By Kimberly Talcott
SPEARFISH… Ashley Wasserburger knew she was interested in psychology when she began college at Black Hills State University-Rapid City. A few classes and a committed professor later, Ashley now has undergraduate research experience and a goal for a lifelong career.
After graduating from Rapid City Christian High School, Ashley took a year off and decided she wanted to stay close to home as she pursued her degree.
“I like the evening class options at BHSU-RC and they had the majors I wanted,” said Ashley, a psychology and sociology major.
Ashley says her interest in mental health and how the brain functions have been further sparked by her classes at BHSU-RC. When she took Abnormal Psychology with Dr. Emilia Flint, Dr. Flint invited Ashley to join her research team.
“The types of questions Ashley was asking in class showed that she was absorbing course material and figuring out a way to apply what she was reading to a scientific study of human behavior,” said Flint, associate professor of psychology. “Scientific inquiry, servant leadership, and humility are just some of the special skills that will make Ashley a great psychologist one day.”
What started as a simple class assignment for Ashley and her classmates has now expanded into a full research project. The hypothesis of her undergraduate research, says Ashley, is to determine if people are more likely to receive help from others based on their clothing choices.
“We know that physical characteristics like race and age can affect how people are judged and treated. Clothing choice impacts this too, but there’s not a lot of empirical data on this,” said Ashley. “You can’t always control what you look like, but you can control what you wear.”
Under Flint’s mentorship, Ashley is honing her skills in literature search and review, research design and implementation, and manuscript preparation processes as well as in the ethical conduct of research with human subjects.
Each of these skills will prove valuable as Ashley pursues an advanced degree leading to a promising career.
“I want to obtain a doctorate in psychopathology,” said Ashely. “I’m looking forward to a career in forensic profiling, abnormal psychology, and research.”