Ashland University’s psychology department has seen a shift in the focus of its students over the past eight to 10 years, with many more undergraduate students now being involved in research and attending regional and national conferences than ever before.
“We are now seeing students who are getting involved in research activities as second-semester students in their first year,” said Dr. Mitchell Metzger, chair and professor of psychology at Ashland University.
“Over the past 10 years we have seen a change in the department and the newer faculty have done a great job of helping to get students involved and promoting this culture,” Metzger said. “There is an enthusiasm from students in our program for these kinds of scholarly activities.”
Metzger noted that 12 students (out of the approximately 75 majors in the program) just returned from a regional conference in Pittsburgh. And since 2004, students have gone to national or regional conferences in Chicago seven times, Boston, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Pittsburgh. Students also have presented at state or local conferences in Columbus, Cleveland, Cedarville, Mount Union and Ashland.
“While the numbers vary year to year, since 2004, approximately 60 different students have made 65 presentations at local, state, regional and national conferences,” Metzger said.
Metzger explained that students who take Psychology 101 need to participate in research based activities in fulfillment of course requirements and the majority of these students serve as participants in departmental experiments. He said each student in 101 needs to complete six research units and a procedure that takes 20 minutes is one unit.
“In the fall semester, students in Psych 101 sections completed 1,063 research units, which turned out to be more than 354 continuous hours of data collection,” he said. “It is remarkable that all of that is getting done.”
Metzger said he also is pleased by the number of students completing research projects on their own. “About half of the students are working with faculty through a specific course, while the other half are doing research that interests them under faculty observation but not tied to a specific class,” he said.
Metzger said there are many advantages to undergraduate students being more involved in scholarly activities.
“What these students are doing forces them to think in a different way,” he said. “The research they are doing expands their logical and analytical thinking process and this will benefit them no matter what they will do in the future.”
Metzger said this research experience benefits students even though many will not go into research areas after graduation.
“In my nearly nine years at Ashland University I can’t think of a single student from our department who has wanted to go to graduate school and not been accepted,” he said. “I am not aware of a single one that has not been able to pursue graduate studies if that is what he or she wanted to do.”
Metzger added students who are engaged in research and activities have more of a connectedness to the department. “This plays to retention and an extra connection to the department that other students do not have,” he said.
Metzger is pleased with the change that has taken place and he believes this will continue to make the psychology department stronger.
“What has happened is that the research and presentations were first viewed as an extra activity, but now it is an ingrained idea of what students should be doing in the department,” he said. “I don’t expect all of our students to do this, but we are getting great student participation.
“For students who want to go to grad school it is almost becoming a fact of life,” he said. “If you have research experience as an undergraduate, you have an advantage over students who don’t have these opportunities.”
Examples of recent faculty and student presentations:
Dr. Brent Mattingly, assistant professor of psychology, gave a talk titled "I Want, Therefore I Am Not: Self-Expansion in Relation to Self-Concept Clarity" at the Eastern Psychology Association Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. The talk was co-authored with Miranda Bobrowski (undergraduate psychology major at Monmouth University) and Dr. Gary Lewandowski, Jr. (associate professor of psychology at Monmouth University). The talk reported the results of a research study conducted by Ms. Bobrowski, under Dr. Mattingly's supervision, during a summer research internship at Ashland University during the Summer 2011.
Dr. Brent Mattingly, assistant professor of psychology, presented three research posters at the Eastern Psychological Association Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. All posters were co-authored with Ashland University psychology majors. The poster "How the Embodiment of Self-Expansion and Self-Contraction Influences Self-Efficacy" was co-authored with Rachel Carson (Ashland University psychology major), Dr. Gary Lewandowski, Jr. (associate professor of psychology at Monmouth University), and undergraduate students from Monmouth University and Sacred Heart University. The poster "The Effects of Self-Expansion on Self-Efficacy" was co-authored with Rachel Carson and Sarah Guarino (Ashland University psychology majors), as well as Dr. Lewandowski. The poster "The Effect of Self-Expanding Tasks on Implicit and Explicit Self-Concept" was co-authored with Amanda Mosley and Kayla Hoover (Ashland University psychology majors), as well as Dr. Lewandowski.
Dr. Mitchell Metzger, professor and chair of psychology, was the faculty sponsor for Amber Weaver's (Ashland University psychology major) research poster "Directed Forgetting: Are There Differences in Processing Typical and Distinctive Faces?" at the Eastern Psychological Association Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.
Dr. Diane Bonfiglio, assistant professor of psychology, presented a research poster "Participating in a Priming Task Predicts Persistence" at the Eastern Psychological Association Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. The poster was co-authored with Jessie Bates (Ashland University family studies major and psychology minor) and Niki Valentine (Ashland University psychology major).
Dr. Diane Bonfiglio, assistant professor of psychology, was the faculty sponsor for three research posters presented at the Eastern Psychological Association Conference. The poster "The Influence of Context and Color on Memory Recognition", authored by Sarah Guarino, Rachel Carson, and Lauren Goossens (Ashland University psychology majors), won the Psi Chi Regional Research Award for outstanding undergraduate poster. The poster "The Effects of Stress on Appeal of Food Images" was authored by Alexandra Maus and Katherine Scale (Ashland University psychology majors). The poster "Personality and Puzzles: A Study of Future Thinking and Persistence" was authored by Brandy Dilgard, Melissa Welch, and Cassandra Mosley (Ashland University psychology majors).
Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2012, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.