By: Tiffany King
March 3, 2022

Making the Right Decision

By Tiffany King

For alumna Kennedy Ralph, coming to the College of Coastal Georgia was one of the best decisions she’s made. Ralph graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology in December 2021 after spending two years as a full-time student at the College and two years as a dual enrollment student from Brunswick High School. She was one class short of earning an associate’s degree at the College when she graduated from high school in 2019. She then enrolled at the College, and she planned to complete her associate degree then transfer to another institution—but then something changed. All it took was one psychology class, and she fell in love with the field and the College’s program.

Ralph is originally from Trafalgar, Indiana. She and her family moved to Coastal Georgia at the start of her seventh-grade year when her mom got a new job in the area. She eventually found herself ahead in her studies, which gave her the opportunity in high school to either graduate early during her junior year or take college courses and graduate on time with her cohort. She chose dual enrollment at Coastal Georgia.

Ralph decided to take a psychology class to understand people’s family dynamics and interactions with others.

“I took Human Development which covers a lifespan—from birth until death. We talked a lot about attachment styles and stages of development. I thought that there’s probably a lot more that I can learn with this,” she said. “Sometimes people can’t really express certain things, but theories and textbooks were helping me understand how my family was, how my friends were, and how people operate in society. That’s why I ended up liking it.”

She was hooked. Through the program, she took more science-related psychology classes that covered topics such as brain behavior. Ralph became more intrigued with brain processes and found herself moving in that direction.

An Opportunity Leads to Motivation

Ralph recalled taking Research Methods with Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Aurora Ramos Nuñez and being paired up to do a research project. Nuñez encouraged Ralph to submit an abstract about her project to the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) conference, and it was accepted. When the conference was delayed in 2020 due to COVID-19, that didn’t deter Ralph. Being accepted into the conference kick-started her motivation to continue doing research. She partnered with Nuñez to do an independent research project. Their research measured emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and social competence among different age groups to see if there are differences in phone use.

“We saw a correlation that the younger group had a higher problematic phone use and lower social skills and mindfulness. The older groups had less problematic phone use and better social skills. But what we didn’t expect is that the oldest group almost had an equivalent score to the younger adults with problematic phone use,” Ralph said.

They guessed that this might be due to the older generation having more time to access new technology or because of brain atrophy.

“The last part of your brain to develop is the frontal lobe by age 25, and first part to go with atrophy is the frontal lobe. It’s like the same impulsive decision-making skills are being hindered by both groups,” she said.

Their research was accepted into SEPA 2021. Ralph virtually presented on both her projects for 2020 and 2021 at the conference and was published in the Journal of Student Research.

Ralph gained great research experience and had the benefit of learning and working with a professor.

“That gave me insight into a one-on-one relationship with a professor. That was really cool,” she said. “Through talking with her, she encouraged me to get more involved with the Psychology Club. I was already a member, but she encouraged me to run for the executive board. So, I did. I was secretary, and then after that, I ran for president and got it. That opened up doors because you have the advisors and now know two other psychology professors. At the same time, I was an SI (supplemental instructor), so I met more psychology professors and had all these interactions with professors. They’re the best people ever. I feel like they changed my life. They helped me grow a lot. My college experience was different because I didn’t go out, but I was really involved academically and very close with my professors. I’m so grateful for that. I was able to accomplish a lot because they pushed me and believed in me a lot.”

Branching Out

When Ralph first started as a dual enrollment student, she took classes with students much older than her. She described herself as “nervous socially to branch out,” but her classmates proved to be very nice.

“The community here is great, and everyone here is nice to each other. There’s a lot of involvement here with different clubs. As you get involved with different clubs, you meet people at events,” she said.

Her favorite memories from her time at the College revolve around the people in her classes. They formed study groups and camped out at the library together with food. That camaraderie followed them outside of the classroom as well.

“We would go to each other’s houses and play darts and stuff,” Ralph said. “It was really nice to have it go from school friendships to real friendships.”

Ralph doesn’t regret staying in the area and attending the College. She shared how those who left the area tried to persuade her to leave too.

“When I stayed, a lot of people were discouraging me saying, ‘I think you made the wrong decision,'” she said. “I’m so glad I made this decision. It’s smaller, and that’s the best part of it. You have so many opportunities if you want to take advantage of them. At a bigger university it would be a longshot for me to be Psychology Club president or do independent research. It would probably be with 10 other students, and not that one-on-one connection. If I went to a bigger school, I doubt that I would’ve gotten published because I wouldn’t have that opportunity. There are a lot of opportunities that people don’t realize they have here. I made the best decision, and I’m so grateful for my decision.”

Her advice to students struggling in class is to take advantage of the ATTIC (Academic Tutoring and Instruction Center). Tutors are students themselves and can relate to their peers. They are also capable of breaking down the curriculum in different ways for different learners, she said. She also encourages students to do independent research and get involved with clubs, leading to new opportunities.

“Definitely get involved with Student Life and get to know your professors,” she said. “It’s the best thing.”

Recently, Ralph worked as a registered behavioral technician at Light of Hope, a children’s autism clinic. She has since transitioned out of that position to be able to shadow therapists in her field. Ralph is also a barista for Wake Up, which she’s been doing for four years, and started a new job at Dorothy’s Cocktail & Oyster Bar on Saint Simons Island. After spending some time shadowing, she plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in developmental cognitive behavioral neuroscience.

Kennedy Ralph’s research projects can be found here:

Journal of Student Research October 2021

“Understanding the Link Between Social Skills and Phone Use”

Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Collaborative Exploration (SOURCE) 2021

“Is a Decrease in Social Skills an Increase in Phone Usage?”


“Motivation and Success in College Students”