Student Spotlight: Recognizing student success in Undergraduate Research

Photo by Jordan Schmuckler/The Captain's Log

Photo by Jordan Schmuckler/The Captain’s Log

Isaac Schleifer prefers to be called Jefferson. He is a junior at Christopher Newport University, double majoring in Psychology and Neuroscience with a minor in Leadership Studies.

Jefferson visits Leadership professor, Dr. Harter’s house for a private study group (PSG) as he has done since freshman year. At the PSG, students discuss a range of leadership topics, feeding off the conversation, and developing and sharing ideas.

Dr. Harter hopes for his students to leave the PSG feeling inspired, and use the discussion as a starting point for undergraduate research.

Last Spring, Dr. Harter sent out an email requesting a co-author to help write a proposal for the International Leadership Association (ILA). Jefferson immediately replied, stating his desire to participate. The proposal would be based around Schema theory. “It’s pretty much how we form ideas,” said Jefferson. “We see something and when we recognize it again, there’s that ‘Aha!’ moment.” However, it only gets more complicated.

“Basically,” he said, “[Harter’s] proposal is about dialogue, and how we develop resilience through dialogue, like the leader-follower relationship. I’m applying Schema theory to how leaders and followers can use schema, and know how to manipulate different ways of how we think to develop resilience through dialogue.” So, there you have it. The boy is intelligent.

The abstract sent to the ILA was accepted to be presented at the Montreal ILA Global Conference, a prestigious achievement for Jefferson. The conference is this weekend, so he will be flying to Montreal, Canada today. At the conference, Jefferson will present his and Harter’s proposal alongside Dr. Kusher and another professor over a 10 to 12 minute period. Afterward, they will answer questions from leadership scholars.

“It’s kinda crazy when an undergrad with three professors on a panel, like I don’t if I should be here but I’m just gonna go,” he said.

Jefferson hopes to continue participating in leadership undergraduate research. He just recently joined a research cognitive lab with Dr. Campolattaro.

Jefferson participates in the hiking club on campus, and is a member of the marching band playing the alto saxophone. Just to add to the list of his accomplishments, I’ll mention he also hiked some of the Appalachian trail this summer, and claimed it definitely helped to relieve stress. “It’s like a whole different world,” he said. “There’s no, you know, cell-phones, no laptops. None of that. No commodities. It’s interesting.” He also recently has become interested in environmentalism. He even joked about making a double minor out of it. I laughed and told him to slow down.

“[Undergraduate research] isn’t as time consuming. It’s just more like you have to make the time, I guess,” he said. “It’s actually not that much.” He agreed he can’t wait for Christmas break, though.
Jefferson would like to one day involve himself in the Peace Core, unless he magically gets money to pay his way through grad school. He also sees himself hiking for the rest of his life, and finishing the entire hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Contrary to his freshman idea of making music therapy his life-long career, now he hopes it to be more environmental. “Anything furthering environmentalism efforts in the United States, because right now I don’t think it’s where it should be honestly,” said Jefferson.

Wherever he ends up, I believe he’ll certainly be making a change. “There’s just so much to do, and I don’t even know where to start, but I’m just gonna have to head on and just go.”