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Three College of Education Students Take Top Honors at Thesis Competition

Three graduate students from the University of Kentucky College of Education took top honors at UK GradResearch Live!, a research showcase and Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. All are studying in the college’s Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology. This is the second year in a row for a student in the department to finish in first place.

Photo of Natalie Malone standing in front of Taylor Education Building
Natalie Malone

The competition challenged graduate students to effectively communicate their research to a general audience, with a single slide, in three minutes or less. Judges selected Natalie Malone as top winner of the traditional 3MT portion of the competition. The traditional 3MT track is for graduate students nearing completion of their research projects and who have results/conclusions. Malone also received the most votes from audience members, making her winner of the people’s choice award. She will move on to compete at a regional 3MT competition of her choice.

In the Pre-3MT track of the competition Kameron White McDaniel finished in first place and Zakary Clements took second place. The Pre-3MT track is for graduate students who have a research proposal, but do not yet have results or conclusions. While the traditional 3MT track winners were selected by a panel of judges, the Pre-3MT track winners were selected by audience votes.

Natalie Malone

Malone, who is working on her Ph.D. in counseling psychology, is advised by Dr. Candice Hargons, an assistant professor of counseling psychology. Her 3MT presentation provided a glimpse into the work she has done with Hargons as part of the RISE^2 Lab’s Healing Racial Trauma study.

“The data from our study is rich with intimate details shared by Black students about their experiences with racism, racial trauma, identity, and coping,” Malone said. “I chose the topic because I wanted to honor their responses and bring our findings to life.”

Malone plans to pursue a career as a professor and clinician. Her research interests include topics surrounding social justice, and Black women’s intersectional experience of love, sex, and spirituality.

“As a future professor, clinician, and activist, my interests will inform all domains of my career,” Malone said “Additionally, I will address systemic-level barriers to mental health affecting communities of color, promote sex-positivity, and celebrate all expressions of Black love throughout the diaspora.”

Kameron White McDaniel

photo of Kameron White McDaniel standing in front of Taylor Education Building
Kameron White McDaniel

McDaniel, who is a first-year Ph.D. student in educational psychology, is advised by Dr. Kenneth Tyler, professor and chair in the Department of Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology.

The driving force behind her future research lies within how Black girls develop their racial identity beliefs during high school. She has worked as a teacher and high school counselor in Fayette and Jefferson counties and wants to use that experience, along with her own memories of navigating high school, to shape her research.

“In high school and college, I was often one of a handful of Black girls in advanced classes and/or predominantly White spaces,” McDaniel said. “I was trying to maintain my Black identity while also not being perceived as the stereotypical ‘Black girl.’ Black girls have a lot to navigate, but these experiences are not consistently looked at critically, in comparison to that of say Black boys, or girls in general. I feel strongly that schools can’t implement strategies to help a population they haven’t paid attention to, and research can’t offer effective strategies for the same reason.”

She plans to look at how Black girls’ racial identity beliefs relate to their self-efficacy, such as their beliefs about their abilities, and compare those findings between girls in predominantly black and predominantly white schools.

Zakary Clements

Photo of Zakary Clements sitting in front of Taylor Education Building
Zakary Clements

Clements, who is a Ph.D. student in counseling psychology, is advised by Dr. Sherry Rostosky, a professor of counseling psychology. His research focuses on the positive aspects of trans identity, a narrative he said is rarely discussed.

Clements received funding from JustFundKY and the UK’s Office of LGBTQ* Resources to create a video featuring Kentuckians discussing positive aspects of their trans identity. The areas they touched on – authenticity, intimacy, community, social justice, and insights – have been identified in previous research as being among the top positive aspects of trans identity.

“Obviously, it is a struggle for various reasons, but there are so many gifts that come from this identity and these positive aspects are also empirically documented,” Clements said. “I think it is vitally important to connect research to the community, and that is why using community-based research is useful in working with marginalized populations. Having other members of my community talk about their genuinely positive experience of being trans was powerful.”

Clements hopes that viewing the video of young trans Kentuckians talking about their positive identities will give hope to others.

UK GradResearch Live!

UK GradResearch Live! was born out of the The University of Queensland’s 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, a research presentation initiative that challenges graduate students to effectively communicate their research to a general audience, with a single slide, in three minutes or less.

The Graduate School and Graduate Student Congress have hosted 3MT competitions at UK since 2013. Participants use the competition to practice their communication and presentation skills while sharing their research with peers.