Name: John Frank, '09
Majors:
Leadership Studies, Psychology
Academics:
ODK , Phi Eta Sigma
Activities:
Community Board for Gender and Sexual Diversity, Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity, UR Men for Change
View video
of research presentation

You decided to focus on negative attitudes toward homosexuals for your senior honors thesis. How does this relate to leadership studies?

Discrimination and prejudice have many adverse effects on society. Leaders need to be aware of these effects and the different ways to reduce them. My experiment tested several approaches to reducing one type of discrimination, so hopefully it will provide some insight for leaders. I also hope that this study raises awareness of the problems that gays and lesbians face and the need to have more positive attitudes about this group of people. 

Describe your research methods.
To study how to change people's attitudes toward homosexuals, I decided to run an experiment. Because I wanted to test the efficacy of different interventions to reduce negative attitudes on different groups of people, I first had to divide the participants I recruited into groups. I did this by having people fill out an online survey. After completing the survey, they came to the lab and completed one of three tasks. Two of these tasks were designed to make their attitudes more positive. After completing these tasks, the attitudes of the participants were measured and compared between groups.

How has doing this research benefited you? What did you learn from the experience?

My honors thesis gave me an edge while I was applying for graduate school. I was able to connect with professors who were doing similar research and I was eventually able to get into a doctoral program at NYU where I will be able to study this issue in greater detail. Completing my thesis also developed my research skills and gave me experience designing and running an experiment. 

To graduate with honors, you had to give an oral defense of your thesis. What was that like?

The oral defense was pretty intimidating. I was nervous about having to defend my thesis in front of professors who are leaders in their fields. In the end, though, it was really rewarding having these respected social psychologists take such an interest in my project and work to help me improve it.

What made you decide to go the honors route?

I was looking forward to the challenge of answering a research question on my own. I also thought that it would be a great opportunity to study something that I really cared about. While I could have done independent research in other departments, the honors program at Jepson provided me with funding to conduct the experiment and attention from several faculty members. My adviser was willing to meet with me whenever I needed. Jepson really provided me with support in every step of the way.

What is one thing you'll take with you from your Jepson experience?

The biggest thing that I will take away is the knowledge that I have the ability to both study a problem that has affected me and work towards reducing the effects of this problem on others. In the past I may have thought that I was just conducting research for research's sake. However, after exploring the ways that this research can be used in the conclusion of my thesis, I now appreciate the practical value of academic pursuits and how to use research to create change.

Summer 2009