As an experimental science, psychology is constantly evolving as its practitioners gather more and better evidence for explanations of human thought, emotion, and behavior. It is important to the department that every student who graduates from Valparaiso University with a degree in psychology has an intimate understanding of the scientific process — an understanding based on experience.
It Begins in the Classroom
The psychology major at Valpo requires two courses in experimental psychology, one of which must include a laboratory component. Students learn the basics of experimental design, data collection, interpretation, and presentation of findings, working under the close supervision of faculty members.
Assisting the Pros
The department’s active faculty maintains a busy research schedule, meaning that students have ample opportunity to work with professional researchers on cutting-edge projects. Professors are approachable and welcoming to students who express interest in serving as research assistants. The department actively encourages students who are interested in careers in psychology to get an early start in research activity. Sharing authorship with a Valpo professor — as many Valpo students have — makes a newly minted graduate much more competitive in both graduate school admissions and the job market.
Independent Research Projects
Advanced students with an established record of research work may opt to undertake independent research. The student consults a faculty sponsor in developing a unique research question and a methodology for the project, and the impetus rests primarily with the student to conceive and carry out the research.
An excellent example is a cross-cultural study of psychological stress on police officers in the United States and Great Britain, carried out by Holly Buckman ’14. Holly approached her faculty sponsor, Amanda Zelechoski, during the second semester of her sophomore year, knowing that she planned to spend the following semester studying abroad in Cambridge. With Professor Zelechoski’s advice, she worked out a research plan. While studying in Cambridge, Holly interviewed British police officers via a survey she had developed; upon returning, she turned her focus on officers in Indiana. She designed the study, recruited subjects, found fellow students to help her collect data, and compiled the results, and presented them at the the annual meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society.
Sharing and Celebrating Undergraduate Research
Valpo undergraduate psychology majors present their research findings in a variety of venues, including student and professional conferences at the regional and national levels. They are also regular participants in Valpo’s Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship, held annually in the spring. Recent presentations by psychology students include the following:
- Generalization of Social Skills Learned via Video-Modeling in Children With ASD, by Andrea Bretl and Lindsey Smith
- An International Comparison of Law Enforcement Stress and Professional Satisfaction, by Holly Buckman, Agata Freedle, Amanda Tuohy, and Amanda Zelechoski
- The Effects of Guided Reading on Reading Comprehension, by Jaqueline Garcia, Jared Joseph, and Alex Carli
- Applying Memory Science to the Classroom: Effects of Reading Questions and Answer Keys on Test Scores, by Holly Griskell, Erin Harrington, Andrea Bretl, Emmanuel Bara-Hart, Nathaniel Terry, Amanda McCullough, and Phuong Quynh Nguyen
- The Relationship between Self-Described Spirituality and an External or Internal Locus of Control, by Elizabeth Hostetler
- Expressive Writing as a Manipulation to Reduce Test Anxiety, by Chelsea Kiehl, Brittney Groulx, and Torrie Decker
- Assessing Addictions in a Spiritual World: Using Confirmatory Factor Analysis and Structural Equations Modeling to Develop the Life Interests Questionnaire, by Victoria Labitan, Kelly Perfect, Diana Stribl, Avery Blackburn, Erin Harrington, Lisa Bowman, Linnea Greci, Elizabeth Hostetler, and Heidi Binder
Read more about the projects and their authors in the Celebration’s Abstract Book
Valpo students conduct research in many places, including a number of community agencies. At the university, the Department of Psychology maintains these professional facilities for research:
- Computer laboratory
- Neuropsychology lab
- Animal research facility
- Child and Family Study Center
Research That Works
“I design my research projects with students in mind.”
Amanda Zelechoski relishes introducing students to research that can make a real difference to underserved populations.