Dr. Güss invited me to participate in a research project he was conducting with graduate student Travis Bishop while I was a student in his Cognitive Psychology class on heroic decision-making. After that project was complete, I continued to work with Dr. Güss on a couple of a other projects in cognitive psychology. While taking Dr. Fuglestad's Health Psychology class, I learned about his research, which I found very interesting, after which he agreed to work with me on a thesis on a similar topic.
Dr. Dominik Güss and Dr. Paul Fuglestad.
With Dr. Güss, we focused on the mental schemas that people have about suicide and applied this to current issues of terrorism. We found that Germans were much more condemning of suicide bombers in comparison to Americans, and that Americans found the suicide bomber to be acting irrationally in comparison to other similar deaths for a cause. Our results emphasized the strong influence of culture on an individual's schemas and perceptions of death and terrorism.
With Dr. Fuglestad, we focused on health behavior change in response to different types of messages based with regard to a person's regulatory focus and health self-efficacy. We are trying to determine how a person's self-efficacy helps them respond to setbacks in their weight loss plan. Results are still being determined, but we expect to find that people lose weight when the regulatory focus of the health message matches their dispositional regulatory focus. We expect that for participants with little initial success, high self-efficacy will be beneficial to weight control for promotion-focused people but not for prevention-focused.
Güss, C.D., Burger, M.L., & Dörner, D. (2017) The Role of Motivation in Complex Problem Solving. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 851. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00851
For my capstone project, I worked as a Center Director of a rural county in the central Appalachian region as an employee of Appalachia Service Project (ASP). The mission of ASP is to "inspire hope and service through volunteer home repair in Central Appalachia" and the vision is to eradicate substandard housing in the region and to transform the lives of everyone who comes into contact with the ministry. As a Center Director, I was required to manage the budget, facility, and the overall construction process of the projects in my assigned county. Additionally, I led the three other members of my county staff- the financial coordinator, volunteer coordinator, and operations coordinator - in their positional responsibilities.
As a part of my capstone project, I used the time that I spent immersed in the Appalachian culture to view the unique, systemic issues that the people of the region face through the lens of community psychology, in an attempt to better understand how these issues may be prevented. Community psychology is fundamentally concerned with the relationship between social systems and individual well being in the community context.
The Hicks Honors College has helped me grow and change in my approach to everyday experiences. It has made me want to learn and do more and to take the extra step not only in class, but also in opportunities outside of schoolwork. Now I choose to do things that will challenge and stretch me, not things that I will just perform well at. I now want to have my mind opened and changed. I want to do things that aren't always comfortable so that I can better understand something or someone in the future. And I want to be apart of something bigger than myself.
Get to know your professors! I have found that getting to know them and being honest with them about what you are interested in, what your goals are and what your dreams. You're at the beginning - don't focus on the end so that you can enjoy the middle! Having an end career goal is fine, but hold onto it loosely so that there is room for other passions to take hold of you.
So far, I only have plans to graduate in December! I plan to attend graduate school in the future but I am taking time from going to school to figure out what people group I am passionate about. I am currently applying to year-round service programs and to local non-profits.