Turn off your cell, don’t be late... says research by Southeastern graduate student

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Psychology graduate student Kim Nguyenof Harvey discusses her thesis with Southeastern psychology professors David and Barbara J. Shwalb. Nguyen's research into Southeastern students' concepts of respect and disrespect complemented a larger respect-disrespect study being conducted by the Shwalbs and their students in Tangipahoa Parish schools.


Kim Nguyen, Psychology major, Graduate Program


Department of Psychology

Dr. David Shwalb, Assistant Professor

Dr. Barbara J. Shwalb, Visiting Assistant Professor



Turning on cell phones and showing up late for class top the list of what Southeastern students consider disrespectful behavior toward their professor. Being rude or loud is disrespectful toward peers; and talking during a lecture is disrespectful to everyone.

That’s what psychology graduate student Kim Nguyen of Harvey found when she surveyed approximately 800 of her fellow students for her master’s thesis, “The Concepts of Respect and Disrespect Among College Students.”


Southeastern Psychology students conduct research at Tangipahoa Parish schools
Southeastern undergraduate psychology
students Mike Gant and Brittany DePaula
explain their respect-disrespect survey to students at Champ Cooper School.
Nguyen’s research complements a larger study being conducted by two of her psychology professors, David and Barbara J. Shwalb, and their undergraduate students, who are researching concepts of respect-disrespect among parents, teachers, and students in 25 Tangipahoa Parish schools.

In addition to being attention-getting, first generation research, the Shwalbs’ project has been an ideal way to involve students in hands-on research and to give them the opportunity to present their findings at national conferences. Nguyen hopes to publish her thesis, the Shwalbs have presented findings at professional meetings in San Francisco and Atlanta, and students Mary Belsom and Brittany DePaula presented a poster at the Southwestern Psychological Association convention in Austin, Texas.

“When I was looking for a thesis topic, Dr. David Shwalb suggested I study respect-disrespect among college students. Since I am interested in school psychology, I thought, ‘Okay, I want to do that!’” Nguyen said.

To conduct her research Nguyen asked 200 psychology students to list examples of respectful or disrespectful behavior toward fellow students and professors. She used the responses to create questionnaires that were distributed to 800 students across campus, who were asked to rate the importance of respect or disrespect examples.

“The major issue cited was electronics,” said Nguyen, “Eighty-five percent of the students said turning on cell phones was a sign of disrespect toward the professor.”

Nguyen said her thesis was the first psychological research study to investigate respect and disrespect in the context of higher education. She is now bound for the doctoral program in school psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“I really enjoyed my experience at Southeastern,” said Nguyen, who received her bachelor’s degree at Tulane University. “The psychology faculty is wonderful. I really was glad I came here.”

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