story by Claire Miller
Mi’Kayla Newell first noticed differences in students’ educational experiences – including her own – as an undergraduate, minority student at a predominantly white university.
“I became interested in creating programs and interventions and conducting research that could inform institutional efforts to support and retain minority students,” she explained. “My experiences in undergrad sparked my interest in how I can create academic environments that facilitate minority students’ success.”
She applied to the College of Education & Human Development’s master’s program in educational psychology and wrote her master’s thesis on imposter phenomenon, which occurs when people find it difficult to accept their own skills, talents and successes. Newell found that students’ racial and ethnic identities are major factors that impact how students experience imposter phenomenon.
In addition to her thesis work, Newell worked as a research assistant with the HBCU STEM-US Research Center at Morehouse College, Georgia State University’s Program for Undergraduate Research in Life Sciences and Georgia State’s Disciplinary Comprehension Lab.
One of her favorite memories from her master’s program was attending a meeting with other graduate students in her department to discuss their research projects.
“Graduate students enjoy listening to other people’s perspectives and how it informs our research interests and the lens through which we view things,” she said. “When we have the opportunity to do this, we are able to see our thought processes expand and we can be part of other students’ evolutions.”
She will graduate from the master’s program this month and will continue working on her research in the college’s Ph.D. program in educational psychology.
For those considering graduate school, Newell suggests connecting with faculty before applying to ensure future students are selecting the program that best suits them.
“I would advise future students to identify a faculty member who has the same research interest and reach out to them about opportunities to work with them and about funding,” she said. “It is important to assess whether a school first fits them academically.”