Life experience sparks Penn State Brandywine senior’s research focus

Ebony Ford

Senior psychology major and Schreyer Honors Scholar Ebony Ford is currently conducting research that looks at transformative relationships. 

Credit: Penn State

Senior psychology major and Schreyer Honors Scholar Ebony Ford is taking her college learning experience to a whole new level, implementing a research study alongside Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Marinda Kathryn Harrell-Levy that investigates transformative relationships.

Specifically, Ford is conducting a “mixed method study” that examines the relationship between mentorship during adolescence and empowerment. She is looking at students from across different college campuses to determine whether their experiences with mentors during their first 18 years of life relate to their present-day ideas about themselves and what they are able to accomplish. Ford gathers the information through a series of surveys and one-on-one interviews. She explained that these mentorships could be relationships with family friends, older siblings or even teachers.

“I want to see how these types of relationships have affected people after high school,” Ford explained. “If the individual has gone to college, how that has affected them during and after college.”

So where did this research focus originate?

“I didn’t have a parental figure during my first 18 years of life,” she explained. “In high school I found a teacher who really stuck by me. She guided me through school, helped me apply to colleges and was just really there for me. I don’t think I would have gotten through high school without her.”

“Ebony has overcome a great deal of personal difficulty in her own life and has decided to use that experience as a direction for her research,” Harrell-Levy added.  “She has been very dedicated throughout the process. What I like most about working with Ebony is watching her confidence grow. She's capable of doing incredible things with her psychology degree.”  

Ford plans to present her research this spring at Penn State Brandywine’s Exhibition of Undergraduate Research Enterprise and Creative Accomplishment (EURECA), an annual showcase that gives Brandywine undergraduate students an opportunity to share their work with the campus community and outside guests.

After graduation she hopes to earn a master's degree and one day start her own mentorship program to help guide adolescents who don't have a mentor to look up to at home.

“I have two younger brothers, a younger sister and a younger niece looking up to me,” Ford said. “I want to succeed and finish what I started so they can have a role model and hopefully follow in my footsteps.”