SAFE Grant Student Spotlight: Karissa Scholten, Psychology

SAFE Grant Student Spotlight: Karissa Scholten, Psychology

Karissa Scholten is a graduate student from Grand Rapids, M.I.

Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) fund recipient

Project: “Smells like School Spirit: The Organizational Factors Affecting Targeted Student and Teacher Outcomes”

With SAFE funding, Scholten and her project team member Lindsey Wuerfel ’20 were able to present a poster at a session during the 2020 River Cities Industrial-Organizational Psychology Conference (RCIO) in Chattanooga, T.N. The conference provides students and psychology practitioners with up-to-date applied educational experience.

Scholten and Wuerfel are members of the Industrial-Organizational Psychology and Human Resource Management Program (IOHRM) at Appalachian State University, which prepares professionals for work in business, industry and government. The program provides students with specialized training in human resource management and helps develop knowledge of theories, methods and research findings derived from the behavioral sciences.

Their poster titled “Smells like School Spirit,” a play on the song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, analyzes “The Organizational Factors Affecting Targeted Student and Teacher Outcomes.” Their research examines teacher stress from an educational and psychological perspective. It takes into account teacher outcomes such as burnout and turnover, student outcomes and achievement as well as effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The end goal is to provide research-backed recommendations for school administrators in N.C. to provide real interventions and improvements in teacher working conditions.

Following their poster presentation, Scholten and Wuerfel received feedback and answered questions from students, professors and other professionals in the field of psychology. The students also won second place in the poster session competition at the conference and were able to gather information to further the research project.

“We honed our presentation skills and worked out details to bring back to the rest of our project team. SAFE funding helped the students that attended to pay for hotel, travel and food costs, along with the cost of the registration itself. This enhanced my experience as a student to ensure that I did not have to worry about affording meals or other costs on the trip. It also helped in making sure I could focus entirely on the contents of the conference and increasing my professional skills,” said Scholten.

Additional contributors to the project from the Department of Psychology include Dr. Tim Huelsman, assistant chair and IOHRM program director and Dr. Shawn Bergman, the university’s Kulynych/Cline Distinguished Professor of Psychology. Faculty from the Reich College of Education also participated in the project, including Dr. Jennifer McGee, associate professor and Dr. Terry McClannon, associate dean for student affairs and program services. He is also a professor in the college’s Department of Leadership and Educational Studies.

“Working with Kari has been a wonderful experience. She joined the IOHRM program after completing her undergrad at Western Michigan University and hit the ground running,” said Huelsman.

McGee also commented on working with Scholten, “Kari is an important part of the team - currently she is the team lead as she's the second year IOHRM student on the project team. She manages our meeting and leads the graduate student work. Working with Kari has been a dream, she's responsible, organized and thorough. That's been my experience working with all of the IOHRM students.”


About The SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at:

About the Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology 
Appalachian’s Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology serves more than 1,000 undergraduate majors seeking the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, as well as 80 graduate students in three master’s programs (experimental psychology, school psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology and human resource management) and the clinical psychology (Psy.D.) doctoral program. Learn more at

About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls approximately 2,400 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at

Compiled and written by Sophia Woodall
September 30, 2021

Caption: SAFE student recipient Karissa Scholten, Psychology. Photo submitted.
Published: Sep 30, 2021 2:12pm