Hank Mullins, a faculty member for nearly 30 years in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), passed away in July at age 69. Mullins grew up in the Hudson Valley village…
Graduate School Marshal Reflects on Syracuse Experience
Rikki Sargent came to Syracuse University to study social psychology, but the Graduate School’s student marshal is leaving with a network of collaborators from across the University, including the Newhouse School, the College of Law and the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion. “I think it’s fantastic that Syracuse has a collaborative approach to research, which you don’t always get at an R1 institution,” she said. “Because of that culture, I got a very eclectic graduate research experience that now will transfer into the next stage of my career.”
After receiving her Ph.D. in May, Sargent will be putting her research skills to work as a consultant for RIWI, a company that specializes in access to fast-changing consumer and citizen sentiment globally. Already, as a graduate student, Sargent has been part of a team assessing civilian implicit attitudes—attitudes outside of conscious awareness that stem from how people form mental models of human interaction—toward the police.
Her dissertation research focused on a construct pioneered at Syracuse, known as pluralistic ignorance. In social psychology, pluralistic ignorance is a situation where a majority of group members privately reject a perceived norm, but incorrectly perceive that most others accept it. This misperception can lead people to conform to a group norm that does not actually exist. She says, “I minored in disability studies as an undergraduate at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, and I am particularly interested in issues surrounding mental health and mental health stigma.” The pluralistic ignorance construct helps explain societal attitudes toward these issues.
But what Sargent really wants to do is research that makes a difference in society. That’s why she is pursuing a career outside of academia. “RIWI breaks through the noise to find the truth about what people really think, want and observe. They reach diverse audiences, including the disengaged and quiet voices who do not typically answer surveys. I’m really excited to be working with the RIWI team and to be involved in research that makes the world a better place,” she says. “I’ve learned so much about research at Syracuse and I have made wonderful relationships, so I plan to continue collaborating with academic partners.”
Sargent credits her campus involvement for helping her build those research and professional relationships. In addition to serving as a University Senator, she held several leadership positions in the Graduate Student Organization and served on several committees, helping to plan graduate student involvement in the University’s 150th anniversary celebration and serving on the student marketing advisory committee. Most recently, she served on the selection committee for Meredith professors.
“Rikki has been wonderful to work with and is a true advocate for graduate students. I will really miss her candid feedback and office visits,” says Associate Dean Gabby Chapman.
“The committee work made me feel like I was really making a difference on the Syracuse campus. I’ve worked with people from across the University and built great relationships,” she says. When asked how she manages these commitments, she says, “If I’m asked to work on something that is really going to be meaningful, I say yes. It’s a lot, but I’ve loved being part of it.”
“Being selected as marshal feels like my contribution to the Syracuse University community was meaningful. I’m sad to leave, but this honor will always be something I can look back on.”