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Washington State University Graduate School

Taking it all In

How one student made the most of her graduate career


NarayanKripa Sundararajan, PhD in educational psychology, has gleaned as much as possible from her time at Washington State University. Graduating in December, she looks back at her time here with gratitude.

“WSU might be the only place where I never felt self-conscious about being an international student, or a woman, or a mother,” she says. “All of my faculty and my advisor have been far more supportive than I could ever ask for.”

Encouraged by her advisor, Dr. Olusola Adesope, Kripa has been actively involved in a number of student organizations and initiatives throughout her time here, including the International Center Coffee Hours, Graduate Students of Education, and the Professional Development Initiative (PDI). She has been awarded professional development and travel grants by the Graduate & Professional Students Association and the Department of Educational Leadership, Sport Studies, and Educational/Counseling Psychology six times over the years.

“I’ve been going to the PDI events from year one,” she says. “All of their workshops were helpful, especially the Cheeky Scientist series, where you learn how to write your resume, maintain your LinkedIn profile, network, and know when to start searching for work.”

These events helped Kripa, who is originally from India, understand the processes that lead to success. And it has paid off. Kripa has a job waiting for her when she graduates.

“I’ll be joining the International Society for Technology in Education as their learning science specialist,” says Kripa. “I’ll be working on a super fun project funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The role is in project management, where I will coordinate and inform pieces of how learning science does or could influence state and district level policy, edtech procurement in schools, and K-12 teacher professional development, and increase awareness of learning sciences among educators.”

Kripa was awarded the Charles Allen Master’s Thesis Award in 2015 for research on improving critical thinking skills in the kindergarten classroom, also done during her time at WSU. More recently, Kripa’s dissertation focused on the effect of seductive details – the results of including interesting information that is tangentially connected to the learning content but irrelevant to the learning objective.

“We know that including seductive details is detrimental to learning, but they might also spark someone’s interest,” says Kripa. “So where do we find that balance?”

In addition to her dissertation research and being actively involved on campus, Kripa has participated in a number of research projects resulting in three published papers, and six more in various stages of publication. One of the papers she coauthored with Dr. Adesope was among the top 10 most read education research articles in 2017. She also competed in the 2017 Three Minute Thesis competition sharing details on a project that examined the learning benefits of low-stakes testing. The Three Minute Thesis competition is a research communication challenge that dares students to consolidate their research to one PowerPoint slide and one three-minute speech.

Kripa’s educational experience provides her with a comparative foundation. Having attended 11 schools, she believes WSU has provided her with important values.

“I feel safe at WSU,” she says. “My assistantship with Academic Outreach and Innovations allowed me to meet with many different faculty, and not once have any made me feel like I was just a grad student. They have always asked me what I think, and treated me as an equal. That is a perspective and a self-esteem boost that I haven’t had at other schools—so I’m very thankful.”

Kripa notes that the unique community of support at WSU was crucial to her success, and offers some wisdom to other graduate students.

“Never try to do grad school alone,” she says. “It’s just not possible. It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know,’ and reach out to someone and ask for help. Try out everything, but be intentional about where you put your time.”