• Amani Wise, Department of Pyschology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Megan Donnelly, Department of Pyschology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Jessica Barrack, School of Kinesiology and Recreation, College of Applied Science and Technology
  • Jessica Brougham, School of Kinesiology and Recreation, College of Applied Science and Technology
  • Whitney Green, School of Biological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Shahrbanoo Hamzeh, Wonsook Kim School of Art, Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts
  • Raeann Huffman, Department of Agriculture, College of Applied Science and Technology
  • Kelly Murphy, School of Communication, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kate Neally, School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education

Department of Psychology master’s student Amani Wise won first place at the Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition for her presentation about white privilege.

In less than 3 minutes, Wise distilled her thesis research on how white individuals’ awareness of their racial privilege impacted their perception of microaggressions. Many white people identify as being colorblind, meaning they do not see the color of people. “Although sometimes well-intentioned, this discredits people of color’s identities and their experiences,” Wise said.

Wise collected data from 400 white participants and found how colorblindness relates to microaggressions.

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“White people who are colorblind are less likely to notice microaggressions because they don’t think they are privileged,” Wise said. On the other hand, white people who are aware that they hold a racial privilege are more likely to notice these microaggressions.

Wise explained that her research can be deployed to inform methods used in microaggression awareness training to reduce microaggressions and to improve the responses when they do occur.

The fifth annual event featured nine graduate students competing against each other to determine who could best explain their research to a general audience in 3 minutes or less. The competition, usually held before an audience in the Normal Theater, was presented the night of February 25 via Zoom due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The students were limited to a single static slide and livestreamed their presentations from the location of their choice.

“We thought the event ran very smoothly, as if we were in the theater,” said Interim Director of Graduate Studies Noelle Selkow. “I think more than ever, our students are really persevering, and what a way to have a positive experience, a celebration so to speak of research and for our students to really showcase the hard work they are doing.”

For winning first place, Wise received $750 and will move on to compete in the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools’ contest to be held online March 26. Wise said there were some really good presentations and that she was surprised by winning.

“I didn’t see that coming,” said Wise, who presented from her home. She participated in the event, in part, because of the challenge of condensing her thesis into 3 minutes for a general audience. She gave the example of how you really know you understand a topic when you can explain it to a fifth grader.

Department of Psychology doctoral student Megan Donnelly won second place and received $500 for her master’s thesis about right-wing authoritarianism and bullying. School of Kinesiology and Recreation master’s student Jessica Barrack earned $750 for the People’s Choice award. Barrack presented on concussions and their relationships with long-term mental health and sleep quality.

Donnelly said she practiced with a lawyer friend to remove some of the wordier sections of her presentation and worked with her professors to focus on the major points of her research.

“It was such a unique opportunity,” Donnelly said. “It really challenges you to identify the main parts of your research.”

The participants were judged on communication, delivery, and organization by a three-member panel consisting of Dr. Bob Augustine, senior vice president emeritus, Council of Graduate Schools; Dr. Sandy Groves, professor emerita, Illinois State University; and Dr. John Baur, professor of Chemistry and former associate vice president for Research and Graduate Studies, Illinois State University. The People’s Choice award was voted on by the 200 attendees.

Barrack said the competition enabled her to present on a topic she is very passionate about. She called concussions a “silent epidemic,” and said many people are unaware of their long-term effects.

“I’m happy about (the award),” she said. “My hard work paid off.”

The Graduate School organizes the Three Minute Thesis competition as a way to showcase the wide range of research conducted by master’s and doctoral students at Illinois State. This year’s participants represented the Department of Psychology and the Schools of Biological Sciences and Communication in the College of Arts and Sciences; the Department of Agriculture and School of Kinesiology and Recreation in the College of Applied Science and Technology; the School of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education; and the Wonsook Kim School of Art in the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts.

WGLT radio station General Manager R.C. McBride served as master of ceremonies. Maryna Teplova played piano during an interlude in which the judges made their decisions.