Student-faculty research lays foundation for next step

Michael Martinez, Senior Psychology Major

Michael Martinez, Senior Psychology Major

Michael Martinez has always been a driven student. At the beginning of his college journey, he jumped into his coursework determined to make the most of his experience. And, it only took two classes to set him on a path to a future in psychology.

“After taking two psychology courses, I realized I wanted to become a psychologist,” he said.

And he hasn’t looked back since. After completing his associate’s degree in psychology from Waubonsee Community College, Martinez set his sights on Aurora University to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in English.

“At Aurora University, I’ve been able to engage in deeper thought and expand my knowledge,” Martinez said. “The campus fosters an environment where I can tackle the issues I find interesting and gain a deeper insight into the world. During my time here, I’ve been able to focus my studies and I’ve discovered that I want to pursue clinical psychology. And since I’ve realized that, I can’t imagine myself being satisfied in any other profession.”

Now in his senior year, Martinez has plans to continue his education. Graduate school is next on the agenda, but he knows that many graduate programs have become increasingly competitive, selecting students who have experience engaging in actual research. To prepare himself for his next chapter, Martinez took a position at the beginning of his junior year as a research assistant to Dr. Renae Franiuk, Associate Professor of Psychology.

Dr. Renae Franiuk, Associate Professor of Psychology

“Research projects are a great way for students to gain professional experience for potential careers and graduate school,” said Franiuk. “Because AU is a smaller college, students have the opportunity to work directly with professors and close to the actual research.”

For more than a year, Martinez has worked alongside Franiuk studying Inconsistencies in Print Journalism and Blame Attributions in Sexual Assault. Their research has shown that the pretrial publicity for most crimes biases the reader against the alleged perpetrator, but in cases of sexual assault, the more pretrial publicity, the more one thinks that the alleged perpetrator is not guilty. The study is investigating if readers attribute inconsistencies in news articles, while factually correct, to the victim, making readers more likely to believe that the victim is lying about the assault.

Martinez has spent time designing research, preparing questionnaires and running studies. He also had the unique opportunity to present the findings of the first phase of the study at the Midwestern Psychological Association’s annual meeting in May 2013.

“Being a research assistant has been an interesting way to introduce myself to the professional world of psychology,” said Martinez. “The experience that I have gained has been invaluable to me, and it will no doubt help me in graduate school.”

Martinez knows it was the first two psychology courses he took that helped him discover his passion, but he credits Aurora University for helping him build a strong academic foundation overall and preparing him for his future.

“Some of the most intriguing aspects of psychology have been introduced to me while I’ve studied here, and the professors that I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with have helped me towards my goals in ways that I can’t repay,” he says.