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Reflection on the 2nd Annual Psychology Research Symposium

MSP Psi Chi hosted the 2nd Annual Psychology Research Symposium on Friday, April 29 at MSP.  A clinical training for working with the LGBTQ population, taught by Rachel Crandall, LMSW, was held just before the conference.  Dr. Ellen Fedon-Keyt, PhD, delivered the key-note address, followed by two poster sessions and the presentation of awards ceremony with closing remarks by Psi Chi President Jessica Dluzynski, PsyS. Watch Dr. Fedon-Keyt’s keynote here.

Ellen Fedon-Keyt, Ph.D., talks with attendees.
Ellen Fedon-Keyt, Ph.D., talks with attendees.

The Psi Chi Research Symposium was a thrilling, validating, and educating experience for me.  Each attendee and presenter I spoke to treated me with dignity and consideration.  The conversations assisted in further developing ideas relating to my own presentation on the effectiveness of dream therapy for complicated grief.  Dr. Ellen Fedon-Keyt delivered an astonishing presentation on the relationship of belonging, self-esteem, suicidal ideation, and attractionality, which facilitated an internal dialogue within myself to explore other areas of interest.

Dr. Fedon-Keyt discussed how having a sense of belonging can be instrumental in bolstering the self-esteem of an individual.  The sense of belonging allows the individual to draw positive regard from other group members, building a network of support.  Having a multitude of meaningful interpersonal associations can develop a safe space to be oneself – in touch with one’s own identity, with a continuing latitude of exploration of the core self.

Conversely, being in a hostile environment, not having a sense of belonging, and being denied access to the freeing sense of safety increases the risk of suicidal ideation.  Dr. Fedon-Keyt talked about the alarming influence that laws have on suicidal ideation within the transgendered community.  Areas that have forbidden individuals from using the public restroom of their choice has drastically increased suicidal ideation as evidenced by calls received by suicide hotlines.  The sense of belonging is greatly disrupted, along with the sense of self-determination of identity.  The exclusion can create feelings of hopelessness, which leads to suicidal ideation.  The overt exclusion of transgendered individuals can have a ripple effect of increasing micro-aggressions by validation of bigotry.

I asked Dr. Fedon-Keyt if she knew of studies on micro-affirmations.  My inquiry came from a desire to facilitate inclusion and belonging.  Dr. Fedon-Keyt’s presentation empowered me to want to extend a sense of acceptance to others through even small gestures.

Alicia Width, MA, presents her poster to attendees at the symposium.
Alicia Width, MA, presents her poster.

The myriad of poster presentations was both stimulating and exciting.  Each poster I saw brought new and fascinating concepts to life.  One poster I was especially interested in was Divorce and Impact on Self-esteem in Children by Alicia Width.  The poster sparked my interest in how empathy impacts self-esteem.  I had an engaging conversation with Alicia Width on her topic.  Her knowledgeable presentation helped further my understanding on the psychological impacts of divorce.

The themes of empathy and belonging reverberated in my mind after the conference.  I recently withdrew my doctorate application from another university, officially and intrinsically accepting MSP as my doctorate school.  The persistent echoing questions in my mind are:  Do I belong at MSP? Do I want to belong at MSP?  A part of my psyche finds anonymity deeply satisfying and safe.  I enjoy going to unknown environments, trying new things, and being a stranger in a sea of strangers.  Perhaps I am unaccustomed to belonging and the constant shifting newness is my comfort zone.  The newness of having long lasting interpersonal associations may reveal something I have not yet seen.

By Nathan Hayrynen
Nathan presented a poster at this year’s Psychology Research Symposium.  He is currently in the MA program at MSP.