Reyes, center, is pictured with her Cake Walk victory cake from the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
Denise Reyes, a fourth-year graduate student in psychology, has won the Leslie W. Joyce & Paul W. Thayer Graduate Fellowship from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP).
The highly-competitive $10,000 fellowship is awarded annually to a graduate student who specializes in training and/or selection in industrial and organizational (I/O) psychology. Reyes, who is advised by Eduardo Salas, said she was honored to receive the award and hopes to use it to help foster leadership development for underrepresented groups. She will be recognized at the SIOP meeting in April.
“I’ve always had an interest in developing leaders, and a focus on helping women and underrepresented minorities become leaders,” she said. “I will make it my lifelong effort to continually make progress in this domain.”
Reyes earned her bachelor’s from the University of Central Florida and decided to attend graduate school at Rice to pursue her love of psychology.
“Whenever I say the word psychology, people assume that I’m a therapist, but I/O psychologists focus on applying psychology to the workplace to increase organizational effectiveness,” she said. “We also focus on job satisfaction; we help the people within the organizations to become as happy and as effective as possible.”
Reyes said her experience at Rice has been “extremely positive. I got to thinking, oh, I don’t want to go on the job market, I want to stay at Rice forever!”
She advises other students to follow their own path to find their niche and credits Salas with helping to prepare her for life after Rice.
“A big thing you need to learn in grad school is autonomy,” she said. “I think that a lot of grad students come out of grad school with this fear that they don’t know how to come up with their own research ideas because they were always doing what their adviser directed. Dr. Salas allowed me to pursue projects that interested me, so I’m very comfortable with finding new research avenues.”
Reyes said a conversation with Salas about her thesis proposal completely changed the course of her academic career.
“Before the meeting, he said, ‘You’re not selling this proposal to me, it isn’t telling a compelling story.’ I realized that I didn’t even want to finish that thesis. When he asked me to make edits to amp it up a little more, I was dreading it. I thought, ‘How am I going to carry out this study and defend a thesis that I don’t even believe in?’
I had this completely new idea, separate from his specialty, and I thought he would tell me to find a new adviser - but he fully supported me. I’m so much happier and if I would have never had that conversation with him, I might have felt like research wasn’t my passion.”
What’s next for Reyes after graduate school?
“I’m going on the job market next semester and I’m prioritizing academic positions where I can teach higher ed and continue my research,” she said. “If you’re a curious person, academia is a great career route.”