"Flourishing" Psychology Major Presenting Research At SCWC

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For her Scholarly and Creative Works Conference presentation at Dominican University of California, psychology major Salmaa Hussain ’22 presented her research on how parental warmth and the quality of a young person’s relationship with their parents in adolescence might be related to their level of happiness in adulthood.

The end goal is to better understand the factors that predict flourishing – social wellbeing, psychological wellbeing and emotional wellbeing –  in young adulthood.

If so, one might predict that Salmaa will flourish as well.

During her Dominican experience, she became an Honors student with minors in clinical and counseling science, pre-law, and cognitive and experimental science; joined the Psyche Club and served as its treasurer; volunteered to be a mentor and pre-advisor for underclassmen in psychology, and completed fieldwork at the Spahr Center in San Rafael working hands-on in Marin County with its harm reduction team, providing syringe access and other safe drug related alternatives to Marin's homeless community at various sites around Marin. Salmaa is now applying to graduate schools with a concentration on criminal behavior and contemplating pursuing a doctorate degree.

“I really grew as a person at Dominican and I gained a lot of confidence,” Salmaa says. “There are a lot of times when you have to put yourself out there and present your work. Dominican really encourages you to grow through the years and I feel I’ve definitely become a better person and become more of the person I would like to be and it’s really solidified where I wanted to go with my life. I feel like I have a really good base to do that and a good support system.”

Salmaa, one of a record 146 presenters at the SCWC in Guzman Hall and across campus on Wednesday, was admittedly “a little reserved” when she came to Dominican from Moreau Catholic High School. Dominican was her first choice for college and after attending an Admitted Students Day her decision was validated.

“I wanted a more intimate school setting. I come from smaller schools so it’s a lot of one-on-one with the teachers,” Salmaa says. “I didn’t want to jump into a UC where everything would be much bigger. I wanted something where I would have more access to my professors and be able to develop more of a repour with them rather than just be another face in the classroom. I feel like Dominican’s really given me that. I wanted to get to know people and not feel like I disappeared into the background.”

To Salmaa, majoring in psychology was a perfect fit. She realized that after taking an abnormal psychology class with Dr. LeeAnn Bartolini, co-chair of the Psychology Department in the School of Liberal Arts and Education.

“It was such an interesting class,” Salmaa says. “It deep dives into different disorders and the symptoms. You get an in depth look and that’s exactly what I wanted to learn about. It made me feel comfortable with the choice I made.”

In fact, when asked what her highlight has been at Dominican, Salmaa answered, “My professors.”

“The psych department is pretty small so you get to know them very well and they are a great team of professors and they work very interconnected with one other as well and they are always keeping tabs and it’s easy to get a hold of them,” she says. “It’s a great support system. I can email a professor and have an answer within an hour sometimes. It’s really great.”

So too is her senior thesis. It’s entitled: “Implications of Parental Warmth in Adolescence and the Mediating Effects of Parent-Adolescent Relationship Quality on Flourishing.”

“I started looking into parenting literature because a lot of your personality is genetic, but also inherent because you learn a lot from your parents and the people around you,” Salmaa says. “One of the big things that goes into my career trajectory is the environment and how that has a big effect on where somebody’s life goes and how they develop as a person. So, I wanted to see how parenting effected how well you do as an adult and how well you are emotionally, socially and psychologically. That was the inspiration behind it.”

Psychology professor Dr. Veronica Fruiht was Salmaa’s advisor for her ambitious empirical senior thesis. Salmaa received more than 80 responses from her survey and utilized data from 66 of those for her research.

“She has been a consistently excellent student throughout her four years at Dominican and her thesis project is shaping up to be an impressive demonstration of her high-quality work and the skills she’s mastered in her psychology coursework,” Fruiht says.

Dominican's Scholarly and Creative Works Conference is an annual one-day event honoring undergraduate and graduate students' research and creative works. The event showcases student research papers and posters, creative writing, artwork, dance and music performances through presentations to a live audience.

Some of the research from the SCWC will be entered in Dominican Scholar, the University’s institutional repository of faculty-authored papers and artwork, graduate master's theses, senior theses, podcasts, research posters, and conferences slides that in March passed the 1.5 million mark in research downloaded online.

“It’s an important event to have to show off your feathers a little bit,” Salmaa says. “To show how much hard work we have put in the past year and explain ourselves. It solidifies that you know what you are talking about.”

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