Science and research play large role in psychology department


The Department of Psychology at Illinois College is a very active place – just a quick visit to the lower level of Baxter Hall will tell you that. However, the amount of science and hands-on research that happens each semester might come as a surprise.

“I think we have some excellence happening in all kinds of ways,” Elizabeth Rellinger Zettler, professor of psychology, said. A unique aspect of this excellence is that students are being taught to engage in the science of psychology from the very start with professors Kent Elwood, Jeremy Turner ’95 and Megan Fedor each requiring students to design psychological experiments.

Another area of excellence is the internships. Illinois College is linked with over 50 different internship possibilities, from the local Jacksonville school district to Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. A new internship that the department is excited about is a joint venture between the College and the Jacksonville Area Center for Independent Living to provide respite for families with members experiencing autism. Read more about the Autism Respite Program.

“Students provide two hours of respite per week and will get one internship credit hour,” Rellinger Zettler said. “So far it's working really well. It's a very small program at the moment. We’ve had a lot of students apply for it but not as many families wanting to jump in, yet. Even though the families need the help, I think they want to see how it goes. Over time, once we gain that trust, we should see the program grow.”

Research is a big part of the psychology department. It even goes beyond the classroom, as students are working on research projects either for credit or sometimes just for the learning experience. Melissa Trone ’13, for example, recently had a research paper excepted for publication in the Modern Psychological Studies journal, due out this spring.

Trone’s paper, which was co-authored by Turner, associate professor of psychology, is titled “The Use of an iPad as a Classroom Tool.” Participants were tested on the ability to learn anatomical brain structures from an iPad application called 3D Brain, a traditional plastic model of a brain that had structures labeled and color images printed on paper.

“We found that participants who studied with the iPad were better able to learn and identify the brain when compared to the use of a traditional plastic model,” Trone said.

She added that being published in a publication is not only a personal achievement, it is something that can help open doors to opportunities she might want to pursue after graduation. “I'm really excited to get my research published. I want to be a psychological researcher and hope to get into a behavioral neuroscience program for graduate school.”

This August Rellinger Zettler will be presenting “Perfectionism, Help-Seeking Attitudes, and Stigma: Comparing Small College to Large University” with Clarissa Richardson ’09 who is the primary author of the study. Richardson is currently completing her Ph.D. in counseling psychology at the University of Florida. Her graduate school advisor, Kenneth Rice, is also a co-author, along with Rellinger Zettler.

“In this project we compared students at a small college (IC) to those at a large university (Florida) in terms of their attitudes toward counseling,” Rellinger Zettler said. “There was a special focus on students with high levels of perfectionism.”

The study will be presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Honolulu, Hawaii, in August.


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