Academic Experiences

This week we were guests within the School of Psychology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. We attended a health psychology intervention course where both master-level and undergraduate students presented their designs for potential interventions. Taught by psychologists Eliana Guic, PhD, and Nadia Egas, MSc, the course is a requirement of the Health Psychology Program within the School of Psychology.

Students were asked to find four empirical articles chronicling their topic of choice and use these as the foundation for their own intervention design. They had five minutes to present brief literature, as well as a design for an intervention and a rationale for this design. Topics and populations were varied – from insomnia in individuals with Crohn’s disease, to medication adherence in men with HIV, and kinesophobia in adults with chronic back pain.

After hearing and commenting on 15 incredible presentations, we found out that the summer session officially began last week. This was the students’ second class and throughout the rest of the semester, the students will workshop their interventions until a final product is produced at the end of the summer.

We knew we were at an academically prestigious university. The campus landscape itself is enough to leave you in awe. However, the caliber of work produced by the students – most younger than ourselves, left us feeling impressed, energized, and somewhat insecure about our own work.

Among our observations were the following:

  • Strong presentation skills. Each spoke with conviction about their interventions and their speaking was clear and concise- a great skill when provided only had five minutes each to pitch their programs. The presentations were stylized; contained dynamic graphics and were well organized for the audience. It was clear that the students had strong instruction on developing and delivering vibrant presentations.
  • Creativity of the interventions proposed. Many students thought outside the box when designing their interventions and forwent traditional methods. For example, one student proposed an intervention informed by the patients themselves reflecting patient-centered intervention design, while another considered the integration of online components, and another proposed the use of peer advocates. Each were thinking about the future and considering how to integrate their program into the modern world.
  • Students’ strong advocacy of their work. When professors Guic and Egas provided feedback following the presentations, students were able to defend their work soundly. We observed them advocate for their interventions and justify thoughtful rationales. They were proud of their work and it was an honor to sit in and follow along their thought process.

This experience sparked a conversation about the educational system within the United States and ways in which we could promote more creativity and advocacy within higher education. For many of us, standing up for our work can be a challenge, especially when presenting to an intimidating audience. We wondered why there was such a contrast between our hesitance and their ability to speak confidently. Is it cultural? Or a byproduct of our education? Should we have been taught how to defend our work? Or is this an innate trait? For the three of us who have yet to defend our dissertations, this experience made us wonder how we could bolster our own defense of our work. Without a doubt, interacting with these students and faculty members has been one of the highlights of our trip.