An Interview with Dr. Mori
By Austin Mortrud, Teresa Abby, Krystal Kirby, and Emon Dehshat

Introduction

Dr. Lisa Mori, Professor of Psychology at CSUF

Anxiety and stress among college students have sharply increased over the past two decades. This is one of the main reasons our group was so intrigued to find a study based around this idea. Especially with COVID-19, we have seen its effects on college students’ performance in their classes. We found the study titled, “Psychological Impact of COVID-19 on Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, and White USA College Students”, researched and written by Lisa Mori, Kiran Kaur, Maximiliano Gutierrez, Alan Guandique and Eric Cortez. We contacted Dr. Lisa Mori from the Department of Psychology, California State University, Fullerton, for a brief interview. In this Blog post we will discuss the conceptual ideas that we had going into this interview, along with the practical ideas and some dialogue quotes we gained after speaking with Professor Mori.

Conceptual Ideas

Before settling on this study, we brainstormed ideas of what topic we wanted to form our research around, and who we could contact for expert insight. The first idea was to focus on individuals currently employed during the on-going pandemic, and the effects it had on them. That idea was taken off the table when our group realized how difficult it would be to find a scholar actively researching that topic. After deciding that was no longer a valid topic, we focused on COVID-19, and tried to think of what else this pandemic has affected. We produced a few more ideas that could possibly work this project. After working through COVID-19 affecting small businesses, students who are working full time or part time, differences in grocery store business before and after COVID-19, and how COVID-19 has affected the federal government and taxes. Just like the first idea, those were soon dismissed because we could not find a scholar actively researching the topics we had chosen. After a few weeks and a little more research we finally decided on the effects COVID-19 has on mental health, specifically anxiety.

Practical Ideas

Once our area of study was chosen, the effects COVID-19 has on mental health, and narrowed it down specifically to social anxiety we began to deliberate how to execute this study. Due to this being the very first study we as a group are conducting, there were many grey areas within our research procedures. For starters, as we collect participants we were thinking about using demographics as a variable in our study. Our interviewee Dr. Mori, brought to our attention, while our population (Cal State Fullerton students) demographics are diverse, there are a couple ethnicities that dominate Cal State Fullerton. If we used ethnicity as a variable we would need to make sure we can obtain the minimum number of participants within each ethnicity, which may be difficult at Fullerton. During our interview, Dr. Mori stated, “…usually describe the demographics of your sample and so gather that information so you can say this percentage of students identified as Hispanic/Latinx and this percentage identified as… rather than using ethnicity as one of your predicting factors.” As we continued through the interview we began discussing possible ways to gather the most beneficial information from our sample.  We are planning on using Qualtrics surveys and were planning on using an assortment of multiple choice questions, text entry questions, and Likert scales. Dr. Mori also brought up the generalized anxiety scale (GAD-7) which will prove very beneficial when measuring the samples anxiety levels. When explaining GAD-7 she said, “[within the survey] ask them to answer these questions to reflect how anxious you [they] were during the first 3 months of COVID-19 and then how your [anxiety levels] are within the last month.” This piece of advice will prove very beneficial towards our study as it will help visualize the levels of anxiety our sample experienced 3 months into COVID-19 vs how they feel a year into COVID-19. As we come closer to the end of the semester we will be able to put these practical ideas into action.

Generalized Anxiety Scale (GAD-7)

Dialogue

Dr. Lisa Mori offered endless pieces of advice for our topic. It is clear in our interview that she feels very strongly about her students mental health. She confessed in the interview that she works with her research assistants (RA’s), and they go over research topics every year. One of the programs she is involved in is for Students Mental Health and Treatment. When COVID-19 hit, she met with her RA’s for the first time over Zoom, Dr. Mori wanted to find a way to make her RA’s and other students feel better about the situation everyone found themselves in (transitioning from in-person schooling to online), so she asked them.

“What do you guys think about if we did a new study? If we looked at the psychological impact of Covid on college students in terms of how it’s impacting their academic experience, but also obviously their psychological health? Like anxiety, stress,” thus their study on the psychological impact of COVID-19 was born.

We expect to send out Qualtrics surveys to every CSUF student we know, as well as posted on our social media pages. The results should bring in at least 100 respondents, hopefully more. Dr. Mori advised us against focusing on specific ethnicities as she had done in her research study.

“If ethnicity is something you are going to be looking at as a variable, then you would need to have a minimum number within each ethnic group.”

With this knowledge in mind, and our expected small poll, we will not focus on one specific ethnicity. Instead we will describe the general demographics, offering demographic questions within our survey.

“One of the things I would encourage you guys to do is you have to usually describe the demographics of your sample, and so just gather that information… rather than just using ethnicity as your predictor variable.”

Dr. Mori’s advice on what variables to measure helped us decipher what questions to include on our survey.

Conclusion

After loads of research and help with Lisa Mori’s intricate study it is safe to say that anxiety and stress among college students have sharply increased over the past two decades. Through our conceptual ideas, practical ideas, and dialogue quotes from the interview we learned a lot about how anxiety and stress is shaping the people of our future and how COVID isn’t any help. As said in the original study by Lisa, Administrators should address students’ mental health needs and provide culturally sensitive services and additional remote instruction resources should be provided to these vulnerable students. These are things that anyone can agree upon and more studies should be conducted as ours was along with Lisa’s.

Zoom recording of the interview with Dr. Mori

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