Melinda McCullin graduated NAU-Yuma this spring with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and will begin pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Counseling with an emphasis in Trauma at Prescott College this fall. Meanwhile, the married mother of four will be presenting a poster on her NAU-Yuma research findings at the American Psychological Association (APA) Virtual Convention from August 12 to 14, 2021.
“The APA is the probably the largest psychological convention and association in the world, so I’m very proud of what Melinda has done and accomplished,” says Dr. Christopher Gore, professor of Experimental Psychology and lecturer who leads the Psychology Department at NAU-Yuma.
The title of McCullin’s research is “Prevalence of Unreported Domestic Violence and Factors that Affect Reporting.” She says she chose this topic because she wanted to know more about how much intimate partner violence is unreported by women and the nuances of why they choose not to report what they experience.
Through her research, she was able to confirm most national statistics and get a better feel for how much intimate partner violence is unreported by women. She said the reasons why women do not report the violence they experience are intricate and complicated, including personal feelings about the relationships as well as feelings of being trapped by circumstances.
“I think I was surprised how most women had experienced intimate partner violence of some kind, but it concerned me how many said that they didn’t report or leave because the situation wasn’t always bad,” she says.
She hopes her findings will help show how much work there still needs to be done in addressing intimate partner violence, that it is still a large problem in homes and families, and that it will help provide more insight into how women perceive the abuse.
“As a [future] trauma counselor, I realize that I may work with people who have experienced intimate partner violence, and I think this project has really opened my eyes more to the nuances of intimate partner violence and how survivors tend to think about their own experience,” she says.
Gore says McCullin has worked very hard on this project, which required approval by the NAU Institutional Review Board to collect data and disseminate research findings to the public. “She came up with the idea when she was a student of mine in a research methods class I taught in the Spring of 2020,” he says. “Students were required to come up with a study idea, collect and analyze the data, and write it up in a scientific report for class credit. Melinda did this and took it several steps further.”
In addition to presenting a research poster at the upcoming APA conference, she also presented a poster at the NAU Virtual Undergraduate Expo and Symposium this past April. But she is not stopping there.. “She is presently writing up her project and intends to submit it for publication in a psychological journal within the next few months,” Gore says.
McCullen credits Gore for motivating her to take her project as far as she has. “It was really under the mentorship and encouragement of Dr. Gore that I felt encouraged enough to pursue this research beyond the traditional classroom setting,” she says. “I decided that it would be good experience now since I will likely have other projects throughout my education and career…. This project would not be what it is without the guidance and mentorship I have received from Dr. Gore. He was an important part of my two years at NAU-Yuma, and what I’ve learned from him is going to follow me throughout the rest of my education and career.”
Though McCullin was/is the principal investigator/author, she needed a faculty mentor since she was an undergraduate at the time she conducted her research. “That’s where I come in,” says Gore. “I’ve edited her work and made sure it adheres to the professional standards that are expected. That said, I’ve not had to help Melinda a great deal. She is a non-traditional student and brings a lot of maturity with her.”
Gore also enlisted the help of Nick Simonsen, a former student who Gore mentored when he was a professor at Newham University Centre in the United Kingdom. “He’s great at data analysis,” Gore says. “I also thought this would be good for Nick and his professional development as he is a graduate student in cognitive psychology at the University of Nottingham.”
McCullin says, “Nick has been extremely helpful by sharing his own research experiences, and he is great with data. “He makes up for some of my statistical inexperience. While the ideas in the project are mine, I could not have brought this project as far as I have without both gentlemen guiding me through the process.
“I feel pretty good that I have gotten this far,” she says of her accomplishments. “I think it has been a great experience, trying at times, and you have to be in it for the long haul and willing to stick with it, but it really is good when all is said and done. I hope that [APA Conference] attendees are able to learn something they haven’t considered before and that it will bring attention to the issue of domestic violence that is still a long way from being adequately addressed.”
She is sharing her important research findings while working part time as a student affiliate participating in the VA Work Study program at the NAU Yuma Veteran and Military Services office and raising a family. She has been married for 25 years to a disabled Marine Veteran, and they have four children, the youngest of whom she has the pleasure of homeschooling for two more years as the others pursue higher education. The family enjoys spending time together and with their three pets. Currently, they have a family game of Dungeons and Dragons going, and McCullin loves it when they get a chance to sit down and play.
“My plate is definitely full,” she says, “but I really wouldn’t trade it as hard as it can be to juggle it all sometimes. I put off my hopes and dreams for a long time while raising my family, and they have been incredibly supportive during this entire process and supporting my education. I couldn’t balance it if my husband and oldest daughter didn’t help me out. Everyone does their part, and we still have bumps in the road, but we have each other and that helps get me through.”
Be sure to visit convention.apa.org from August 12 through 14, 2021, to see McCullin’s poster on “Prevalence of Domestic Violence and Reasons for not Reporting.”