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Release: March 22, 1999

UI grad to receive Outstanding Dissertation Award in Human Development

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A University of Iowa graduate whose doctoral research focused on communication processes among participants of a therapy group has been selected for an Outstanding Dissertation Award in Human Development.

Kristin Sturdevant, who graduated in December with a doctorate in education counseling from the UI College of Education, was selected for the award by the American Educational Research Association, Division E, which is based in Montreal. The award will be presented at the association's annual meeting in April and includes a plaque and $200.

Sturdevant, an individual and group psychotherapist at Psychiatric Associates in Iowa City, titled her dissertation "A Case Study: Processes and Group Development in a Marathon Encounter Group." Her advisor was Professor E. Richard Dustin.
Sturdevant examined 17 videotapes of a "marathon encounter group" made up of 18 participants and three facilitators who, as the name implies, met for extended periods of time over five days, sometimes for as long as 24 hours at a stretch.

The objective of such sessions, says Sturdevant, is to break down people's natural defenses and allow them to interact on a very personal level. The sessions also provided Sturdevant a glimpse of individual, interpersonal and group dynamics, which she analyzed with the aid of computer software that isolated themes in the discussions.

"What I found was that people seemed to get more and more in touch with themselves as they went along, people got along more productively and they worked more as a group as they went along," she said.

Sturdevant, who hopes to attend the award ceremony in Montreal, said the topic of group processes continues to intrigue her.

"I think one of the big things for me, and maybe it sounds trite, but I learned in doing this what a profoundly important human system we are, that I couldn't have done this without my son and my family and friends," she said. "So I learned from the inside out while doing this."