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Talking psychology at the Capitol

praska_capitolDavid Praska wanted to be a dentist and follow in the footsteps of his uncle, a successful orthodontist. “He had this great lifestyle, and I really wanted that,” Praska says. So in high school and the first two years of college, he focused on biology. “But I was never really good at it.”

Then he went to see Lisa Jack, an assistant professor of psychology at Augsburg. He said he was interested in psychology, and she asked him why. “I told her I liked watching people and how they operate,” Praska explained. The next thing he knew, they were mapping out a strategy for him to complete the psychology major in two years.

And that’s how David Praska, psychology major, found himself at the State Capitol building talking to legislators and guests about his research on therapies for children with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Praska was one of several scholars presenting at the Minnesota Private College Scholars at the Capitol day in February. Caitlin Massop, another Augsburg psychology student, also presented a poster but was unable to attend the Capitol event. Both students were advised in their research by assistant professor of psychology, Stacy Freiheit.

As he delved into the psychology field, Praska became interested in the subject of attraction between people—couples, friends, and family members. He talked with other professors and began exploring a career in marriage and family therapy, where he hopes to reach out specifically to Mexican American families.

“I found out that many Mexican American couples will go to a marriage counselor for one session and never return, and I had questions about that,” Praska says. He hopes to focus his graduate studies on therapy with minority groups and to “bridge the gap” between therapists and people of different cultures.

Praska spent most of last summer in the lab conducting research through the McNair program. “I was a little nervous when I started because I had never done a project like that myself,” he says. But he says he learned valuable lessons about communication and research through the program. “It was well worth it because I grew up as a researcher and as a student.”

Praska and other scholars will present research as part of Zyzzogeton, Augsburg’s annual festival of creativity and scholarship. The Zyzzogeton research poster session will be Thursday, April 15 from 3:30-5:30 Oren Gateway Center Atrium.

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