Research project earns campus psychology student trip to state capital

An adult learner and senior psychology major at Penn State New Kensington represented the campus March 19 at the Pennsylvania legislature’s undergraduate research conference in Harrisburg.

Brian Ferraccio was one of eight Penn State students invited to the state capital for the 19th annual Undergraduate Research at the Capitol-Pennsylvania. The event provides an opportunity for students from across the commonwealth to showcase their research to state representatives and senators.

“My research, which focused on how to improve advertising effectiveness, was presented to legislators and other students,” said Ferraccio, a four-year member of the dean’s list. “I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about other research that is being conducted at other Penn State campuses and colleges. I also enjoyed meeting senators and representatives at the capitol. We were warmly welcomed and recognized by the Senate while the senators were in session.”

Colleges and universities in Pennsylvania are allowed to send one undergraduate student per 10,000 students enrolled to the conference. With the number of undergraduates in Penn State’s statewide campus system, the University was also represented by six students from the University Park campus and one from Penn State Altoona. Ferraccio was the only undergraduate selected from Penn State’s 14 campuses, which includes the western campuses such as Beaver, DuBois, Fayette, Greater Allegheny and Shenango.

“The fact that Brian was only one of eight undergraduate students out of approximately 19,000 in the University system speaks volumes about Brian’s scholarship,” said Rick Harnish, associate professor of psychology at the campus. “His dedication to his academic career is laudable; he seizes every opportunity seriously and maximizes every possible moment. I only wish all students had the same zest for learning.”

Participants shared experiences and ideas with fellow invitees and met their local legislators. Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Murrysville, who represents Allegheny Township, Ferraccio’s hometown, and Upper Burrell Township, where the New Kensington campus is located, visited Ferraccio’s exhibit. The two discussed the benefits of undergraduate research.

“I told him about the importance of higher education and the value the state obtains by ensuring Pennsylvania students continue to have adequate research and educational funding,” said Ferraccio, a recipient of campus’ Hyman Family Foundation Scholarship. “He was very gracious to take time out of his busy schedule to meet with me and discuss the research. He seemed to see the value in its implications for advertising and congratulated me on the research project.”

Advertising is the focus of Ferraccio’s psychology research. Working under the direction of Harnish, Ferraccio’s project, “An Exploration of Prestige Seeking in Mall Haul Videos: The Effect of Self-Monitoring,” was designed to provide advertisers with a study of how mall haul videos fulfill the motivational needs of high and low self-monitors.

“My prior career was in business, and I always enjoyed advertising,” said Ferraccio, a graduate of St. Joseph High School in Natrona Heights. “Dr. Harnish was working on earlier phases of the mall haul topic, and its implications for the future of advertising intrigued me.”

Self-monitoring is a theory that deals with how people view their public appearance. A haul video is a personal recording posted on the Internet, to sites such as Facebook or YouTube, that displays items that the person recently purchased, usually at the mall. The purchaser goes into great detail about the items -- price, quality, brand name, etc. Ferraccio explored the impact of self-monitoring on the interest in viewing haul videos from high-status specialty stores, mid-status department stores and low-status discount stores.

Ferraccio chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the New Kensington campus because of the quality of its program and its commitment to undergraduate research. He plans on continuing his education in a graduate program.

“Penn State New Kensington’s psychology department has an excellent reputation, and I knew that earning my degree from there would prepare me well for graduate school,” said Ferraccio, who volunteers at Big Brothers and Big Sisters. “Undergraduates can work with faculty on research projects, something that is rare at the local state-owned colleges.”

Ferraccio graduates in May with a bachelor of science degree. He has been accepted into the doctorate of clinical psychology program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He credits Harnish and Robert Bridges, associate professor of psychology, for his success.

“Dr. Harnish and Dr. Bridges provided me with all of the tools and opportunities I needed to excel and prepare for a professional career in psychology,” said Ferraccio, who is president of the campus chapter of the Psi Chi Honors Society. “I really could not be more pleased to have had the chance to learn with them. My primary pursuit is now my psychology career.”

New Kensington has been the educational springboard for Ferraccio’s family. His wife, Nikki; brother; uncle; and brother-in-law attended the campus. His father-in-law gave the campus a miss and headed straight to University Park. Nikki is a kindergarten teacher in the Kiski Area School District.

Students, faculty and staff, as well as the local community will have an opportunity to see and talk to Ferraccio about his research project at the 19th annual Research and Creative Exposition that runs from 1 to 3 p.m., Tuesday, April 9, in the Athletics Center. The exposition provides New Kensington students, under the guidance of a faculty adviser, the opportunity to choose a topic, conduct research, draw conclusions and present their information in a public setting. A concurrent job fair in the Athletics Center also gives visitors the chance to speak with potential employers from the region.

New Kensington Psychology Program
Psychology is the study of thinking and behavior. New Kensington offers two four-year degrees in psychology: bachelor of arts and bachelor of science. Hands-on involvement in research provides students a basic foundation of knowledge and critical thinking skills that can lead to a range of careers.

The bachelor of arts degree prepares students for careers that require a basic psychology and broader liberal arts background. Because the program is broadly based, the degree is geared to students who may be unsure of their future psychology career paths.

The bachelor of science degree includes options in science or business to suit a student's career goals. The science option helps prepare students for careers in developmental, clinical, social or health psychology. The business option helps prepare students for careers in industrial and organizational psychology or social psychology. Public and private sector jobs include the fields of personnel services, management, advertising and marketing.

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Last Updated April 03, 2013