On April 20, students, faculty, staff, and parents gathered in Jepson Hall for the seventh annual Jepson Research Symposium. The annual symposium highlighted the breadth and also the depth of a leadership studies education.

“A dominant theme across lots of scholarship in Jepson — from the faculty and the students — is a focus on studying really important, contemporary social issues,” said Dr. Crystal Hoyt, Jepson School associate dean for academic affairs, in her opening remarks.

Nine students presented research projects that spanned a wide range of topics and included both the humanities and social sciences. The Jepson faculty recognized three seniors — Patrick Hughes, Jacob Litt, and Dana Rafferty — for their honors research.

In his project, “A Different Kind of Learning, for a Different Kind of Learner,” Litt showed how performing arts education is well-placed to address skill deficits typically associated with the autism spectrum. Litt, who plans to pursue a career in education, created an original framework for integrating the performing arts and special education and offered leadership strategies for putting the framework into effect.

Dr. Kristin Bezio, who served as Litt’s thesis advisor, remarked, “Jacob suggests that we make use of the arts as intrinsic disciplines and instrumental tools to reach out to all students, encouraging them to accept one another where they are and for who they are through integrative arts practice led by both teachers in the front of the classroom and the students who participate in it.”

Brent DeShields, ’18, took a quantitative approach in his project. DeShields’ research combined psychology and leadership to examine how “American Dream” ideology influences people’s perceptions of political candidates. DeShields conducted a survey through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and found that participants evaluated candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds more positively than those from higher socio-economic backgrounds. DeShields’ work suggests that, in some instances, being from a higher socio-economic background can be disadvantageous insofar as it goes against the powerful “American Dream” ideology.

Junior Lydia DuBois also researched perceptions of leaders, but with a very different approach. DuBois’ work connected leadership and social identity theories to American tall tales. She explored how tall tale heroes represented hyperbolized versions of American values. According to DuBois, these over-the-top depictions created lasting leadership prototypes that are still evident in many of the traits Americans associate with leaders.

DuBois, who plans to expand on this research next year, notes, “If leaders can tap into that narrative, it creates a very powerful perception.”

Full List of Presentations

Brent DeShields, "The American Dream and Leader Perceptions: How Subtle Cues to Class Can Affect Political Candidate Evaluation"
     Research advisor: Dr. Crystal Hoyt

Lydia DuBois, "American Tall Tale Heroes: Narrative Folklore, Implicit Leadership Theories, and the Social Identity Theory of Leadership"
     Research advisor: Dr. Kristin Bezio

Melisa Quiroga Herrera, "Infectious Political (In)stability: The Public Health Burden of Chagas Disease in Bolivia and Argentina"
     Research advisor: Dr. Chris von Rueden

Patrick Hughes, "Mussolini, Hitler, and Perón: Economic Conditions and the Emergence of Illiberal Leadership"
     Honors thesis advisor: Dr. Peter Kaufman

Ben Krechevsky, "Sustainability at the University of Richmond "
     Research advisors: Dr. Jessica Flanigan

Jacob Litt, "A Different Kind of Learning, for a Different Kind of Learner: Justifications of, and Best Practices for, the Use of Performing Arts Education for Autistic Students"
     Honors thesis advisor: Dr. Kristin Bezio

Juliana LoPiccolo, "Leadership and Terrorism"
     Research advisor: Dr. Al Goethals

Dana Rafferty, "The Role of Growth Mindset on Cross-Racial Interactions on College Campuses"
     Honors thesis advisor: Dr. Crystal Hoyt

Aliya Sultan, "Gender Bias in Implicit Theories of Leadership and Heroism"
     Research advisor: Dr. Crystal Hoyt

Associate Professor of Leadership Studies
Leadership in Literature & Film
Leadership in Performance
Cultural & Political History (Early Modern England)
New Media and Gaming
Professor of Leadership Studies and Psychology and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Women and Minority Leaders
Stereotypes and Discrimination
Complex social issues