SAFE Grant Student Spotlight: Yasmin Ayala-Johnson ‘19, Psychology

SAFE Grant Student Spotlight: Yasmin Ayala-Johnson ‘19, Psychology

Yasmin Ayala-johnson was an undergraduate student from Hope Mills, N.C. 

Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) fund recipient 

Project: “Finding the Early Talent: Factors Predicting Early Advanced Math Enrollment”

With SAFE Grant funding, Ayala-johnson was able to travel to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga for an Industrial-Organizational Psychology conference. By helping to cover some of the cost of housing, she attended and presented research to professionals in the field as well as graduate admissions officials. With assistance from mentor Dr. Shawn Bergman, professor, Psychology, three years of data from 10,500 students were used to develop and validate predictive models that examine enrollment and performance in advanced math courses in the eighth grade. 

This data came from a longitudinal study taking place in rural North Carolina. This research used predictive models to determine if there is a selection bias for which eighth grade students are chosen to begin advanced math classes.Therefore, attending this conference allowed Ayala-johnson and her peers, Jessie Harris, Tessa Jackson and Elise Haylettthe, the opportunity to present to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and professionals in industrial-psychology. 

“During this conference I was approached by multiple graduate program admissions officials who were blown away by my research. A few of them exchanged contact information or Linkedin accounts, but one of them reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in their program. Without this grant, these experiences would have never happened,” said Ayala-johnson. 


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

Compiled and written by Barclay Ann Blankenship and Ellen Gwin Burnette
April 1, 2021

Student and Faculty Excellence Fund (SAFE)
Published: Apr 1, 2021 4:53pm