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University Honors Program

Thesis Spotlight: Grace DiPierro

By Kaitlin Lewis

One of the added benefits for students in the University Honors Program is the opportunity to complete an Honors-supported thesis project with a faculty mentor. Completed these projects cover a diverse range of fields, from creating solar-powered equipment to writing a series of short stories. Each student has the opportunity to undertake independent research while contributing new knowledge to their field. In addition, students earn six academic credit hours for their research time. 

The Honors Program asked a wide range of senior thesis writers, from health sciences to English, to share about their research and how it applies to their future goals in their field.

Grace Dipierro | Social Psychology

Senior Grace Dipierro, a psychology major with a minor in English, is currently completing her thesis in social psychology. With the mentorship of Dr. Erin Kunz, psychology professor and director of the graduate program in experimental psychology at UD, Dipierro is researching the relationship between identity awareness and political attitudes.

“We know that our decisions can be influenced by a lot of things,” Dipierro explained. “Some of those things include a person’s identities, such as being a man or woman, being black or white, and so on.” 

Dipierro said that her research involves making people more aware of one of their social identities -- either race or gender -- to see if the heightened awareness influences their voting patterns. Social identities can be categorized into majority and minority identities. White males would be considered a majority social identity, while black females are considered a minority identity.

Many times, social identities vote in a similar trend, Dipierro explained. For example, white men often vote conservatively compared to black women, who typically vote for a liberal candidate. In instances where a person has a dual identity -- both majority and minority social identities -- the individual often votes in alignment with their minority identity. For example, a black man is more likely to vote liberally. 

Dipierro’s research lies in diving deeper into dual identities, such as white females. Specifically, Dipierro is looking into the 2016 and 2020 elections, when former President Donald Trump received most of the white female vote. Her thesis is trying to answer the question, why did white females align more with their majority identity when voting, when other dual identities often do not? 

“One potential ‘why’ is that their white identity is salient, or white women are thinking about being white at the time they are voting,” Dipierro said. “We hypothesize that when participants are made aware of their racial identity, white people will hold more conservative views while non-white people will hold more liberal views. When made aware of gender identity, we suspect that white women will view issues more liberally.” 

Dipierro said she had first become interested in research in social psychology after taking one of Dr. Kunz’s courses here at UD. Dipierro is also in the process of applying to graduate schools for the 2022 school year, and wanted a chance to pursue research now to know if a graduate program with heavy emphasis on research would be a good fit for her. Dipierro is looking into pursuing a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling or a master of social work.

“My experience with research so far has definitely been enjoyable, but it’s not something I think I want to focus on in graduate school,” Dipierro explained. “I could see myself pursuing a research project to supplement my graduate studies, though.”

Dipierro said the Honors program has provided her with several resources to support her research, such as a tentative timeline to help keep herself and her mentor on track. Dipierro was also granted a budget to help fund her research project, which she plans to use to pay participants who complete her study. 

“Psychology research at UD usually collects samples from UD students in the introductory psychology courses,” Dipierro said. “But for my specific study, we need to reach a certain demographic, and the budget from the Honors Program will help us accomplish this.”

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