Student Profile: Senior Psychology Major Tisha Owusua and Associate Professor Clarissa A. Thompson, Ph.D.

What was the most beneficial part about working with Dr. Clarissa A. Thompson as a mentor in the research?

Tisha Owusua

Tisha Owusua (she/her): Dr. Thompson was amazing to work with from the very beginning! When I explained my interest in school psychology and her research, we brainstormed and came up with our topic. She was so open and has been a great mentor not only for research but for further developing my skills as a future psychologist. She has been a guide through the whole process and has also challenged me to think about concepts and the different ways they can be interpreted. She allowed me to approach things independently as she provided feedback on my progress. Overall, she was an amazing mentor and friend and a true pleasure to collaborate with on this project.

What has been the most beneficial part about working with Tisha Owusua as a student?

Dr. Clarissa Thompson

Dr. Thompson (she/her): Tisha is a pleasure to work with! She is bright, eager to learn, and always wants to do her best. I had been wanting to investigate the impact of intersectional identities, such as race and gender, on math performance and math anxiety for some time. When I first met Tisha, and we discussed various topics that she could carve out for her McNair Scholars project, she immediately lit up when I described how little is known in our discipline about the effect of intersectional identities on math performance. With Tisha’s help, we have made a discovery that I believe will impact the field of math cognition. I cannot wait to attempt to replicate the findings in our other existing data sets.   

How have you seen Tisha Owusua grow in her time as a student researcher?

Dr. Thompson: I am so proud of Tisha! We began working together in the middle of the Fall 2021 semester, and by the end of the Spring 2022 semester, she had already presented at the Kent State University Undergraduate Research Symposium and completed a full draft of a manuscript for her project. I am excited to mentor Tisha through the publication process and watch as she grows into a School Psychology Ph.D. student at The Ohio State University this upcoming Fall. Tisha is passionate about taking what we’ve learned in our research to help children in schools who are struggling with math.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in your research so far?

Tisha Owusua: My proudest accomplishment is when I presented my project at the Undergraduate Research Symposium. We had worked so hard on this project, and it was invigorating to finally share our research and its findings with others. I loved being able to speak with people, hear their thoughts, answer their questions, and be surrounded by other researchers. It got even better as I won first place! I was so overwhelmed and proud, I already felt solidified in my research, but this furthered it. I called my parents and told them the great news and hearing their words of praise and encouragement was so moving, I am so proud of what I was able to do.

Dr. Thompson: After the Kent State University Undergraduate Research Symposium was over, Tisha sent me a text message with a picture of her wearing the first-place medal that she won for her poster presentation. I am sure I had the biggest smile on my face. Tisha was so prepared for her presentation, and she exuded confidence as she described her project to each person who stopped by the poster. That evening, I penned an appreciation email to my whole research lab, including other undergraduates, graduate students, and current and former postdoctoral scholars to let them know about Tisha’s first-place honor as well as the recent accomplishments of all of the other students in my lab. I said that my mentorship cup was overflowing. My students’ successes are my successes, too. It makes my day to see inquisitive students ask and answer important research questions. It’s a delight to watch the discovery process in action. I have the best job on the planet!

How has this research impacted your time here at Kent State University?

Tisha Owusua: This research project gave me necessary and invaluable experiences, skills, and knowledge that I will be taking into graduate school. As a McNair Scholar, it allowed me to be surrounded by other researchers, learn from my peers, and be mentored by people in the field of psychology and in other research fields. 

What was the process of presenting at the Undergraduate Research Symposium like for you?

Tisha Owusua: Though I was a little nervous at first, as the first few people approached my poster, I was able to relax and get into a rhythm of answering questions and having discussions. The words of affirmation and encouragement I received from Dr. Thompson and co-mentor Charlie Fitzsimmons increased my confidence. It created an environment of good rapport.

Dr. Thompson: I really like to encourage my students to present at the Kent State University Undergraduate Research Symposium because it is a great opportunity to show the KSU community all of their hard work and to learn about all of the cool projects that are happening in other labs across campus. I also love to serve as a judge for the poster sessions because it gives me the opportunity to chat with many brilliant undergrads who will become the next generation of psychological scientists! 

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Thompson: I did want to mention that my senior graduate student, Charlie Fitzsimmons, served as a co-mentor on Tisha’s project. Charlie is about to defend his dissertation, and he just recently accepted a tenure-track faculty position at the University of North Florida. It was so rewarding to see my mentorship style reflected through Charlie in the ways that he interacted with Tisha. Charlie did a fantastic job in describing how to do the statistical analyses, and he helped to shepherd Tisha through the pre-registration process. Pre-registration means that we outlined our research question/hypotheses and analytic plan before we analyzed our data in an attempt to maintain transparency and to promote open science practices. Tisha did an amazing job of integrating feedback from both me and Charlie to make an outstanding final product.

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Written by: Ella Wold