Lexi Tomkunas: Reflections on Southeastern Psychological Association Conference

When presenting research at SEPA, there are a few particular interactions that stand out to me. While Dr. Queen, my co-peer mentor and I were a bit unsure as to how our poster presentation would be received, we ended up having a lot of interest in our poster! This was excellent because it gave us the opportunity to present many times to a diverse audience. One individual who we presented to was interested in our research because she had children in public school. Beyond the fact that this individual had a doctorate in psychology, she was interested in hearing our opinions on our research and the implications we believe our research has in everyday life. Our research suggested that having a growth mindset leads to increased college success. Similar results in past research have been shown across all levels of education. Therefore, when this conference attendee approached us and asked us our opinions, we were able to have an excellent discussion surrounding pertinent issues in the education sector in relation to our research. This conversation also required that I think on my feet and be able to apply my research, which is a valuable skill to have. I am beyond grateful for my experience at SEPA and for this specific experience. I look forward to presenting at future conferences and completing more research to continue to expand my knowledge.

Me at the Poster Presentation

Isabella Seddon: The Day of the Poster Session (Southeastern Psychological Association)

I woke up early on Thursday morning, excited for the poster session that I was about to participate in. I was glad to be there, especially considering the hours it took to find the hotel the day before. It turns out that there are two Hyatt’s on Buckhead and the MARTA (a train which is a primary source of transportation in Atlanta) brought us to the wrong one. I sipped my coffee nervously as I always do before I participate in any form of public speaking. When it was almost time for the session to begin, a fellow Rollins student and I went into the presentation room and pinned up our posters in our reserved spots on a long row of blank boards. After a few people approached me and asked me about my research on adult coloring and stress reduction, my nerves disappeared. After about an hour and a half, the poster session was over and several of the Rollins psychology professors and students also presenting their research at the meeting went out to lunch at a famous diner within walking distance of the meeting hotel. It was great to talk with them outside of a school setting and discuss random topics and ideas. I was relieved and excited to explore Atlanta after a morning of attending poster sessions. After returning from lunch, a fellow Rollins student and I took an Uber into downtown and visited Centennial Olympic Park, the place where the 1996 Summer Olympics took place. We walked around and saw many historical monuments, college campuses, museums, restaurants, and even visited an underground mall. Overall, the day of the poster session was unforgettable and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity I was given.

Lexi Tomkunas: At the SEPA Conference (Southeastern Psychological Association)

Going to SEPA was a truly amazing experience. Never before have I had the opportunity to present research I have completed, so I learned a great deal. As a peer mentor for Dr. Queen’s first-year RCC, I was fortunate to have the ability to complete research simultaneously with her and my co-peer mentor.

Because our class was an intro to psychology course, we ran an entire psychology study in order to provide an example to the students in the class. We based the study off of the book, Mindset, by Carol Dweck, and completed research about the way in which the growth versus fixed mindset influences college success. What we found is that students with growth mindsets have traits that are more beneficial to college success than students with fixed mindsets.

When Dr. Queen informed my co-peer mentor and I that we had the opportunity to present this research, I was very excited. At the same time, however, I was a bit nervous because I had never had the opportunity to present research to experts in the field. Nevertheless, presenting at the conference was a wonderful experience. All of the students, faculty, and researches present at the conference were very supportive and offered great feedback on our research. Additionally, I was able to learn about other current research in the field of psychology. Furthermore, I enjoyed being able to spend time with my professors and classmates out of the classroom setting. I would love to present research again in the future.

My co-peer mentor and I after our presentation in Atlanta

Cristina Perez Diaz: At the SEPA (Southeastern Psychological Association) Conference

When I was told to participate in a research that would later be presented in the SEPA conference, I couldn’t help but ask, SEPA, what is SEPA? I agreed to Dr. Harris’s proposal, because of course I trusted his judgement that I could productively contribute, but also because I was once told that college is about taking risks and saying yes to new experiences. I am so glad that that day I took a leap of faith and said yes, because it was without any doubt one of the most amazing experiences I have had in college.

The morning we were presenting I couldn’t keep my nerves under control, I had never had a prior experience like that one and I did not know what to expect. As I stood in front of the poster that had my name as one of the author, I rehearsed in my mind the few things I had memorize in case I froze. A couple of young girls approached me and asked, “would you explain a little about this research?” I swallowed saliva, and started to talk, as I subtly looked at a few notes I had taken. Without even realizing the words began to flowed smoothly, one person after another, minute after minute, until it was time to start packing up.

I had a lot of interesting conversations with fellow students and teachers, who seemed genuinely interested not only on the poster I was presenting but about my own interests in psychology and future research I was interested in conducting. I even was asked to present research on another conference during April. I engaged in debates about politics, and climate change, personality factors and family dynamics, about Freud and Trump. I kept some email addresses and phone numbers from people I met and expressed interested in knowing about my future research on sibling dynamics, competition and perfectionism. In conclusion, this experience has served to motivate me even further to pursue a career that is linked to psychology and possibly public relations, since I truly enjoyed the interpersonal aspect of the conference.

Miya Furukawa: The Conference Experience (Southeastern Psychological Association)

I really enjoyed getting to travel to Atlanta for the SEPA Conference. I have never been to Atlanta before so it was fun to explore the city in addition to presenting our own research. As soon as Lexi and I arrived in Atlanta and settled into our hotel, we immediately got on the MARTA with other Rollins students who also were at the conference with us and went to Centennial Park. The park was beautiful because was surrounded by many skyscrapers and had several large fountains in the middle. It had a huge open space for people to walk, play, and sit. Across from the park there was the aquarium and the Coca-Cola Factory. We wanted to go to the Coke Factory, but unfortunately it was closed so continued to walk around the park and then went to dinner shortly after. We went to this restaurant near the hotel we stayed at called Cook Hall, where I got delicious duck tacos. After dinner, Lexi and I prepared for our poster session and then went to bed.

The park…


Friday morning was our poster session and it went really well; our project was called “The Growth Mindset and College Success” and based on research we did at Rollins. People at the conference came up and talked to us about our poster, which made the hour and fifteen minutes fly by.

With our poster at the conference

With Dr Queen and Lexi

(To celebrate being done with our first poster session at SEPA, Dr. Queen took us to lunch. After lunch Lexi and I met up with another Rollins student and went back to the Coke Factory and rode on the Ferris Wheel. My favorite part about the Coke Factory was getting to try all the different types of Coke they have in different countries. We all tried around 100 different flavors of Coke, some not as good as others, but we did it for the experience. I loved exploring in Atlanta and getting to see some of the city in addition to taking my research on the road.)

Coke Museum

Miya Furukawa: SEPA Conference

We arrived in Atlanta, Georgia on the afternoon on March 9th, just a day before we were supposed to present our poster on Friday morning from 10-11:15, at the Southeastern Psychological Association conference. On the morning of our poster session, Dr. Queen took Lexi and I to breakfast at a restaurant called Flying Biscuit. The restaurant was nice and was a good way to start off our day with some food in our systems before we presented. As this was my first psychology conference, I was a somewhat nervous to be presenting our research about the Growth Mindset and College Success to different people walking around. However, once our session started and I got used to speaking about our research, it was really fun to engage with different people about the work that we did. There were around twelve to fifteen people who came up and talked to us about our poster, which was a pretty good number considering that this conference was one of the smaller psychology conferences on the east coast. Some people who came up were fellow Rollins students and professors from the psychology department and others were either undergraduates or graduate students who were interested in what we did.

Overall, I think this was a good first psychology conference to go to because there were many different types of research and posters that others did. It was interesting to hear how they organized what they spoke about and see how they portrayed their research on their poster. Some of the presenters were less organized than others and some posters had more words than pictures or graphs on them, which made it difficult to read. I’m glad I gained the experience of speaking to other psychology students about our research and I also got the opportunity to learn about what research other students did.

Gabbie Buendia: A New Hope for the Third Wave (after Feminist Camp NYC)

This past Saturday, I attended the Women’s Rally in Lake Eola, showing solidarity with millions around the globe to give voice to a variety of issues and concerns facing the American public in the midst of the recent political election. Nearly half a million people gathered at the main rally in Washington D.C. alone while an estimated 6,000 community members crowded our downtown park. These numbers were hard to wrap my head around, but to actually see the volume of the crowd in person was absolutely awe-inspiring. As I witnessed the nearly mile-length perimeter of Lake Eola fill up with joy, love, song and dance, I saw a powerful hope and an enthusiastic livelihood that proved to me that feminism is not dead. In this day and age, many want to argue that the era and need for feminism is dying out. As an active member of the feminist community, this can often make me feel discouraged and hopeless. However, it is moments and events like the Women’s Rally that remind me that despite what negativity or rejection I face as an activist, there is a diverse group of people standing with me and winning small but essential victories for our community and all around the world.

I had several moments like this at Feminist Camp as well. Many of the leaders we met had been fighting for the feminist cause long before I even knew what feminism was. Though they have fought a difficult and endless battle, they still show so much passion and enthusiasm for the work they do and the people that they serve. Much like the fellow marchers at the Women’s Rally, these feminist leaders confirmed the validity and strength of the movement and made me proud to be a part of it. One of the wonderful feminist leaders I met at Feminist Camp was Merle Hoffman. Merle opened the Choices Medical Center in Queens, New York and has been fighting for and maintaining reproductive justice in the area for over forty years. Her and her team of doctors, nurses, secretaries, social workers and counselors welcomed all visitors and patients with open arms. Each person that was there performed their duties with pride, building genuine relationships with patients and providing services to any and all who walked through the door. Though faced with bomb threats, protestors and lack of funding, they continue to empower women and families in the area. They give women and families the full knowledge and support they need in order to make the informed decisions that they are most comfortable with. Choices puts the knowledge, choice and consequently, the power, back in the hands of the patient and reminds patients that they are capable and responsible of making their own reproductive choices.

My experiences at both Choices Medical Center and the Women’s Rally gave me the hopeful view of feminism that I have been yearning for lately. Though I am a relatively young activist, I already realize that the work can be tiring and seem to be at a constant standstill. As I develop my skills as an activist and ally, these kinds of experiences will be the ones that keep me going. These small but strong glimpses of hope motivate me and keep me sane through the emotional labor of social activism. I look forward to participating in more moments of solidarity and leading such moments for and with other young activists.

Dilya Bihr: Takeaways from Feminist Camp

After almost every interaction I’ve had with non-profits and leaders, I was reassured that my majors will not determine my future career and life. This feels comforting and makes me hopeful. A few of the awesome women included had started off as teachers, which is what I hope to be for a good portion of my life. They changed routes and I wonder if I’ll do the same. Many of the women had emphasized that we see our life as a ladder, a linear process with an X amount of steps. Prior to the conference, I honestly viewed my career and life in this way. It felt daunting and constantly made me question my worth and ability in society. Now, I see that change will constantly flow in my life, mistakes will occur, and I will get stronger. Mistakes and changes are typically unwelcome and viewed in a negative sense, but now I welcome the two because they can teach me and guide me to where I need to be!

Asking for help, especially with big projects like building an app from scratch or starting an impactful organization is necessary. I have learned that I cannot accomplish everything on my own, and that this is alright. The leaders had taught us to not be afraid of asking for help, because it will ultimately mean the world to find those willing to work together and be able to empower up to millions of people. Some will even do it for free! I thought this was only in the movies. After learning this, I feel a huge sense of relief. That rushed feeling that many of us have experienced, where there is a deadline to make change or develop or attend school or anything else, has for the most part decreased in occurrence.

The women we met had refused to be subordinate, submissive, and apologetic. Many not only asked others for help, but didn’t take no for an answer. One example of such a woman was Nancy Lublin, founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line. When it came to funding a cause, she was a woman who truly wouldn’t take no for an answer, because she didn’t ask. She had raised millions of dollars for one of her startups not by asking for handouts, sucking up, or praising, but by telling the people with money and power why they needed to fund her cause. She was insistent, strong, extremely straightforward, and just incredible to watch. She had the facts to back up her claims and demands, and ended up doing what many organizations can’t do very quickly. I hope to get the confidence to achieve such a feat.

The feelings that best describe the conference to me are centered on hope and empowerment. These women and organizations we’ve met had made failure and non-stop effort attractive. I want to spend my life pushing myself and others around me to end the status quo, to question the paths of least resistance, and be uncomfortable. Also, I realized that the process is more important than the end result. Many of these women had no clue where they were going to “end up”, and trusted themselves enough to follow their gut feelings, desires, and passions. They had told us how they are working their dream job, and it was evident! After this conference, I feel confident in being able to contribute to society. They have taught me that there is no cap, minimum, or range that we need define ourselves by. I know that I can’t change the entire “world” per se but I can be part of the global change, along with millions of others. We really need to empower students and peers to know that they are valued and listened to, because if they feel worth and autonomy, they hopefully can use it to improve the world.

Above: Ariana Barreto, Author at The Muse. She wants people to love their job and be successful at it. She believes that transparency and mutual respect is important for a positive and effective work environment. This company encompasses such qualities, and has shown me how inclusive and progressive a company can actually be in terms of intersectionality.

Lizzie Berry: Reflections on Feminist Camp NYC

It is hard to choose just one critical experience I had at Feminist Camp. One that affected me the deeply was when our group had the opportunity to visit Choices in Queens, NY. This was one of our first visits of the trip. Choices is a comprehensive women’s health clinic founded by Merle Hoffman, who we had the pleasure to meet and have a round-table discussion with. The building houses areas of specialty for pre-natal care, gynecology, abortion, nutrition, behavioral health, and education all under the same organization. While at Choices, we initially had a talk about our expectations and then were given a tour of the building. Our main ‘tour guide’ was the Lead Social Worker for Choices. After showing us the reception room that takes calls in over seven different languages, we went to see her office. In her office, she spoke about all of the services she offered from basic birth control to accumulating the resources for women in abusive relationships and sex trafficking. As psychology major, I have always been interested in helping others. The extent to which the Lead Social Worker safeguarded these women by finding resources in their area, making sure resources would not be too far away so that the abuser wouldn’t know they were seeking help, and even getting escorts to ensure the safety of these women amazed me. After this experience, I found that I know what I want to do with the rest of my life. I plan on pursuing a social work degree and going into traditional practice or even to court to defend clients. This experience exposed me to the versatility of a social work degree. Overall, my experience at Feminist Camp has fortified my confidence and passion for what I’m studying.

Starting our tour at Choices

Discussing our thoughts and experiences at Choices with Merle Hoffmann, over lunch.

Merle (second from left) and vital staff members, including the Lead Social Worker (second from right). I’m in the middle.

Hind Berji: Choices Medical Center (Feminist Camp NYC)

In continuation with the week’s prominent theme of fluidity in power dynamics, we visited the egalitarian, resourceful, women-owned and operated facility of Choices Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens. One of the main things that stood out to me from our meeting with the facility’s founder, Merle Hoffman, is the relationship between counselor, doctor, social worker and patient. The equal distribution of power within the organizational structure of a medical facility—especially one that cares for women who may find themselves in very vulnerable positions—should be innate. Choices staff members are very attentive to even the smallest aspects of patients’ needs and circumstances, and, although they are known primarily as abortion providers (the facility opened in 1971, two years before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion), they provide comprehensive healthcare for women. Patients can apply for medical insurance, receive pre-natal care, and attend therapy and counseling sessions for depression, abuse, and/or addiction.

Reproductive justice as something that is essential, and the issue of abortion is only one facet of the attention given to women’s care. We discussed the highly politicized topic of abortion and, given the uncertainty of the current political climate, the facility’s anticipation of more rules, regulations, and hoops to jump through to secure abortion rights. As Hoffman said, “the struggle for abortion is a power struggle…and women must take power for themselves because power is responsibility and responsibility is power.”