Graduate student and RLSH staff member Laura Bell recently received the 2022 NASPA NOW Award for Inquiry. NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators), a professional organization that focuses on supporting Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and hosts a professional conference annually. Laura attended this year’s conference, March 19-23rd, in Baltimore, Maryland where she was presented with the award. “Imagine a bunch of camp-counselor personalities wearing business professional clothing for a weekend in Baltimore,” Laura says of the conference. In Baltimore, Laura had the chance to attend sessions where she learned about how to translate student supervision into her SMU role as a graduate assistant for Engage Dallas. (She also learned “Baltimore has AMAZING ice cream!”)
Laura’s research focuses on the faith and spiritual lives of college students. With her team, Laura studied students’ definitions of what it means to be a “person of faith”, “religious person”, and “spiritual person” in addition to examining students’ motivations and engagement with their faith/religious/spiritual lives. The team’s findings led them to conclude spiritual persons are “seeking and not finding adequate support in their spiritual lives in the same way persons of faith and religious persons are.” Laura hopes that student affairs professionals will use the findings to create programming for students of all sacred-belief identities to encourage their exploration and development.
As someone without a degree in Higher Education, it is even more special for Laura to be recognized for the work she has done in the field. Throughout her work, Laura was mentored and advised by numerous SMU faculty and staff. She cites Dr. Dustin Grabsch, Audryanna Reed, Madison Mucci-Ferris, and Dean Melinda Carlson as “pillars of support throughout my time as a Student Affairs Professional.” Dr. Grabsch in particular was “instrumental” in her development as a researcher and nominated her work to NASPA for the Inquiry Award.
After finishing her Master’s in Mechanical Engineering, Laura will either teach English in Andorra as a Fulbright Scholar or work as an engineer with an aerospace firm. Regardless of where she goes, Laura says she hopes to continue pursuing research and design to improve the human experience and maximize her positive impact on the world.