Senior research builds job-ready skills

April 24, 2020

Psychology major Cassidy Audette ‘20 enjoys a lot of pursuits. She volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters, works at the Mitchell Athletic Center, and is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. She also has some serious research chops. Her senior research project, titled “Prevalence of Students Receiving Disability Accommodations Across Postsecondary Institutions,” reflects a year-long, empirical study of college students with disabilities across the United States.

Audette appreciates the benefits of conducting senior research are wider than accumulating knowledge. “I believe it has given me the transferable skills of time management, organization, perseverance, and determination in order to be successful in any career,” she says.

After graduation, Audette plans on evidentially pursuing a graduate degree in industrial/organizational psychology. But first she will work as a Lean Manufacturing Engineer Intern at Moog, Inc., a manufacturer of control systems for applications in aerospace, defense, industrial and medical devices.

“I worked as an intern for them last summer and over winter break and was invited to continue working for them after graduation,” she said. “I see Lean Manufacturing as highly related to psychology, except instead of focusing on human behavior, it focuses on machine behavior.”

Research with unexpected results

Using a large federal database maintained by the U.S. Department of Education, Audette, working with guidance from her research advisor Professor Robert Weis, researched students with disability accommodations in higher education institutions. She especially looked at where these students were enrolled — the type of school, cost, and selectivity of these schools.

Previous research suggested that when compared to students without disabilities, students diagnosed with ADHD or learning disabilities disproportionately enrolled in two-year community colleges rather than four-year universities.

However, Audette found that, contrary to expectations, the prevalence of students receiving disability accommodations was actually highest at America’s most selective and expensive private colleges.

She suggests that research should be aimed towards helping colleges find ways to standardize how students with these disabilities are accommodated, so that students most in need of accommodation will receive equal access.

Audette was scheduled to present her research at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association in Chicago in the Spring of 2020, however, the meeting was canceled because of COVID-19.

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