Skip to main content

BYU-Idaho program featured in major psychological journal

Rob Wright, a professor in the Brigham Young University-Idaho psychology department, has spent the last six years building a student mentored research program for the school. This fall, he had his program featured in the Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research

The Psi Chi Journal is a major publication within the psychology world, publishing peer-reviewed pieces. It typically features students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, in addition to faculty members. 

“It’s really blessed the lives of many people,” Wright said. “My involvement with the Psi Chi Journal has helped me, but the number of students [it has helped] has just been awesome.” 

Wright’s program—featured in the journal—focuses on students. In addition to providing meaningful psychological research, one of its main purposes is to give students the experience necessary to get into graduate schools. At BYU-Idaho, where the focus is generally on getting students into the workforce rather than graduate schools, Wright’s program is unique. 

“He goes above and beyond and sets people up for more than they could have achieved on their own,” said Spencer Garcia, a graduate of Wright’s program who is now pursuing a doctorate at the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Garcia gives significant credit to Wright for helping him get to where he is today. 

“I was able to participate with a broad variety of projects and even was able to help publish an academic paper, which I think had a really big impact on me getting into grad school,” Garcia said. “For research programs, they want you to have published or presented at conferences, all of which Brother Wright helped me to do.” 

Garcia went on to say that without Wright’s program, not only would he not be at a top school like Georgia Tech, but he might not even be in a doctorate program at all. 

Each semester, Wright gives his students a topic to study. The subsequent research often takes multiple semesters, so a new group of students usually pick up where the previous one left off. Each new group typically sets goals for the semester, then focuses on those goals. 

Wright didn’t have to think long when asked what the program’s greatest triumph was. A couple years ago, his group came across some significant psychological research. 

Over the course of 14 semesters, students gathered data pertaining to health behavior. They observed factors such as diet, sleep, and exercise. Then they had their subjects try to improve those things, at which point they measured the data again. The research team found dramatic improvements in weight, blood pressure, body fat percentage, and more—simply from trying to improve daily habits. 

At the conclusion of the study, the group published its findings in the Psi Chi Journal

“That was a major triumph,” Wright said. “I took a sabbatical leave to analyze all the data and put that publication together. That was a big win.” 

Studies like this are critical for professionals in the psychology field. Students applying for graduate school have a significantly better chance at acceptance after publishing academic research or presenting at conferences—things that Wright’s students do frequently. 

“In psychology, it’s ‘publish or perish,’” Wright said. “These students are publishing before graduate school. This is a really, really big deal.” 

Since the program’s inception in 2016, students have given more than 25 presentations at research conferences at the local, regional, and national level. More than 30 students have been involved in the publishing of 12 research publications, six of which were featured in the Psi Chi Journal

“We’re all about blessing student lives while they’re here,” Wright said. “For those students who are really interested in going to graduate school, especially in psychology, having some research experience should not be discounted. So, if we can offer this type of opportunity to bless the life of ‘the one,’ I totally think it’s a worthwhile endeavor.”