Three (Honor) Theses!

Alecia!, Yin, and Natalie working hard to complete their theses.

Three undergraduate students in the P20 Motivation and Learning Lab are completing undergraduate senior honors theses. Alecia! (left), Yin (back) , and Natalie (right) have diverse research interests, however, their theses have two common themes: self-efficacy and education. They have conducted their own research and have followed each step of the research process. Get to know a little bit about them and their senior honors theses below!

Alecia!’s honors thesis uses data from a large study that examined the beliefs and experiences of students enrolled in an alternative high school. Specifically, her work focuses on examining students’ self-efficacy to cope with difficult problems and get support, symptoms of Depression, and sense of belonging. Teenagers in her sample are considered at risk of academic failure in their previous schools due to behavioral problems, difficulty keeping pace with other students, or other reasons.  Alecia! is very passionate about this because she identifies as a woman of color as well as low-SES—both of which  exacerbate some at-risk factors. Previous research shows that under-represented minorities experience symptoms of depression, academic failure, and lower sense of belonging at higher rates than majority populations. She plans to apply her passion for combatting these issues by working in a high-need, urban school through Teach for America (TFA) after graduation. In the future, she plans to pursue a Master’s of Social Work degree after her two-year commitment with TFA and continue working with public schools.

Yin‘s thesis is a qualitative analysis of engineering students’ social experiences that are related to their self-efficacy in engineering. Within a larger survey, students (N = 654) responded to open-ended items related to their engineering self-efficacy. Her thesis work has involved a rigorous coding process over the past year and has helped her to expand her research interests. The support of her peers and mentorship from models has greatly impacted her success in her educational career. In the future, she wants to examine what social factors support academic achievement and possibly design interventions to promote student well-being. During her first semester, she thought research would be boring and very difficult, but now she look towards research as an opportunity to learn more about the world, and she finds it exciting! Currently, Yin is applying to graduate schools, and her research experience has carried so much weight in her applications. She is incredibly thankful for the lab and its guidance, as it has had a positive impact on her and her academic career.

Natalie’s  thesis explores Black women’s self-perceptions in two environments: Predominately White Institutions (PWI; postsecondary institutions where White students account for more than 50% of student body; Brown & Dancy, 2010) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU; postsecondary institutions established before 1964 with the mission of educating African American students; Lomotey, 2010). Black women (N = 346) pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at PWIs (n = 220) and HBCUs (n = 126) were recruited via snowball sampling techniques to participate in a survey assessing their identity, body image satisfaction, learning and performance self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and racial-/non-racial reasons to attend a University. This is a very exciting time for Natalie because she has been given the tools and mentorship necessary to handle her own research project through the lab. Her study has proven useful in preparation for graduate school. She plans to begin the doctoral program in counseling psychology at the University of Kentucky in the Fall of 2018. Also, between graduation and graduate school, she plans to travel… a ton!

The P20 Motivation and Learning Lab is delighted to have Yin, Alecia!, and Natalie as members and active researchers of the lab. We wish them success in their future endeavors.