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Doctoral Student, Kathryn A. Howard

We caught up with 5th year Social Psychology PhD Candidate Kathryn A. Howard to learn about her progress to degree and more!

Kathryn A. Howard

We were so excited to sit down and interview Kathryn to learn more on her experiences and path to PhD. 

[TT] How did you know you wanted to pursue a career in psychology?

[KH] Growing up, I had some experience of what psychology is. Early-on, I was very interested in theatre. I always believed theatre and psychology are closely tied to why people do what they do, and the motivation behind behaviors. The human side of it fascinated me.

[TT] Did you earn your previous degrees in psychology?

[KH] Early on, I thought I wanted to be a clinician, possibly be a therapist, but I also liked teaching, so I would “play teacher” and make my brother be my student and create assignments for him to do. In undergrad, I double majored in theatre and psychology, and it became ever so increasingly apparent to me that I way more enjoyed psychology than theatre. I realized being in classes and Taking intro, social psych, and bio psych showed me that my interests weren’t in clinical, but more so social like, “Why do people fight wars? Why is there intergroup violence? Why prejudice?” I realized I would read and research these things for social psychology and not clinical. I did an honors thesis in undergrad where I ran my own study, wrote the paper, collected all the data and made all the materials. By Sophomore, maybe junior year, I knew I loved doing that, and that experience helped me combine psychology, theatre, and research to become a professor.

[TT] What attracted you to UIC?

[KH] I minored in theatre and anthropology with my undergrad, but didn’t have enough concentrated experience, so I went to Wake Forest University in North Carolina for my master’s degree, which was fully funded!! I went to James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, VA. Lake Forest wasn’t really the city, so I came to UIC in 2017 because I had a desire to live in a big city. I wanted the urban vibe. I originally applied to work first with Matt Motyl (who is now gone but was my original adviser here). I now work with the wonderful Dan Cervon! By happenstance, Linda Skitka’s research initially drew me to UIC. I cited her work in my master’s thesis and recognized the name, so I knew her research was a great match to my own. It was the intersection of ideology and moral psychology and political psychology, which were my biggest drives in applying.

[TT] What are your research interests?

[KH] My research has really morphed over the years, but at the base it has always been intergroup conflict. I am morbidly drawn to bigger, juicier, conflict-ridden psychological experiences. At the heart, it’s ideological and intergroup conflict. My research has been in that realm since undergrad, but it has morphed and become moral psych as well. With ideological conflict, I focus on people’s perceptions and understanding of diversity, how people from different ideological backgrounds have attitudes and different forms and understandings of what diversity is, and how conflict impacts policy. I am also examining how people respond when they learned their favored in-group candidates behave badly and what factors contribute to people being die-hard supporters.

[TT] So, we hear you are traveling to San Francisco for a conference. Would you share what your participation will look like?

[KH] Sure thing! I am chairing a symposium that was excepted. The symposium will look at the issues of identity and perceptions of identity. I am also presenting my research on Perceptions of Diversity, which is a paper that was recently published, On the Varieties of Diversity: Ideological Variations in Attitudes Toward, and Understandings of Diversity. I am also looking forward to stopping by other talks and see some familiar faces.

[TT] You are nearing the end of your program, what are your next steps?

[KH] Well, I have another paper coming out within a month, which can be found on Google Scholar. It will be published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology. I am also proposing the dissertation soon and run studies this upcoming fall, analyze data, and then write the dissertation. I will say earning a PhD is hard, but it’s like choosing your own adventure. Structuring your time is important and it’s up to you as the individual to choose your path. I liked being a TA, which consisted of a lot of grading, but I LOVE being a professor because I have more autonomy to teach my own classes, giving lectures, making decisions, and structuring what my students will learn.

[TT] We’ve enjoyed spending this time with you, but before we wrap up, we’d love to know what your hobbies are?

[KH] Again, I love theatre. I haven’t done it in a while, but I love going to the theatre. I also love singing, dancing, sewing, crafting, cooking, and going to the gym. I go to the gym a lot and feeling strong. I like a lot of things.

We thank Kathryn again for taking time out of her very busy schedule to sit down with us and share her experiences and journey to PhD. Be sure to check out her latest and upcoming publications, and congratulate her on a job well done! We wish you the best as you progress toward completing your PhD.

Check out Kathryn’s latest publication below:

On the Varieties of Diversity: Ideological Variations in Attitudes Toward, and Understandings of Diversity (2021)