Laura Wolter: Health Cognitions and Behavior

As an undergraduate psychology major at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Laura Wolter read papers written by Lucy Napper, an assistant professor in Lehigh’s department of psychology, whose research examines how parents communicate with their college-aged children about alcohol use/abuse. 
"After reading about Dr. Napper’s work, I was interested in collaborating with her, especially given her research on the influence of peers and parents on substance use and sexual risk behaviors in emerging adults," explained Wolter.
"Since Lehigh University is a smaller school, I was excited about being able to work closely with her on projects." 
Wolter, a native of Lincoln, Neb., was accepted into the graduate program and works with Dr. Napper, focusing broadly on health cognitions and behavior. "In our most recent paper, we examined how parents talk to their college students about safe drinking," Wolter said. "We used a qualitative approach to explore college students' perceptions of the types of advice mothers provide underage college students about drinking and found that mothers communicate a wide range of harm reduction messages." 
The most common messages mothers communicated through their research, Wolter added, were about reducing serious harm associated with drinking such as where a drink has been at all times, drinking with people who will take care of you, and eating food before or during drinking. "Mothers also provided ambiguous moderation messages, that is, messages about drinking safely that do not offer any specific advice about how to do so. Additionally, mothers were more likely to provide specific harm reduction messages to female students than male students."
The research manuscript is currently under revision with a journal prior to being formally published.
When not in research mode, Wolter enjoys a graduate life office on campus that supports students and fostering a sense of community. "They host lots of events throughout the semester, for example, every Tuesdays at 10am they provide a free breakfast, there are trips to New York and Philadelphia, an annual Halloween party, and dissertation bootcamp where they provide graduate students with a distraction-free place to write for the weekend."
Wolter added that she enjoys going hiking in the Lehigh area and getting together with other graduate students to cook and enjoy meals together. "These activities are both fun and help relieve stress."
For anyone considering Lehigh, Wolter would "absolutely recommend the school. The culture of the psychology department here is very collaborative. In addition to Dr. Napper, other faculty members are always willing to discuss research and support graduate students. I'm incredibly happy to be part of this department." 
Wolter, who plans to graduate in May 2023, plans to continue her research by going into academia and eventually working as a professor. 
- Story by Leslie Feldman
- Images by Christine Kreschollek