NSU Announces 2018 Undergraduate Competitive Research Grant Winner

Maida Walters

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Maida Walters has been named Northern State University’s 2018 Undergraduate Competitive Research Grant winner.

Walters, a fourth-year Spanish and English education major, will receive grant money for her research project, titled “'Yes I Can': Improving Literacy Among English Language Learners.” Her project aims to test an innovative Cuban literacy methodology called the “Yo Si Puedo (Yes I Can)” or ”YSP” method.

Walters said the idea for her project came from her internship at Northern in an English as Second Language (ESL) class that worked with adult English language learners. From reading about different education pedagogies, especially those as described by Pablo Freire, Walters was led to the YSP method.

“I wanted to set up a classroom that would instruct immigrants or other English language learners utilizing the YSP method and subsequently assess the method's ability to teach literacy,” said Walters. “I had to reach out to international resources that already had implemented the method. ArrowMight, a nonprofit from Canada, employed the YSP method and was willing to provide me with materials and training.”

Walters’ pre-grant research into ESL teaching took her all the way to Cuba, where she toured for 13 days.

“I traveled to Cuba and struck up conversations with locals about the YSP method,” she said. “After returning and researching more about the Cuban Literacy Campaign and the development of this method, I developed this as the theme for my Honors thesis.”

With the support of Dr. Erin Fouberg, professor of geography and director of the NSU Honors Program, and Dr. Ginny Lewis, professor of German and her thesis advisor, Walters obtained the research grant. The funding sent her to Ottawa, Canada, to visit and learn from ArrowMight, and paid for the course materials for her project.

Returning from Ottawa, Walters hopes to contact community organizations to find 10 individuals wanting to improve their English language literacy and analyze how the YSP method improves their English reading, writing and numeracy. 

“I believe it to be a phenomenally positive program,” said Walters. “I’m very excited to conduct my research with hopes to discover alternate means to instruct literacy in ESL classes. I’m not certain of my career goals for after college, but I know I want to educate in secondary English, Spanish or ESL classes.”

Walters hails from Lewistown, Mont.; swims for the NSU Women's Swim team and writes for the university's newspaper, The Exponent. She has also been a supplemental instructor (SI) for Geography 131 and all Spanish levels, volunteered for Aberdeen Public School Native American Study Night, been president of NSU's Spanish Club.

“I chose NSU because it offered a strong focus on secondary education with the opportunity to pursue collegiate athletics,” said Walters. “I don't think many other universities would have presented me with as many amazing opportunities as Northern has. The amount of support Northern gives its students to pursue their goals is phenomenal.”

To learn more about studying education at Northern, visit the NSU Millicent Atkins School of Education.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $45 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.