Psych students’ research skills extend beyond classroom

Jan 29, 2013

Ashley Dean, Amber Caldarelli and Kayla GravesChange can be good. Heidelberg’s psychology department recently changed its curriculum to offer students more high-impact opportunities such as the Junior Year Experience. Students choose between working an internship, studying abroad or conducting a research project. Juniors Ashley Dean, Amber Caldarelli and Kayla Graves decided that research was the way to go.

Ashley and Amber worked together on their research project, titled The Relationship between the Participation in Greek Life and Happiness among College Students. Conducting a research project requires a lot of time, but both girls believe the benefits are worth the effort. “This project helped my paper writing skills, my analytical skills and my ability to look at things from a clinical and research standpoint,” said Amber.

When their research was completed, they submitted it to the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference being held in Chicago this May. The MPA conference is held annually to showcase professional psychologists’ research. Amber and Ashley were excited to be accepted and will be presenting their research at a poster session for Psi Chi – the national psychology honorary.

Kayla also decided the research option was the best fit for her. “I chose this option because I thought it would be hard to conduct research,” she said. “It was a better opportunity to learn.”

Her project, Sexual Hookups among College Students: Prevalence and Emotional Reactions, created an additional learning experience when she had to work with the university’s Institutional Review Board to develop her research methods. The IRB oversees ethical policy concerning human research. Kayla’s topic was delicate and the IRB made suggestions for her anonymous survey. “Seeing the whole process was frustrating, but fun,” Kayla said. “It was a challenge.”

Dr. Virginia “Ginny” Gregg believes the Junior Year Experience first year has been a success. “The students have been able to work independently very well,” she said. “I’ve been here to answer questions and provide guidance, but they’re handling most of it by themselves.”

This fall the students will present their Junior Year Experiences to underclassman at the first Psychology Day. It will foster communication between upper and underclassmen and help next year’s class start thinking about their own Junior Year Experience. “It’s a way of giving back to the students,” said Gregg.

No matter what option students choose, the benefits of the Junior Year Experience will reach far into their careers. “I’ve developed strengths that I can use when I graduate,” said Ashley. That is what Heidelberg University wants for all its students.