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Bearcat of the week: Nicole Reitz

Senior psychology major Nicole Reitz has performed extensive research within the psychology department.

She has conducted three major research projects in her undergraduate career, all under the supervision of psychology professor, Dr. Mark Rivardo.

Her most significant work is the research she is conducting for her senior thesis. Reitz wanted to take a look at age and racial bias in the courtroom and how credible people were perceived based on those factors. Reitz noted that this is important because, “race doesn’t determine credibility.”

Reitz surveyed 750 participants, all of which were given one of 12 transcripts from a court case. The age and race of the witnesses were made known to the participants. Each participant received a random transcript and was then asked to complete questions evaluating credibility. Reitz is currently analyzing the results of her study.

Reitz will be presenting her thesis at the Eastern Psychological Association meeting in March of 2018 in Philadelphia. She hopes to have her work published as well.

Rivardo noted that her research is an excellent candidate for the conference.

“Her project is great because of the topics she integrated and the sound methodology she developed. There are a lot of factors that affect how credible jurors perceive a witness to be. Nicole is studying variables that haven’t been manipulated together in a single study before,” Rivardo said.

Reitz is from Latrobe and graduated from Derry Area High School. She became interested in psychology after taking a few courses at Saint Vincent while still in high school. Her introduction to psychology course resonated with her the most, so she decided to declare it as her major. Her interest in the subject grew as she took more courses after starting her undergraduate career.

Last year, Reitz studied abroad during the spring semester. She went to London, where she took classes at Edge Hill University, an international college in Ormskirk, Lancashire. She said the experience taught her lessons she couldn’t learn in a classroom.

“Interacting with different people from all around the world was a huge learning opportunity,” Reitz said. “The experience itself was very eye-opening for me in the aspect of psychology.”

After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school in pursuit of a Ph.D. in either behavior or cognitive neuroscience. She is currently in the application process. She hopes having her thesis presented at the EPA will bolster her application. Afterwards she plans to do research in a lab, before eventually getting into higher education to be professor.

Rivardo expressed his confidence in Reitz to thrive in such a rigorous Ph.D. program.

“She responds very well to criticism and really thrives in the mentor-mentee relationship. We talked about so many different options and ideas when devising her project and she wasn’t afraid to engage in honest dialogue where she criticized some of my suggestions. That is so important because the mentor isn’t always right! Thesis is a challenge because it takes a lot of independence. Students are given a lot of flexibility and some students respond better than others to that freedom. Nicole has shown that she can excel under those circumstances, which is vitally important for success in a Ph.D. program,” Rivardo said.

Other hobbies for Reitz include going to yoga class and playing intramural soccer.

Her thesis will also be on display at the annual academic conference in the spring semester.

Photo: SVC Flickr

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