200 Miles to Galesburg


By Rebecca Chicosky, Contributing Writer

Images have been provided by Dr. Guy Boysen

Featured Image: Lori Tretter (left), Rebecca Chicosky, Raina Isaacs, Bryce Bambic, Sara Kalkenova, Nadia Studnicka, Sydnie Markowski, and Elia Burbridge pose after giving their presentations.

“You know, I wasn’t nervous until I walked in the building. Then, it just hit me.” I heard this statement come from my research partner, Raina Isaacs, as soon as we stepped into Alumni Hall at Knox College. On April 20th, we and two other groups traveled to the Illinois-Iowa (ILLOWA) Undergraduate Psychology Empirical Research Conference to present studies that we had poured our blood, sweat and tears into over the course of the semester.

We traveled for nearly three hours, packing ourselves like sardines in Raina’s Dodge Durango that left our necks and backs begging to be stretched. This was Raina’s and my second time presenting at ILLOWA and we knew the ropes, but the thought of going to a professional conference still left us nervous for the questions that may arise from those listening to our presentation. The other groups did not know what to expect, and the thought of presenting in front of a person who knew their research better than they did was a hard possibility to swallow.

The first group to go was Raina and me, and we quickly found our presentation room to begin setting up. As we pulled up our Powerpoint, the audience of students, professors and professional researchers began filling in the seats. The nerves began to rise again. Our fellow McKendree presenters gave us thumbs-up from the back and wished us luck as we started to talk about our study. Our research, “It’s not you, it’s my instrument” about musicians ability to task-switch and the various personality domains that may have a relationship with them, started to begin shortly after the moderator introduced us to the crowd. The presentation went smoothly and soon we were applauded by the audience for our efforts. We then got the rest of the day to relax and watch other presentations from a variety of schools and support our McKendree peers when it was their time.

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Lori Tretter presenting her group’s study

The second study from some of McKendree’s psychology majors was “Blatant Dehumanization of Mental Illness” by Raina Isaacs, Sydnie Markowski and Lori Tretter. In their study, they discussed the public’s view how evolved those who have a mental illness are. As I looked around, the audience appeared engaged in their topic and asked questions about where they plan to go next in their research. Afterwards, Lori Tretter said, “I felt nervous answering questions… because I felt like I wasn’t prepared. I hate questions like ‘what about if this happens?’ because I really don’t know what to say.”

Lastly, Nadia Studnicka, Sara Kalkenova, Elia Burbridge, and Bryce Bambic presented their study titled, “Going for the Mental Gold.” In it, they discussed various mental skills, such as motivation and teamwork, that have been documented in athletes and found where particular McKendree teams may need improvement. The group passed off various parts to each member without hesitation and carefully explained their results. The audience once again asked many questions about the results and the presenters handled them with ease, explaining themselves like true professionals. Their smiles after the presentation was completed were some of the brightest I had seen that day.

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Bryce Bambic (left), Elia Burbridge, Nadia Studnicka, and Sara Kalkenova before their presentation.

As we were walking to leave Knox College, Dr. Boysen turned to the group and said, “It’s not just me, but you all felt like you did the best out of everyone, right? You all did great.” It was a relief to hear a member of the McKendree faculty say this, and everyone visibly released the tension that had been building up before each presentation. The anxiety that everyone felt was finally gone and we could look forward to the long journey home.

Overall, traveling to ILLOWA not only brought new psychology information to the public, but helped us become better presenters by forcing us to stand in front of a large crowd and talk about a subject that we had to quickly become experts in. It was interesting to see how much variety is in the McKendree psychology department, from studies on music to dehumanization and sports. Traveling to ILLOWA truly showed the distance that McKendree undergraduate researchers will go for the pursuit of their research, which is approximately 200 miles to Galesburg.