The opportunity to do research that connects to the real world - and develop deep relationships with renowned faculty - is why Rebecca Frazier, '09, came to the University of Richmond four years ago. It is also why she chose to minor in leadership studies. 

"The faculty in Jepson have really encouraged me to ask questions, get involved in research that relates to the real world and think critically," said Frazier, who was named this year's National Leader of the Year by Omicron Delta Kappa, the National Leadership Honor Society. Story "There's a real sense of community and scholarship in the School that I wanted to be a part of."

Four years later, her wish has been granted many times over.

During Frazier's freshman year, she found a mentor in Dr. Crystal Hoyt, a social psychologist and associate professor at Jepson. Frazier, who is a psychology and cognitive science major and leadership studies and women, gender and sexuality studies (WGSS) minor who is involved in the WILL program, was intrigued by the overlap of psychology, leadership studies, and women's studies.

"I saw that she had figured out a really strong connection between the two. As soon as I met her, I knew I wanted to be just like her," Frazier said with a laugh.

Since that fateful meeting, Hoyt and Frazier have formed a deep, close-knit relationship that is bound by their mutual love for research, psychology, and women and gender studies issues. Frazier has presented her research at prestigious national conferences and with Hoyt has coauthored a paper, collaborated on research and served as her student assistant.

The two even ran part of Ukrop's Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond together during Frazier's junior year.

"To have that sort of experience and relationship with a faculty member - it's just really special," Frazier said.  

Frazier is proudest, perhaps, of research she did that stemmed from a grant from the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Richmond that allowed her, Hoyt, and Audrey Innella, another psychology major, to create the idea for a leadership training intervention program for underprivileged girls in inner city Richmond public schools. The program would be based in social psychological research and aim to combat negative stereotypes of women, introduce the girls to positive role models, and help the girls increase their self-confidence.

In February, Frazier presented the paper she wrote on the proposed program at the Southeastern Psychological Association Conference in New Orleans. The paper was titled, "Gender, Stereotypes, and Leadership: A Leadership Intervention for Adolescent Girls."

Although the project is still in the early stages, she is hoping to lay more of the groundwork in the fall after she begins her graduate studies at the University of Virginia.

For Frazier, projects such as this one are why she opted to forge cross-school collaborations and combine leadership studies and psychology.

"With my research I wanted to fulfill my passion in a way that was contributing to my community," she said. "My Justice and Civil Society class at Jepson made me realize that I didn't want to do research that wouldn't connect to the real world."  

She is also planning to continue her research and close relationships with Hoyt and other Jepson professors.

"Having faculty that support you and that are willing to help you along the way - that see the potential in you - is priceless. I wouldn't trade the relationships I've had with the Jepson faculty for anything," she said. "They've made my University of Richmond experience."