On Wednesday March 8, four Abbey students and three professors piled into two cars in the Science Building parking lot and set out to conquer Atlanta. Over the next three days at the annual conference of the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA), they learned about research on a wide range of psychological topics ranging from the power of stories as a teaching tool to resilience in recovering from trauma to the effects of cell phone use on attention while driving. According to psychology major Kimberly Balekomoso, “My attendance at this conference was life changing in many ways…I am a better person because of it.” In addition to the research sessions and keynote addresses from renowned psychologists, the roadtrippers discussed new concepts and intriguing theories (and stories about psychology graduates) during dinners at local restaurants and long walks in the Buckhead district.
Graduating senior Celeste Swann presented a poster display of an original empirical research project at the conference, in collaboration with Dr. Ann Calhoun-Sauls of the Department of Psychology. Ms. Swann reported that “the supportive encouragement received from other students as well as faculty members made the experience enjoyable and educational… I would encourage every student to take advantage of the opportunity to attend conferences such as this.” Psychology major Elsie Henderson agreed, saying “I was able to speak with peers regarding research in areas that I was not familiar with as well as gain additional insight in areas of my personal interest… The entire conference provided me with needed information.”
Dr. Calhoun-Sauls and Dr. Jennifer Ramsey stayed an extra day to attend the Southeastern Conference on the Teaching of Psychology, and came back refreshed and inspired by new ideas. Dr. Calhoun-Sauls found several of the sessions useful, especially one that focused on advising students about the variety of careers available for people who major in psychology.
Department chair Dr. Nathalie Coté reported that another graduating senior, Ania Roland, not only attended SEPA but will be traveling to Boston in May with Dr. Diana Elliott to present original research at a national psychology conference, and that at least a dozen Abbey students (including Ms. Swann and Mrs. Henderson) recently attended the local Central Carolinas Conference on Psychology, a local undergraduate conference co-sponsored by BAC with three other colleges in the area. When asked why the department devotes so many resources to encouraging students to attend conferences, Dr. Coté commented, “Participating in a professional conference is a powerful formative experience that students remember forever, and it can affirm or redirect their life goals,” so she is grateful to the two Abbey alumni who funded the students’ trip to SEPA.