Psych Student Wins Research Competition

A William Woods University student took first place in oral presentation of her research project at the Mid-South Psychology Conference at Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., Feb. 15.

Donna Delia, a senior from St. Louis, has been investigating “attachment style” as part of the university’s Mentor/Mentee program, which pairs a faculty member and a student for collaborative study, using investigative, research-related exploration. Her research project was a replication and extension of earlier work done with other WWU students.

“Attachment” is the tendency that humans have to form and maintain close bonds from infancy throughout their lives. The students have been studying how these trends that were developed at an early age affected adults in their later relationships.

Delia and another student, Christy Clark of Eldridge, Mo., originally picked up the research of a 2001 WWU graduate, Leah Beth Williamson of Fulton. Under the direction of Marilyn Van Leeuwen, William Woods associate professor of psychology, Delia and Clark compiled Williamson’s collected data for presentation.

Delia presented the gathered information in poster format at the Mid-South Psychology Conference a year ago and the presentation went so well that it was accepted for publication in the psychology journal, “Explorations in Psychology.” The resulting piece, co-authored by Delia and Clark, was titled, “Coping Strategies and Addictive Behaviors: What is the Role of Attachment Style?”

Van Leeuwen said Delia returned from last year’s conference determined to win in the oral presentation category this year. She was pleased that her student “chose to challenge herself” when doing another poster presentation would have been an easier, more familiar route to take.

To prepare for the competition, Delia and her professor spent much of the past year conducting collaborative research on “emotional intelligence” and the “need for cognition.”

Van Leeuwen believes William Woods University’s Mentor/Mentee program presents “an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to be engaged in learning experiences outside the traditional classroom,” but she said this type of faculty-student research is unusual for undergraduate students.

“Typically students don’t have the opportunity to work with a faculty member at this level until a master’s thesis level or later. Even then they may not be doing their own research, but rather the faculty member’s work,” she said. “So the unique aspect of this program is the joint nature of the collaborative effort. I really feel that the research belongs to the student and I am just a resource and guide.”

Betsy Tutt, WWU vice president and academic dean, is delighted with the outcome of this project. According to Tutt, “This learning experience is the hallmark of the student-centered education students receive at William Woods University.”