Foundations of success: Psychology student receives award for excellence

“Nothing in life worth having comes easy.”

This was the philosophy Kara Duraccio had growing up on a small farm in Idaho. Though neither of her parents had finished college, they supported and loved their children by teaching them the importance of earning what they wanted in life.

Today, Duraccio is a new mother and the recipient of the Deseret Book Award for Excellence. This prestigious award is only given to one BYU graduate student every five years. Deseret Book requires that the recipient “incorporate into their lives… traits of excellence that will allow them to make a worthy contribution to the communities in which they live.”

Respected as both a teacher and student of clinical psychology at BYU, Duraccio is driven by a passion for childhood development and adolescent behavior. Her compassionate desire to help others is seen in her excellence in leadership and academia.

Throughout her life, her foundation has been the principle of compassion and care. “As cliché as it sounds,” says Duraccio, “I have always known that I wanted to go into a profession that emphasized helping others.”

Duraccio began higher education with the intention of studying nursing, but quickly ended up dropping the major. She remained undeclared until she took Introduction to Psychology, saying, “I knew psychology was the field for me when I ended up reading the entire textbook only a few weeks into the class.”

With her newfound passion, she became involved in research labs and saw the impact this research could have in application. “While I loved psychological research, I felt that a career path that was solely focused on research lacked the depth that could be obtained by entering into clinical psychology,” she says.

Believing in the power of action, Duraccio began working with Dr. Chad Jensen in his pediatric obesity lab. “I love the career that I have chosen,” she says, “because not only do I get to research childhood behaviors, but I then get to put the things that I learn from my research directly into my practice!”

According to Duraccio, the principles of psychology expand beyond the academic discipline: “I feel that it is so useful to teach future and current parents about normal child development, where development can go wrong, and, most importantly, what to do if it does go wrong.”

Recently, Duraccio has been able to see this reflected in her own life as a new mother with both the perspective of a clinical psychologist and a parent. “It is so easy to become consumed with all of the things that we need to do as parents,” she says. “Limit screen time, make sure your child is eating enough fruits and vegetables…foster self-esteem and self-efficacy…and the list goes on and on.”

However, motherhood has taught her what can’t be learned in a research lab. “I truly believe that successful parenting boils down to one simple practice,” she says, “love your child…and everything else should fall into place.”

Thinking About a Graduate Degree? Why Get it at BYU?

7658272558_aebe55277f_oWith all of the choices out there for graduate school, how are you possibly supposed to choose the right one for you?

Many prospective graduate students have found Brigham Young University to be an excellent selection for furthering their education.  BYU Graduate Studies recently spotlighted Kara Duraccio, a clinical psychology doctoral student from the Family Home and Social Studies college.

Kara has found her graduate experience at BYU to be very rewarding.  She explains, “I chose BYU because, when it came time to make a decision, I knew I was compatible with the people here.”

However, more than experiencing the notoriously positive and uplifting culture and atmosphere at BYU, Kara has also found great possibilities academically.  Speaking of her decision to attend BYU for graduate school, Kara says, “I knew the incredible research that was going on.  For me, it was a no-brainer.  I just knew I wanted to come here and continue the research I had already been working on.”

Since enrolling in her doctoral program, Kara has had the opportunity to work with Dr. Chad Jensen in researching childhood obesity.  In one of their most recent studies, they were able to explore how diet and physical reactions to food are affected by sleep deprivation.

The work that this research team has done in the labs could have a large impact on future practices for decreasing childhood obesity.  Kara explains that these studies have shown that “when we’re sleep deprived, we make unhealthy dietary decisions [and] we have a harder time controlling our impulses around high-calorie foods.”  The research group plans on tailoring their future interventions for helping kids lose weight to include more sleep recommendations because of these findings.

For Kara, the research that she has been able to do through the clinical psychology program has been very impactful.

Many other graduate students have also found BYU programs to offer an enriching and fulfilling experience for their graduate studies.  BYU Graduate Studies explains the unique opportunity that BYU holds for potential graduate students:

“We offer world class instruction from faculty mentors who genuinely care about both your professional and personal development as they challenge and expand your academic intellect using cutting edge pedagogical practices and technologies. Share your unique perspectives and engage in diverse dialogue with our faculty, university administration, and our student population who are represented from all across the nation and from all over the globe from more than 160 countries.”

Reflecting on her decision to attend BYU for graduate school, Kara concludes, “I haven’t regretted [the] decision.”


Pictures courtesy of Flickr.