Back when she was deciding where to go to college, class of 2023 graduate Kayla Bird wanted two things: an academically challenging environment that fostered a sense of learning beyond a degree and to be part of a high achieving gymnastics program. Thanks to the Honors College, at Oregon State University she had access to both. Kayla will graduate in June with an H.B.S. in human development and family sciences and psychology and as a Division I athlete, neither of which is a small feat.
Kayla’s favorite part of her Honors College experience was the small, unique nature of honors classes. She appreciated the ability to take classes from professors on topics they are enthusiastic about in small group settings with an emphasis on in-class discussions. She especially enjoyed SOC 444H: Prisons and Communities with Michelle Inderbitzin, where formerly incarcerated individuals visited the class each week and provided a glimpse into the prison system.
While being on the gymnastics team kept Kayla busy, she also had time to participate in the Student Athlete Leadership Team and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, providing a voice for student-athletes to both the university and the Pac-12. Through these roles, she developed legislation that became part of Pac-12 policies and enjoyed representing her peers to campus and athletics leadership. Kayla also conducted research with Dr. Frank Bernieri, a professor of psychology, which became the foundation for her thesis. She appreciated how she had the opportunity to partake in every aspect of the research process in his lab from creating a survey to presenting the data (and hopefully publishing it).
Kayla’s thesis examined connections between adult attachment and exercise experiences and behaviors. She hypothesized that hyperactive HPA axes and lower pain tolerance would cause anxiously attached individuals to exercise less and experience more perceived distress during exercise. While Kayla did not reach the outcome she predicted and found no direct connection between adult attachment and exercise frequency, she did discover that anxiously attached individuals felt more self-conscious and had more internal distress while exercising, leading her to develop new questions for further research.
This fall, Kayla will be attending the University of Alabama to earn her Ph.D. in clinical psychology, focusing on psychology and law. She credits both her research experience with Dr. Benieri and her honors sociology class with Michelle Inderbitzin for helping shape her career path and research interests.
Kayla’s advice for current and future honors students is to become involved in as many ways as possible. While balancing the workload of the Honors College and being a D1 athlete seemed daunting at first, Kayla found that most of her favorite classes were honors courses, as she enjoyed the discussion-based structure and the ability to dive deep into new topics. She also advises students to make as many connections with faculty and other students as possible, saying “take as many honors classes as you can, hang out in the SLUG, talk to faculty and join student organizations. It can be hard to find community in college, but the Honors College is a great way to find it.”
By Kate McHugh, Public Information Representative