Seniors Karlie Gwyn (Mount Airy, NC) and Kilia Hasty (Spindale, NC) made history as the first Montreat College students to present at the esteemed Carolinas Psychology Conference on Saturday, April 13.

Hosted by Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, the event is one of the nation’s longest-running undergraduate psychology conferences. The premier platform provides students with an exceptional opportunity to share their research, ideas, and insights on pressing psychological matters before their peers and faculty. Dr. Mark Hunter, Associate Professor of Psychology, provided guidance to both students in their research and accompanied them to the conference.

“Dr. Hunter ended up getting his Ph.D. later in his life, and there weren’t a lot of people who cared about his future,” Kilia shared. “Because of that, he’s made it known to me and other students that he wants to be a helping hand that he didn’t get to be shown. He’s always been there to be able to explain something.”

Karlie’s research centered on student attitudes toward campus security, a topic of growing significance in today’s higher education environment. Her interest was sparked by a major crime committed on another campus.

“I thought it would be really interesting to see the students’ perceptions of safety on campus and how they felt in different scenarios and environments,” said Karlie, an Honors program student who is a double major in psychology and criminal justice. “Then, I wanted to ask our campus safety team how they thought students felt.”

After conversing with Montreat students and the campus safety team, she was impressed with how much their answers aligned.

“My research showed that students felt very safe in Montreat in our little cove,” she summarized. “Honestly, our officers understand our students’ perceptions of safety extremely well. They know where students feel safe. Our officers agreed with students on everything except for two questions, and for those two questions, they were more concerned for students than students were. That’s a good thing because they’re looking out for the students and wanting them to be safer.”

Kilia’s research explored the link between conscientiousness and academic resilience, a topic that has received widespread attention in recent years. According to the Big 5 Personality Theory, conscientiousness is a personality trait characterized by thoughtfulness, impulse control, and goal-oriented behavior. Highly conscientious people are typically organized, plan ahead, and consider the impact of their actions on others.

Through a survey of students at Montreat College, Kilia measured conscientiousness against grit, a concept defined by psychologist Angela Duckworth as “passion and sustained persistence applied toward long-term achievement.”

“I was comparing grit to conscientiousness in students because I think there are ways we can build perseverance and resilience to tackle hard things, whether that be in education, your career, or just in daily life,” said Kilia, a Daktronics NAIA Scholar-Athlete who has participated in both cross country and Track & Field at Montreat College. “I found that there was a positively moderate correlation between conscientiousness and grit. I only had a group of 25 people, but I think that since I was able to find a positively moderate correlation between a small sample size then I would be able to find even more of a correlation between the two if I were to have a bigger sample size.”

As a distance runner, Kilia has ample first-hand experience with grit and determination.

“You have to have a certain amount of discipline to run miles upon miles all the time, every day, which can help in really anything you do in your life. Even though you may not just absolutely want to do it in that moment, you know it’s for the greater good,” she said. “It’s just a gift to be able to run or use whatever your gift or your talent is and use it well.”

Kilia’s research aimed to assist students in identifying their strengths and weaknesses.

“I believe that God has given us many different strengths and he’s given each and every person their own individualized gifts,” she expressed.” I want to be a person who can be able to show them, ‘Look at how you are made!’ There’s no right answer, it’s just who you are and what you as a person have to offer.”

“A huge part of psychology is helping people fulfill God’s purpose for them and realize who they are in Christ,” added Karlie.

Following graduation from Montreat College, Karlie intends to marry in June and relocate to Charlotte. In the fall, she will begin coursework through The Chicago School’s online M.A. Forensic Psychology program. Meanwhile, Kilia has submitted her application to graduate school at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She also is exploring opportunities to work as a guidance counselor at a school.