Cierra Williams graduated in 2018 with a major in psychology and minors in sociology and African American studies.
“I originally got into research through an opportunity in my social psychology class. I was just someone who was super interested in the topic of social psychology and would talk to my professor after class just about subjects from the class. She actually came up to me and said something like, ‘Oh, I have a friend in the Psychology Department that’s looking for a research assistant in his lab!’ and it ended up being Dr. Ed Hirt.”
After being introduced to performing psychology research as a Research Assistant (RA) for HirtLab, Cierra discovered that she enjoyed the environment. Looking for a similar experience with a different focus topic that better pertained to her areas of interest, she began shopping around. With an interest in the perceptions and effects of racial inequality, especially in young adults, Cierra was led to Dr. Mary Murphy’s Mind & Identity and Context Laboratory.
“[Dr. Murphy] did a lot of research with racial identity, gender identity, and fixed versus growth mindsets. It was something that I was super interested in, so I ended up applying for that lab. It really aligned with what I was interested in since I was studying African American studies.”
Cierra was incredibly involved in Dr. Murphy’s lab: She helped out with other RA’s and grad students’ studies while considering her own goal of conducting a capstone honors thesis study.
“I remember talking with the graduate students about events happening in the news regarding race, and those conversations actually led to the topic of my honors thesis which was really cool. I looked at the psychological effects of confronting racism, and Katie was the best mentor ever!”
Cierra’s final thesis was over seventy pages long, and she had the unique opportunity to present her findings at the Society for Personal and Social Psychology annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia and the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. As all this was going on under Dr. Murphy’s lab, Cierra also had the zeal to join Dr. Anne Krendl’s NiMBLe Lab. She also ran an experiment in that lab on the perceptions of African-American people through a neuroscience lens.
Originally planning to go to graduate school to continue her research aspirations, Cierra found a new interest: coding. Through a connection with a fellow RA in the HirtLab, Cierra discovered an opening with Qualtrics.
“Actually two people from the HirtLab took a job at Qualtrics. I ended up applying, too, and ended up at Qualtrics.”
When she was applying to Qualtrics, she said that her interviews almost solely focused on Cierra’s research.
“They were super interested in the studies I’d conducted, and it was a really easy way to display my technical skills while also showing my passions and interests. My research also allowed me to comfortably ask about the work culture around diversity and inclusion—something that is very important to me as a Black woman. They were honest, and even now I’m a part of a group that aims to increase diversity in the workplace.”
Even though Cierra didn’t go to graduate school and take the more “traditional” path that many undergraduate researchers do, she feels strongly that her dedication to engaged learning through research has led her to a happy life in Salt Lake City with Qualtrics as she celebrates her second year as a CRM QA Specialist!
Bringing Research to Reality
By: Preston Gilts
Thursday, August 13, 2020