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Research opportunities give student vote of confidence

April 21, 2017
KOKOMO, Ind. —  When planning her path to graduate school, Shantel Gaillard intentionally chose the track that did not involve research.

“I had an inaccurate idea of what research was, and I thought I couldn’t do it,” she said, “I’m not good in math, and I was afraid of statistics.”

Less than a year later, with encouragement from Rosalyn Davis, clinical assistant professor of psychology, Gaillard presented research at the American Psychology Association’s international conference in Denver — and also earned an A in her statistics class. She’s also received honors as the outstanding student in the psychology program.

“It totally changed my skill set, and gave me more confidence,” said Gaillard, who graduates in May with a bachelor’s in psychology. “I used to be intimidated by research, but now I love it. I have so many questions, and she’s taught me how to ask the questions and how to find the answers.”

Davis knows how important research is as part of the undergraduate journey, because her own experience included only one project, which she calls “research lite,” for her senior capstone.

“In psychology, not having research experience is going to be detrimental to getting into graduate school,” she said. “By inviting students to participate, we are better preparing them for their next professional step.”

Davis, with Galliard’s assistance, studied norms in minority relationships, a niche she says has many possibilities for further exploration.

“A lot of the research already out there looks at minority relationships in terms of bad decision making, the rate of sexually transmitted infections, and other negative factors,” she said. “We wanted to see if there was something more positive out there.”

Gaillard performed the initial literature review, seeking out previous scholarship related to their research – to avoid duplicating anyone else’s work – and to see if there were points that could be further explored.

“I was disheartened at first because there was nothing positive,” she said. “There was nothing about what are the norms in a healthy minority relationship, no data about that at all.”

The pair developed a 70-question survey, which they launched in spring 2016, then recruited participants to complete it. About 250 people participated and 180 completed the survey.

Together, they presented early findings at the national conference, “which got people excited about helping us work on it some more,” Davis said. They’re now going through surveys, crunching numbers, and preparing to present and publish their findings in the future.

Gaillard’s confidence has grown through the process, along with her analytical skills.

“When I hear a news story and they mention there was a research study done on a topic, I immediately start asking where it was done, who participated, and who funded it, before I buy in to what their numbers say,” the Kokomo resident said. “I’ve learned to think and process information differently, and increased my critical thinking and processing skills.”

She’s started interviewing for graduate schools, and has been asked questions about research experience at each one. She’s pleased to have solid training she can discuss, and looks forward to continuing to study.

“I used to just look at graduate schools that didn’t involve research, but this has opened up other possibilities for me,” she said. “I’m passionate about this, and I’m interested in possibly continuing even after I am in practice.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana

Last updated: 04/21/2017