It was early in the spring 2020 semester when Reed Morgan ’20 was talking with psychology Assistant Professor Brett MarroquÍn about his senior thesis project. That’s when Marroquín realized that much of Morgan’s data could help inform a research idea he had been thinking about: the emotional impacts of COVID-19 and subsequent stay-at-home orders.
“The data I collected took place in February, before the pandemic really began to impact peoples’ lives,” said Morgan. “Due to this fortunate timing, my senior thesis became the baseline data for our COVID-19 project, and we were able to re-survey those same participants as the pandemic progressed.”
Morgan’s senior thesis and research on the COVID-19 project were funded by the Monica Lester Endowment for Psychology, one of two funds established at LMU’s Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts (BCLA) by Paul C. Lester. The other, the Dr. Conrad H. Lester Memorial Scholarship supports undergraduate students interested in the study of the language, literature, and culture of the German-speaking world. This fund has provided nearly fifty scholarships to BCLA students since its establishment.
Along with his sister, Monica, Paul Lester established the Dr. Conrad H. Lester Memorial Scholarship to honor their father, professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department (1958-68) at what was then Loyola University of Los Angeles.
“My father, Conrad, had a deep appreciation for education and believed it to be our greatest asset,” says Paul. “He also believed in making education available to all who want and need it, and instilled these values in my sister and me.”
Upon his sister’s passing in 2016, Paul established the Monica Lester Endowment for Psychology to fund research opportunities for students and faculty in one of LMU’s largest majors. Last year, the fund supported more than 20 research efforts led by students and faculty.
“Donor support, such as the Monica Lester Endowment for Psychology, has super-charged our ability to fund research activities of our students,” said David Hardy, professor and chair of the Psychology Department. “Such activities can be small, or they can be large and costly. For example, before COVID-19, we were able to send three students to present their research at a top-flight psychology conference in Montreal, Canada. There’s no way that would have been possible without the funding support of this endowment.”
Morgan’s assistance with Marroquín’s COVID-19 research earned Morgan an authorship credential on a peer-reviewed paper as an undergraduate, as well as the Dr. Rose Patricia Walsh Research Award, presented by the LMU Department of Psychology to an outstanding student researcher. Today, Morgan is a research assistant at HeadsUP Lab at LMU where he’s working on a grant-funded pilot program aimed at reducing first-year drinking via a parent-based intervention.
“I was fortunate to receive a nomination for and win the R. Patricia Walsh Researcher of the Year Award, which put me on HeadsUP’s radar as someone who would be a good fit for the lab.” Morgan said. “Had the Monica Lester Endowment not helped make my senior thesis a success, I may not have been as strong a candidate for that award, and thus may not have caught HeadsUP’s attention.”
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