posted May 3, 2010

Psychology Project Wins Inaugural Social Science Division Award

A collaborative faculty-student research project led by Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown of the Hope College psychology faculty has won the college's inaugural "Social Sciences Young Investigators Award".

Trent-Brown, who is an assistant professor of psychology, and junior Karly Murphy of Muskegon and senior Jaime Van Heest of Holland, both of whom are psychology majors, received the recognition for their project "Survey of Psychological Services Requested by the Public in Various Medical Settings."

The "Social Sciences Young Investigators Award" is designed to recognize and encourage junior faculty to partner with students in research collaborations that further the scholarship goals of the faculty member while developing the skills of critical inquiry and analysis in his or her students.  It includes funding for the faculty and student team to present their work at a professional conference.

The competition is open to junior social science faculty who worked with students on a significant research project, with at least one of the students returning for the next academic year.  The selection is made from among the eligible social science projects highlighted during the college's annual Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Performance, which was held on Friday, April 9 this year.

"On behalf of my social science colleagues, I want to congratulate Karly, Jaime and Professor Trent-Brown for the high quality of their research," said Dr. R. Richard Ray Jr., who is dean for the social sciences and a professor of kinesiology.  "Dr. Trent-Brown's mentoring of these young scholars will not only pay great dividends for their formation as psychologists, but has also helped address a critical question for communities everywhere."

Calling the treatment of medical patients who are at an increased risk for mental and emotional distress and disorders "one of the fastest growing areas of psychological services today," Trent-Brown, Murphy and Van Heest examined potential patient interest in a variety of such services.  They surveyed Hope students by presenting a selection of scenarios portraying a hypothetical mental health issue, emotional trauma, chronic illness, acute illness or type of cancer of mild, moderate or severe diagnosis.  They then asked the survey participants to respond to questions that measured their willingness to utilize various psychological services depending on whether or not the illness was theirs or a loved one's, and to rank options presented to them.  They were also asked to share what services they felt should be available, whether or not they would use them.  In addition to understanding potential interest in such services, through the survey Trent-Brown, Murphy and Van Heest also hoped to educate the participating students regarding the types of therapy within the mental health field.