Ashlee Joseph's Summer 2018 SPUR Reflection

Ashlee Joseph headshotSince my first year at STAC, I knew I wanted to be a researcher in social psychology. However, while I took courses in psychology, I still did not understand what research in social psychology entailed—nor did I have many research opportunities in this field at my small, liberal arts college. These experiences drew me to the Society of Personality and Social Psychology’s (SPSP) Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR).  Not only did I receive the opportunity to gain experience in social psychological research, I was also given the chance to examine topics that were deeply personal to me.  I am lucky to have been paired with Dr. Maureen Craig, her lab manager, Michelle Lee, and a group of amazing graduate students and research assistants at New York University in Dr. Craig’s Diversity & Social Processes (DASP) Lab.

As I became more acclimated to the lab, I was assigned to conduct a literature search for a new research project that Dr. Craig and Michelle were launching on perceptions of allyship, particularly among both majority and minority group members.  Titled the “Minority Ally” project, this new project exposed me to a field of social psychological research that I had not yet encountered, which broadened my perspective of intergroup relations regarding majority group members and minority group members.  Conducting the literature search on this topic and reading various researchers’ perspectives and approaches to this line of work and to intergroup relations research in general made me more certain and excited about pursuing a career in social psychological research.

Once I completed the literature search, I worked with Michelle under the mentorship of Dr. Craig to develop research questions that would be most interesting to ask that would guide the structure of our initial exploratory studies. Prior to this internship, I was unaware of how much work comprised selecting the right measurements for a social psychological experimental survey.  I now understand and appreciate how important this part of the process it.

After selecting our scales and built our questionnaires, I provided assistance with building the survey on Qualtrics.  I had not used Qualtrics before, which prompted me to watch tutorial videos and training protocols to familiarize myself with the frequently used platform. I then inserted questionnaires, built answer anchors, renamed variables, recoded values, and established the overall aesthetic and flow of the survey, all of which ensure that the proper data is collected to examine the research question.

At the end of data collection, Michelle and I used SPSS to analyze and interpret the data, which I found exciting and one of the main highlights of my internship. Prior to starting this internship, I had no experience in using SPSS. Thankfully, Dr. Craig and Michelle guided me through the statistical analysis process.  I learned a multitude of SPSS syntaxes that dealt with setting up the dataset, exporting the data, and conducting various statistical analyses for data interpretation. Additionally, along with SPSS, I was able to learn R Studio through workshops hosted by a graduate student in the Diversity and Social Processes Lab, Riana Brown. I hope to use the statistical and analytical skills I have obtained with R Studio in my independent study project at St. Thomas Aquinas College.

In my final week in this internship, I had the opportunity to sift through the results, select findings that were most interesting to me, and present those results to members of Dr. Craig’s weekly lab meeting group. It was a good challenge to figure out how to present results in a meaningful way.

Working on the Minority Ally Project from beginning to end gave me an idea of how research studies are conducted.  I also got to meet with Dr. Craig and Michelle weekly to discuss the Minority Ally Project. The weekly meetings with Dr. Craig have been especially helpful; hearing her perspective regarding the Minority Ally Project gave me a new outlook towards the data and their implications. The opportunity to work on this project is so meaningful to me because it solidified my passion for social psychological research. 

Overall, working with Dr. Craig, Michelle, and the Diversity and Social Processes lab has been a wonderful experience. Everyone has been so welcoming and open throughout my time there. I was more than welcomed to offer my input regarding studies through piloting studies and having conversations with graduate students and other research assistants. Although I did not have as much research experience as most of the people involved in the lab, I was treated and seen as an equal, which I greatly appreciated. I am forever grateful to SPSP for choosing me to participate in the 2018 SPUR program and to Dr. Craig and the Diversity and Social Processes lab for making my experience so amazing and memorable.