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Alumna Kaytah Mejia wins best thesis award for military mindset research at graduate conference

By: Victoria Godinez May 1, 2024

Austin Peay State University graduate Kaytah Mejia, who finished her master’s degree in industrial-organizational psychology in December 2023, recently earned the Best Thesis of 2023 award from the Tennessee Conference of Graduate Schools.

Mejia, left, and Dr. Adriane Sanders.
Mejia and Dr. Adriane Sanders 

Her thesis, “The Impact of Organizational Justice Perception on Organizational Commitment: “Exploration on the Military Mindset,” showcased her commitment to understanding complex organizational dynamics and involved countless hours of work.

“My research was the hardest thing I have ever done, even more so than childbirth and military service, simply because of the mental challenge that it takes to overcome,” she said, reflecting on her journey through APSU’s Master of Science in Industrial-Organizational Psychology that began in August 2021.

Throughout her academic tenure, Mejia demonstrated a passion for her field. She served as a graduate teaching assistant and collaborated closely with mentors such as Dr. Kevin Harris, Dr. Nicole Knickmeyer, Dr. Jessica Haatz and Dr. David Earnest.

Before pursuing her master’s degree, Mejia obtained a Bachelor of Science in psychology from APSU, where she discovered her desire to pursue a master’s. She said Dr. Adriane Sanders’ Intro to Applied Psychology course sparked her interest in the intersection of psychology and the workplace.

Mejia's involvement in research projects enriched her academic pursuits, which included collaborations with faculty on a COVID survey and socioemotional mindfulness research for Moshi Kids. Her unique perspective and drive to excel academically and professionally were shaped by her background as an adopted Latina/Hispanic/Native American woman and her experience as a former Army medic in Germany.

“We spend roughly one-third of our lives working,” Mejia said. “After my military service, I realized how I could fit into the puzzle of bringing positive changes into the workspace.”

After completing her master’s degree, Mejia applied her knowledge and skills to her career and became the HR screening specialist at Project 2231 in Clarksville. Leveraging her expertise in workplace ethics, human resources and organizational development, she plays a vital role in the HR department and contributes to the company’s growth and success.

Mejia said her accomplishments, including her award-winning thesis, were made possible with the support of her mentors, committee members and family. She credited Earnest, Harris, and Dr. Chanda Murphy for guiding her through the challenging research process and pushing her to surpass her expectations.

“I was sitting in my car and cried happy tears,” she said. “I never thought I would have won, and having done so, I was extremely proud of myself. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am so grateful for experiencing it.”

Interested in following Mejia’s footsteps in industrial-organizational psychology? APSU offers an MSIO program that prepares students for diverse roles. Learn more at https://www.apsu.edu/ioprogram.


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