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Davis Straske ’19 Wins Elmes Pathfinder Prize in Psychology Straske is a psychology major and dance minor and has been a member of Professor Megan Fulcher’s developmental psychology research lab since the winter of her freshman year.

Davis Straske ’19

Davis Straske, a Washington and Lee University senior from Tampa, Florida, has been awarded the 2018 David G. Elmes Pathfinder Prize in Psychology.

The Elmes Pathfinder Prize recognizes a student who has shown extraordinary promise in psychological science or in the application of psychological science in the professions through outstanding scholarship in basic or applied psychology.

Straske is a psychology major and dance minor and has been a member of Professor Megan Fulcher’s developmental psychology research lab since the winter of her freshman year. The lab studies the impact of toy play on gendered stereotypes and children’s visions of their future selves through toys such as Legos, Duplos and baby dolls. Straske has spent the past two summers working as a Summer Research Scholar in the lab, and she currently serves as its participant coordinator. In this capacity, she recruits families for ongoing research projects and works with other undergraduate students, managing and assigning their tasks within the lab and developing coding schemes for data analysis of existing datasets. Members of the lab plan community-outreach events and teach psychology topics to local elementary schools and after-school groups.

“I was impressed with Davis the first time a met her, and she continues to impress every day,” said Fulcher. “She is an incredible organizer and has created many new protocols and standards to lab procedures that have greatly improved efficiency and productivity in the lab. More importantly, she has an intellectual curiosity paired with a deep understanding of literature that makes her a great collaborator during project design and in interpreting findings. It is no surprise that she is studying empathy as she is always kind and thoughtful. The lab has a culture of friendliness and cooperation under her leadership. I know graduate school is a great place for her, but I will miss her here tremendously.”

As a longtime camp counselor and babysitter, Straske has found developmental psychology to be a stimulating and gratifying intersection of her academic interests and experiences working with children. Working in a research lab has allowed her to apply theories and data analyses techniques to research projects she has seen through from start to finish.

Straske’s honors thesis examines empathy development in pre-school age boys, focusing on how parents’ roles within a family may impact their child’s development of certain caregiving or nurturing skills. After creating two interventions, using toy play and picture book reading to elicit empathy, she hopes to assess the interventions’ effectiveness. If the data support these approaches, they may be useful for parents to promote their young sons’ empathy in the home.

Outside of the psychology department, Straske dances with and serves as the president for the W&L Repertory Dance Company, and also teaches creative movement dance classes for early school-age children at Halestone Dance Studio in Lexington. She sits on the planning committee for W&L’s 2019 Science, Society and the Arts Conference and serves as the vice president of recruitment for the Panhellenic Council. She belongs to Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society, Psi Chi Psychology National Honor Society and the National Honor Society for Dance Arts.

The Elmes Pathfinder Prize was established in 2007. It derives from the Elmes Fund, a permanently endowed fund that honors David G. Elmes, emeritus professor of psychology at W&L. The many alumni, colleagues and friends who benefited from Elmes’ commitment to learning during his 40-year career as a scientist, teacher and mentor at W&L created the endowment.