James Madison University

Engaged Learning: 2015 Psychology Student Symposium

Students recently packed the Madison Union Ballroom with nearly 90 posters illustrating their accomplishments in research and fieldwork during the annual Department of Psychology Student Research Symposium. This year marked the largest number of student presentations to date at the symposium, which provides a venue for students to share the results of their work with others from the Psychology Department as well as the larger JMU community.

PHOTO: Symposium

Having a chance to share their work with others, as well as to learn about other students' experiences, seemed to be a common reason for students' participation. "I really appreciate that we were able to talk about our experiences at the symposium," said Jackie Lamson, who presented on her Field Placement experience at Western State Psychiatric Hospital. "It was a great way to share how we have contributed to our field placement sites and to learn how other students have been passionately involved in the psychology department as well." 

This year's symposium featured 30 poster presentations in the category of Fieldwork/Internship, 12 in the category of Honors Theses, and 46 in the category of Research.  (Program for symposium is available.)  Students presenting their work participated in independent study experiences within the Department of Psychology during the past academic year, working closely with faculty advisors and graduate students to develop and execute their projects.

Importantly, the symposium is not merely a forum for students to passively display their work. Instead, students are challenged to actively think about and explain their work, and to engage with their audience by offering a brief oral explanation to interested individuals. Nur Uyguner said that preparing for the symposium "helped me to think about how much I learned from my internship and also helped me to be able to reflect on how much my ideas changed positively throughout my experience." Kathryn Howard who had two posters at the event said the event "…helped me understand the highlights of my project, and presenting really helped me learn how to speak effectively and intelligently about my research. All in all, it was really great practice and I it helped me gain some confidence."  Daniel Delcoco, agreed that the symposium served as a capstone event to his experience. "It was a great opportunity to show what I've been learning and it solidified the learning that took place for me as well," he said.

Judges, comprised current psychology graduate students and faculty members, evaluated the quality and rigor of students' project, poster, and presentation for Symposium awards (see below for a full list of this year's winners).

Despite the potential for such an environment to feel intimidating for students, for some, it was a more relaxed experience than they had anticipated. "One thing I liked about the symposium was the casual atmosphere," said Olivia Jewell, who presented in the Research category. "It made me much less nervous about talking about my research, especially since I knew that most people there were other professors and would understand that this was the first time many of us had ever presented research before."

This year also marked the first time students were given the opportunity to present their work in the form of a 15-minute oral presentation. These oral presentations require students to more fully articulate their project ideas, plans, and results. Caroline Prendergast, advised by Dr. Jessica Irons, spoke about her work investigating the benefits of having an integrated Writing Fellow in a psychology course, and a team of students working with Dr. Natalie Lawrence, including Savannah Moxley, Emily Oliver, Alan Yablonski, Hunter Kelly, Ryan Harting, Kaitlin Fitzgerald, and Christopher Deitrick, explained their work aimed to reduce phone-related distracted driving on the JMU campus.

Although this year's level of participation may be difficult to exceed, the department hopes that the symposium will continue to grow, particularly in the category of student oral presentations. This year, however, marked another successful symposium in which students were able to share their individual experiences with engaged learning with a larger audience and also appreciate the work of their peers. "Something I really liked about the symposium was the ability to see other people's presentations and posters," said Lindsey Boggess. "It was incredible to see what the rest of the department was working on throughout the semester."

Psychology Student Symposium Winners 2015

Field Placement, Internship, Practicum:

Dean's Award:
Emotional Intelligence in Elementary School Students: Social-Emotional Learning Interventions
Katie Werner
Advisor: Dr. David Szwedo

Departmental Award:
Office on Youth and Pathway Progam: My Experience and Contribution
Laurel Brubaker
Advisor: Dr. David Szwedo

Honors Thesis:

Dean's Award:
Contingency Management and Alcohol Abuse
Amanda Walker
Advisor: Dr. Daniel Holt

Departmental Award:
The Impact of "Fearful" and "Serene" Mood on Mortality Salience
Kathryn Howard
Advisor: Dr. Kevin Apple

Undergraduate Research:

Dean's Award:
Promoting Growth Mindset in Harrisonburg City Public Schools
Thomas Hartka & Nicholas Zurlo
Advisor: Dr. Kenneth Barron

Departmental Award:
The Effect of Cognitive Flexibility Practice on Explaining Human Behavior
Gabby Payabyab, Danielle McGovern, & Grant Pointon
Advisor: Dr. Claire Lyons

Combined Undergraduate and Graduate Research:

Dean's Award:
The Effect of Sleep Consolidation on Detailed False Memory
Casey M. Williamson, Dr. Kethera A. Fogler, Carley E. Sullivan, Amanda C. Feldman, & Natalie E. Hicks
Advisor: Dr. Kethera Fogler

Departmental Award:
The Relationship between Ambient Temperature and Brain Temperature; Implications for the Thermoregulatory Hypothesis of Yawning.
Kerry A. Gaffney, Lauren Alexa Gambrill, Kristian Ponder, & Ryan Pruett
Advisor: Dr. Melanie Shoup-Knox