Emma Cohen: Founding Leader & Research Extraordinaire

Name: Emma Cohen

Year: Sophomore

Major: Psychology

Minor: Law and Society

Emma Cohen, a Colorado native but recent SLO local, is someone you can always count on to give you a smile when you walk by, whether she knows you or not (but realistically, she probably does). You can see her working the coffee bar at Julian’s on campus, studying it up at the library, or adventuring somewhere outdoors. Recently, Emma has spoken at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference located on the UCLA campus to present group research that she participated in, as well as helping establish the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority at Cal Poly.

Her Campus Cal Poly: Can you give a quick summary of the research you recently presented at the conference you attended at UCLA? What brought on this concept for you and your group?

Emma Cohen: Fall quarter I was given a really fantastic opportunity to turn a class project into a research internship and actually get credit for it as well. Three other students and I began a study in our Research Methods Class, PSY 329, investigating the effects of color on emotional perception. We started this project just by doing some preliminary research on the effects of color in various aspects of life, from business marketing to the designs of hospital rooms. Our original class project actually yielded significant results, so our professor, Dr. Kelly Bennion, offered her advisement for us to continue the project in the following quarters.

This past winter quarter we constructed a new study that grew off of our original project. We studied the “Effects of Color on Emotional Perception and Implicit Biases in an Interview Setting.” The first part of the study was just a continuation from fall quarter, but through the opportunity of an independent research study, we decided to incorporate a new aspect that we were passionate about: gender biases in interview settings. As college students preparing for the work industry, interview biases based on gender and the effects of what color shirt you wear are a very applicable issue that every person will encounter at some point or another. So we spent winter quarter preparing the materials and gaining approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) until the beginning of this quarter when we began running participants through the study. Our group was also accepted into the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference (PURC) at UCLA, where we got to present a poster with the findings from our research. It was a fantastic opportunity to network with other undergraduate psychology research students from all over California and the rest of the country as well.

This internship has really shown my team and I just how much effort and commitment a research study requires. We all learned how to write a formal research proposal, conduct studies to collect legitimate data, format a poster to present our studies and how to present all of our hard work in a professional setting. I’m so thankful to have gotten to spent the last year working on this research.

HCCP: You are very involved in the Cal Poly community,being a founding member of Alpha Gamma Delta, working at Julian's, volunteering at the Juvenile Hall, taking part in research as a second year, and will be acting as a Recruitment Counselor for Panhellenic recruitment in the fall. How do you find a balance between it all?

EC: I have always found that I work best with a busy schedule and am my most productive self when I do have a healthy amount of stress pushing me forward. I love being involved on campus and in the community! But most of all, I know that I wouldn’t be able to take on all that I do without the fantastic support system that I am lucky enough to surround myself with. I am extremely close with my family back home in Colorado; even though we’re a few states away, we manage to stay in touch really well, and my parents and sister always remind me how proud they are. I also have a really great and loving set of friends here at Cal Poly. I’ve created fantastic bonds with women from my sorority, I have a group of really solid guy friends that always keep me laughing, and I’ve picked up random friends along the way who I can’t even remember how or when we became friends. My relationships really do motivate me day in and day out. They humor me, challenge me, talk me through the hard times and are by my side during my best days, too. I know it’s incredibly cheesy, but without them I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.  

HCCP: What encouraged you to join Alpha Gamma Delta as a founding member?

EC: To be honest, I never thought I would ever go Greek. No one on either side of my family was Greek, and when I told my family I was going through recruitment, they simply didn’t understand. So when I dropped out of formal recruitment in the fall, my family had an, “Ah, she came to her senses,” moment. Yet to their shock, come winter quarter when I heard that a new sorority was coming to campus, I signed up for an interview. I still didn’t think this new sorority would work considering the first time I went through recruitment I didn’t find a house that felt right to me, but when I talked to the women from the sorority headquarters, I started to rethink the opportunity. It truly felt like a fresh start and a chance that I would really never be offered again. How often does a new sorority come to your school and offer you a bid? So I signed up to see exactly what Greek life was about, and quickly became emerged in the leadership opportunities that came my way.

For our founding year, I served on the Executive Council as the Vice President of Operations and I grew exponentially as a leader and a person. I learned all about how sororities operate on a national level, and the amount of effort that goes into founding a new chapter was astonishing. I grew extremely close with the other women in my chapter, specifically the other women that served on Executive Council with me. It was a hectic first year, but it will always be a unique Greek experience that I’m thankful to have had. And I’m looking forward to sharing my experience with new members as a Recruitment Counselor in the fall!

HCCP: How does SLO differ from Colorado?

EC: Well for starters, there’s a beach. And seasons don’t really apply out here either. But there’s honestly more things similar between SLO and Colorado than there are different. Central California and my area of Colorado (the mountains outside Denver) are both very outdoorsy and adventurous locations. People are very passionate about going out and being active, whether it’s hiking, going to the beach, or heading up to the mountains. I think that’s why I feel so at home and love being in SLO so much because it really feels like the community that I call home. And everyone here is so nice especially on campus - it’s the “happiest city in America” which truly reminds me of the kindness and happiness that people exhibit back in Colorado. One big difference, though, is the massive food culture that is out here in California - I had never heard of acai until I came to SLO.

HCCP: What is your favorite thing to do in the SLO area?

EC: I absolutely LOVE the farmer’s markets that are on the Central Coast. I distinctly remember when I was touring Cal Poly as a junior in high school, and when I went downtown on a Thursday, I was in awe of the farmer’s market. All the fresh produce and street side vendors - it’s such a small town community feeling that I find so special to this area. I’ve also been to the farmer’s markets in Santa Barbara, Avila and Santa Cruz, and each one is unique and exciting. I just love the atmosphere and trying all the new foods - it’s such a tasty adventure for me.