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Psychology graduate receives Sorensen Outstanding Dissertation Award

Lynda Kasky-Hernández, Ph.D. '16 and Jef Kahn, Ph.D. (PSY).

Lynda Kasky-Hernández, Ph.D. '16 and Psychology Professor Jef Kahn, Ph.D.

Lynda Kasky-Hernández, Ph.D. ’16, is a 2017 recipient of the Sorensen Outstanding Dissertation Award for her dissertation titled “Attachment and Self-Disclosure to Mothers: Predictors of Adjustment During the College Transition.”

Kasky-Hernández majored in psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated with a B. S. in 2011. She was admitted to the Illinois State University doctoral program in school psychology in fall 2011 and went on to complete a school psychology internship in a full-time position at Park Ridge Niles Consolidated School District 64 in Niles in 2015–2016.

The purpose of Kasky-Hernández’s dissertation was to investigate the extent to which researchers can predict college freshman students’ social and emotional adjustment throughout the first semester of college. Specifically, Kasky-Hernández et al. investigated whether the student-mother attachment and experiencing and disclosing distress to the mother are important factors in predicting how students transition from high school to college.

“It was important to me to study a group that has traditionally not been thoroughly examined,” said Kasky-Hernández. “While college students have been extensively researched as a whole, the relationship between parents and older adolescents has experienced significantly less limelight. With attachment being such a foundational psychological concept for a person’s well-being, I felt there was more to examine in the college freshman population. Being from a school psychology graduate training program, I was also interested in the social and emotional development of adolescents after they leave high school.”

In general, the research found that specific aspects of the student-mother attachment relationship were important in predicting the social and emotional adjustment of students during their transition to college. Kasky-Hernández also identified the various trajectories of college students’ adjustment throughout their first college semester.

“A memorable aspect of my dissertation process was the opportunity to work with the staff who organizes the freshman orientation program.” Kasky-Hernández said. “Their cooperation and genuine interest in my work made for a fantastic collaboration process.”

Kasky-Hernández is thankful for the support she received throughout the dissertation process. Some of this support came from her dissertation committee members, including Professors Mark Swerdlik, Marla Reese-Weber, and Susan Sprecher. Additionally, many of her graduate colleagues assisted with the data collection process. Kasky-Hernández was also awarded the Ora Bretal Graduate Scholarship, which assisted in the provision of participant incentives.

“Above all,” she said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to work under the guidance of Dr. Jeffrey Kahn throughout my academic career. His support and humor made the dissertation process smooth and rewarding.”

Kasky-Hernández is currently accruing hours for clinical licensure in Baltimore, where she recently moved with her husband, Seth. She is completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she provides service to children with disruptive behavior disorders within the Behavior Management Clinic.

Following the completion of her postdoc, Kasky-Hernández said, “We will likely be moving to the west coast to pursue our next adventure (to be determined!). I am certain research, teaching, and practice—all things I developed through the dissertation process—will be a part of my future career endeavors.”

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