality Business, has served as an adviser and mentor for students participating in the showcase, including this year’s competing Broad Spartans.
“I believe that this research experience allows students to learn about DEI more personally,” she said. “Learning by doing research can motivate students to step out of their comfort zone, discover something new and help them better understand the importance of DEI, which can be applied to their values, attitudes and behaviors.”
Diversity, equity and inclusion are core values for MSU and the Broad College. It’s through the ongoing work of our students and faculty that these values are brought to life every day.
The event was made possible by sponsorship from the Honors College, the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives and the MSU Libraries and the Undergraduate Research Office. Visit honorscollege.msu.edu to read about other award winners from the showcase.