Professor Jessica Flanigan and students

Guiding lights: Why mentoring matters

March 15, 2024


During her February poster presentation at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Convention in San Diego, senior Eve Ridenhour fielded questions about her research into the advantages and disadvantages of female leadership.

She said her work with Crystal Hoyt, professor of leadership studies and psychology, enabled her to present at this professional conference. The Jepson School of Leadership Studies offered her the Fredric M. Jablin Award for Undergraduate Research to support her research and a travel grant to cover her conference registration fees, airfare, accommodations, and food. 

“When I decided to pursue honors research in the Jepson School, I asked Dr. Hoyt to serve as my faculty mentor because my research interests align with hers,” Ridenhour said.

Eve Ridenhour and Dr. Crystal Hoyt stand in front of Eve's research poster at the SPSP Convention in San Diego.

Senior Eve Ridenhour and professor Crystal Hoyt at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Convention in San Diego.

Hoyt helped her set up a pilot study to test people’s perceptions of women and men as leaders. Ridenhour’s findings indicate that people with egalitarian beliefs are more likely to rate competent female leaders significantly higher than competent male leaders.

This spring, Ridenhour and Hoyt will attempt to replicate this research with an eye to co-publishing a paper for an academic journal. Ridenhour will also present her research on campus in April at the Jepson Research Symposium.

“This research has implications for the future of women in leadership and could potentially make a difference in how our society functions,” the senior said.

Mentoring undergraduates in research is a priority for Hoyt, who has co-published academic articles with many former students. “Teaching is best when we work side-by-side with undergraduates to create new knowledge,” she said. “It embodies a liberal arts education.”

Professor Jessica Flanigan working with senior Ava Paul.

Like Hoyt, Jessica Flanigan has co-published academic articles with former students. The professor of leadership studies and philosophy, politics, economics, and law is working with senior Ava Paul.

Paul recalled the thrill she felt last spring in Flanigan’s Ethical Decision Making in Health Care, a class particularly well suited to her her leadership and health studies majors. When considering topics for a final paper on an ethical issue in health care, she reached out to Flanigan.

“Dr. Flanigan asked me, ‘What makes you really angry about the U.S. health care system?’” Paul said. “In that aha moment, I immediately thought about the inability to access over-the-counter drugs to combat common vaginal yeast infections, which are chronic for many women.”

After several consultations with Flanigan, Paul wrote a paper that used empirical evidence and philosophical theories to argue for selling Fluconazole, an over-the-counter drug that treats fungal and yeast infections. She said patients need a doctor’s prescription to purchase it.

Paul and Flanigan are refining the paper and intend to submit it to an academic journal.

“Many students have interesting ideas,” Flanigan said, “When they align with my research, I can help them put those ideas out there for publication. I like teaching students how to craft a publishable argument.”

Paul now sees herself working in health care policy. “Dr. Flanigan helped me identify women’s health care as a specific area of interest to me in the fields of leadership and health,” she said.