UM-Flint online student wins Raphelson Prize for psychology writing

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2022 Raphelson Prize winner and senior psychology major Jennifer Musk
2022 Raphelson Prize winner and senior psychology major Jennifer Musk. Photo Credit: Gregerson Photography, Kalamazoo, MI.

It's often been said that you should write what you know. For Jennifer Musk, what she knows is ADHD and how it can affect not only afflicted persons but those around them. And because of that knowledge, people will now know Musk as the 2022 Raphelson Prize award winner.

The prize, a faculty-selected award that honors excellent research and writing by a psychology student, was recently presented to Musk, a University of Michigan-Flint senior psychology major from Schoolcraft, for her paper titled "The Effects of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Therapy on Attention Span in Preschoolers."

Musk chose to write about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder based on someone in her life being diagnosed with the disorder that can cause people to become overly active, have trouble paying attention or controlling impulsive behavior. 

"(ADHD) is very personal to me and I know what kind support both children and adults need in order to thrive after receiving that type of diagnosis," said Musk.

"When you have a bit of prior knowledge and passionate feelings about a topic, it makes it easier to research it."

The three components of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy Musk focused on in her paper include body scanning, moving meditation and seated meditation. These activities teach people to tap into how their body physically feels, what emotions they are experiencing and what kind of thoughts that they're having, all without judgment. 

"Mindfulness is beneficial for children and adults because it allows their nervous systems to calm down and enhances their coping abilities," said Musk who practices the technique herself. "When considering children, early intervention is crucial to their development. The sooner they learn about mindfulness activities, the sooner they can learn a routine that could be helpful for the rest of their lives." 

Nathaniel Miller, a UM-Flint associate professor of psychology, was Musk's faculty sponsor for her paper and was impressed with her dedication, application and design of the entire project.

"I'm quite proud of her and she has excelled in every class that I've had with her," said Miller. "This award was well deserved."

Musk, a nontraditional student who attends classes virtually, said that she was stunned to find out that she won the prize. 

"I read the email announcing the award multiple times to make sure I understood it correctly," she said. "I am honored and proud to be the recipient."

The award's team of faculty reviewers told Musk that they were also willing to offer her further advice should she choose to conduct a research study. 

In addition to being an award-winning psychology student, Musk is a mother of four, grandmother, and works full time in commercial real estate. She earned an associate's degree from Kalamazoo Valley Community College (2016) and became part of the college's Phi Theta Kappa honor society before taking time off to pursue other endeavors. She relaunched her academic pursuits in January 2021 with online classes in psychology at UM-Flint.

She's also learned that she can apply what she knows about psychology to real-world scenarios both in the workplace and at home. 

"Psychology is applicable in every career field and is incredibly valuable in your personal life," said Musk. "I've learned that the knowledge I've accumulated is valuable both at home and in the workplace."

As for other adult learners who might be holding back on pursuing their educational dreams, Musk have one piece of advice. ""Don't be afraid to go for it," she said. "You have nothing to lose and so much to gain from this experience. It can change your life."

To learn more about UM-Flint's psychology programs, visit our webpage.

Madeline Campbell is the communications specialist for the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].