My Wartburg research will continue to help me in my field

By Katie Hirv ’22

Lexi Retz ’21 of Runnells knew she wanted to pursue a career that helped people, and after determining biochemistry wasn’t for her, she found her perfect fit in psychology.

“I took psychology in high school and really enjoyed it, so I took Psychology 101 here. I absolutely fell in love with everything about it — the different areas I could go into and the specialties. It was just so amazing to learn about the human brain, how we function, and what causes us to function in certain ways. I’ve always been interested in psychology, but I never thought it was going to be what I always wanted to do, but now looking back I can’t see myself doing anything else,” Retz said.

Retz found many opportunities to conduct research, which she knew could help her discover where her passions lie in the field of psychology. All Wartburg psychology majors must take a research methods course and conduct their own research as part of the major requirement.

“I created a research study that look at the effects of extracurricular involvement on self-esteem, self-efficacy, and anxiety levels. I found that an increase in extracurricular activities decreases the amount of anxiety, which I thought was interesting because you can see activities as an outlet to relax, find what you love, and be able to use that to your advantage,” Retz said.

Lexi Retz

In 2021, Wartburg students who had conducted research were unable to share their findings and final projects on RICE (Research, Internships and Creative Endeavors) Day due to COVID-19. Instead, Retz was offered an even more exciting opportunity to share her work.

“Dr. (Shaheen) Munir reached out to me at the beginning of this year and expressed that she would like to have me apply for the Midwest Psychological Association Conference. We worked together on my submission because I couldn’t present my entire study during the conference. We finalized all of that, submitted it, and in February I found out that I got accepted,” Retz said.

In April, Retz presented (virtually) at the 2021 Midwest Psychological Association conference. The annual meeting features presentations from leading psychologists across the United States; papers and posters addressing a wide range of topics in current psychological science; workshops addressing the teaching of psychology, research methods, and statistics; and discussion groups, roundtables, and social events where members can share ideas and interests. Instead of attending the conference in Chicago, this year researchers created a three-minute presentation on their findings that looked at past research; why they chose their topic; their hypotheses; methods used; results; and implications of the study.

“I was nervous, and I didn’t know what I was in for, but after I realized how easy it was and how interesting it was, it made me want to continue. The experience of doing research will help me in my field as I better understand reading research studies about different drugs, treatment programs or different therapies that are being offered for things like depression or anxiety,” Retz said.

“Wartburg has given me so many opportunities, I never expected that I would be presenting at a national conference. The opportunities I have had and the compassion from every single person that I have met on this campus have been influential in what I have been able to accomplish,” Retz said.

After graduation, Retz will continue her education at the University of Northern Iowa where she will seek a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

“What has made Wartburg worth it for me is the family and the community. I feel like I have created the lasting relationships that I’ve always wanted. I feel so fortunate to be able to have mentors and friends and hopefully future coworkers that I will be able to lean on, talk to, and spend time with,” Retz said.