I am currently a second year Ph.D. student in the educational psychology program at the University of Northern Colorado, with an emphasis in applied statistics and research methods. This program involves learning how to apply psychological principles (e.g., learning, cognition and motivation) to educational settings. I intend to use my major and coursework to examine motivational constructs for teachers (e.g., teacher self-efficacy and teacher interest). In 2014, I received my Master of Arts in psychological sciences from Western Kentucky University. After I receive my doctoral degree, I hope to continue researching and teaching in a faculty role or work as a data analyst.
The psychology program at UTM was very influential in my success as a master’s level student and even now as a doctoral student. I always receive compliments about my research methodology background and my statistical background, in which UTM gave me a firm foundation. I attribute most of my success as a graduate student to surviving and growing in Dr. MacKewn’s experimental psychology class. One of the most valuable skills I gained through experimental psychology was how to connect research methodology and statistical analyses. After I completed that class, I was given an opportunity to serve as a supplemental instructor for experimental psychology and then did an internship where I learned about teaching the subject. This was beneficial when I was asked to teach a research methods lab section in my masters program. All these experiences really helped me succeed as a developing methodologist and statistician in my masters and doctoral-level courses.
Two additional activities that really helped my transition into being a graduate student were serving as the psychology department lab assistant and completing independent research. As the psychology lab assistant, I got to learn how to interact with the faculty on a level similar to a graduate student. I had to learn how to balance my time and my commitments and deliver products on a time table. This is a very similar dynamic to working with a mentor as a graduate student. I have since supervised undergraduate and master’s level students and served as the liaison between my mentor and the students.
With independent research, Dr. MacKewn agreed to mentor two other undergraduates and myself on a lab-based project. We learned how to develop experimental protocol as well as deal with ethical problem. The independent research project was one of the best ways I was prepared for graduate school, and I encourage anyone who is continuing to graduate school to pursue any research opportunities that are available. Coursework is somewhat important as you move forward, but research is the key to advancing in the field.
The faculty are well prepared to help you navigate the discipline. If you put forth the effort and ask questions, you will have a solid background in psychological content areas, research methodology and practical skills that will prepare you to enter the workforce or continue to graduate school. You will have to demonstrate assertiveness and self-regulatory skills to know when to ask the tough questions, as well as to ask for the opportunities you need. Always remember, the faculty have been where you are and can provide guidance; all you have to do is seek it.