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W&M Center for Gifted Education receives Awards for Excellence in Research from Mensa

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    Excellence in Research:  Jennifer Riedl Cross (left) is director of research at the W&M Center for Gifted Education. Tracy L. Cross is executive director of the center.  
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Tracy L. Cross, the Jody and Layton Smith Professor of Psychology and Gifted Education, and Jennifer Riedl Cross, research associate professor, have been recognized by the Mensa Education & Research Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit organization dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in human intelligence, with their annual awards for excellence in research. The awards celebrate groundbreaking investigations in the disciplines of intelligence, intellectual giftedness and related fields.

Tracy Cross is executive director of the Center for Gifted Education and Jennifer Cross serves as its director of research. Although the scholars are the named recipients of the two awards, the research recognized is the work of their teams that include faculty and students in the School of Education, as well as colleagues at partner schools of education.  
 
Both studies relate to the psychology and academic success of high-ability students. One studied the differences in barriers to achievement cited by high-ability middle school students from high- versus low-income backgrounds, drawing attention to the specialized support needed for gifted students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
 
The second study focused on the psychological profile of honors college students with the goal of helping higher education administrators identify the support needed by this population of students, particularly in the areas of suicide prevention and social integration.
 
The Crosses’ work has been previously recognized with the Award for Research Excellence, most recently in 2017. In addition to awards in 2008 and 2007, Tracy Cross received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the foundation in 2009.
 
Read on for details and abstracts of the two studies recognized.
 
A Comparison of Perceptions of Barriers to Academic Success Among High-Ability Students From High-and Low-Income Groups: Exposing Poverty of a Different Kind
Gifted Child Quarterly, Vol. 62, Issue 1, 2018
Jennifer Riedl Cross, Andrea Dawn Frazier, Mihyeon Kim, and Tracy L. Cross

Abstract: In 14 focus group interviews, sixth- to eighth-grade high-ability students from high- (n = 36) and low-income (n = 45) families were asked to describe the barriers they perceived to their academic success. Three themes were identified through the qualitative analysis: Constraining Environments, Integration versus Isolation, and Resource Plenty versus Resource Poor. Students in both groups experienced environments not conducive to learning, inhibiting peers, and teachers as a barrier. Students in the low-income group described mayhem in their schools, which interfered significantly with learning. These students were highly integrated in their school community, whereas the students in the high-income group were socially isolated from both peers and teachers. Both groups exhibited issues of poor fit within their schools: autonomy and competence for both, relatedness for students in the high-income group. Attention to these issues will help support these students in achieving their potential.

Psychological Heterogeneity Among Honors College Students
Journal for the Education of the Gifted, Vol. 41, Issue 3, 2018
Tracy L. Cross, Jennifer Riedl Cross, Sakhavat Mammadov, Thomas J. Ward, Kristie Speirs Neumeister, and Lori Andersen

Abstract: Greater knowledge of the psychology of honors college students will help to inform program administrators, counselors, residence life assistants, and faculty about how they may provide support to those with the greatest need. Via an online survey, personality, perfectionism, and suicidal ideation data were collected from honors college students (N = 410, 73% female). Using latent profile analysis, students were classified by their responses to the Big Five Inventory personality measure into five profiles. Risk factors of high perfectionism and suicidal ideation scores were found in two of the profiles, suggesting students with these personality characteristics may need enhanced psychological support. The largest profile (35% of students) had extraversion scores above the norm, but all other profiles had introverted scores below the norm. Neuroticism scores were also higher than the norm in the introverted profiles, which represented a majority of the honors college students.