Professor of Psychology Steven Evans, left, nominated Ohio University graduate student Raisa Ray, right, for the Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award from the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools. Photo credit: Ben Siegel/Ohio University.
Raisa Ray, a doctoral student in psychology at Ohio University, has received the 2017 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award from the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS). The award recognizes her research on the factors that help or hinder the social functioning of adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Ray was one of two graduate students from the MAGS 14-state region who was awarded for excellence in research or scholarship at a ceremony April 6 in Indianapolis.
“This award reflects the world-class research produced by Ohio University graduate students. The annual Distinguished Thesis Award is a highly competitive honor, and I am pleased that the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools has chosen to recognize Raisa Ray for her excellent scholarship,” said Joseph Shields, Ohio University vice president for research and creative activity and dean of the Graduate College.
Steven Evans, Ohio University professor of psychology and Ray’s faculty mentor, nominated her for the award. Evans co-leads the Center for Intervention Research in Schools (CIRS), which studies how K-12 educators, administrators and school mental health professionals can help children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral problems such as ADHD succeed academically and socially.
For her thesis project, Ray studied 324 middle school youth with ADHD, some of whom had healthy social functioning and others who did not, as rated by the youth and their parents. She found that youth participation in team or individual hobbies, sports or other such activities buffered against the negative effects of risk factors—such as teen conduct problems, youth depressive symptoms and negative parenting—on adolescent social functioning.
This finding is important, Evans noted, as parents can be quick to withdraw children with ADHD from group activities because of the likelihood or fear of behavioral problems and disruption. Ray’s research suggests that it could be beneficial to keep such adolescents involved in social activities.
Parent involvement in and support for adolescent activities—such as driving them to sports practice, expressing interest in adolescents’ plans or helping them pursue hobbies—is another important buffer against negative social outcomes, Ray’s study found. Negative parenting practices such as inconsistent discipline, corporal punishment and limited monitoring/supervision of teen activities and whereabouts, however, were determined to be risk factors for poor social functioning.
“The findings were interesting and informed relevant issues in the field,” Evans said about his decision to nominate Ray’s thesis for the MAGS award. He added that Ray did a good job of blending theories and approaches from various disciplines and also produced a very well-written thesis. The research was published in the high-impact Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
Ray, who is one of 16 psychology graduate students currently working with CIRS, stressed the benefits of the center’s writing group, in which students and faculty offer each other feedback on projects such as grant proposals, journal articles and book chapters. She also praised the mentoring and positive environment of the center and the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“I feel that this award is not just my award, but it is really a culmination of the great work that we’re able to do here and the very high quality mentorship and guidance that we receive here as graduate students,” she said.
Ray is completing coursework for her doctoral degree during Spring Semester and will begin a clinical internship at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the fall. She is expected to defend her dissertation and complete the internship in 2018.