Boyd Receives Gretchen Goldsmith Lankford Award
By Marissa Pekular
Morgan Boyd, a 2023 graduate in psychology, has received the Gretchen Goldsmith Lankford Award. This award recognizes a student with exceptional academic achievement who plans to pursue graduate studies in education. This award is granted annually to one graduating senior in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Boyd, whose studies focused on developmental learning and creative writing, will continue her education at New York University, Steinhardt, where she will pursue a Ph.D. in developmental psychology. During her studies, she aims to research how to maximize successful outcomes in Black childhood education.
As a Pittsburgh native, Boyd always wanted to attend Carnegie Mellon University, and during her senior year of high school, she was drawn to the university’s Department of Psychology.
“As someone who was undecided on exactly what I wanted to do, I thought this school was supportive of that, and would help me to build a path forward,” said Boyd.
During her sophomore year, Boyd chose to study developmental and learning psychology within the Department of Psychology.
“I grew up with a sister with developmental disabilities, so she always learned differently,” said Boyd. “Just seeing her in different environments and how that affected her learning made me want to focus on [developmental learning], because I’ve seen how little changes to education can have a huge impact on the way someone learns.”
Reflecting on her own experiences in school, Boyd also accounted for race and how it often was a factor in how children were educated. This is one of the reasons she decided to focus specifically on Black education in her graduate studies.
“People learn differently,” said Boyd. “I think that needs to be appreciated.”
As a part of the Dietrich College Senior Honors Program, Boyd focused her senior thesis on the representation of Black protagonists in children’s books. During her studies, she recognized that racial representation is important, but the quality of representation is more important.
“As a Black girl myself, reading different books, one thing that I always wanted to see was characters that were Black, just being kids without the story really highlighting the fact that they have to deal with racism or talking about history,” said Boyd. “Those lessons are important, but I feel there is a different space for them. It’s really important for kids to see themselves reflected in books just doing everyday things.”
As part of her studies, she evaluated how over exposure to white characters could negatively affect Black children, children of color and all children in general.
Boyd interviewed caregivers of young children and found that parents are more interested in seeing non-white characters in storybooks doing everyday activities rather than highlighting racial inequality, history and culture. She also found that the majority of parents were dissatisfied with the current racial makeup of children’s books.
Boyd credits her time at CMU and in the Department of Psychology as one of the main reasons she got into graduate school. During her academic studies, she benefited from valuable tools, resources and opportunities, such as the ability to work on research since her first year. Having these hands-on experiences and getting to meet people within her discipline helped establish her passions and an awareness of career paths in education beyond being a teacher.
“Being recognized was such an encouragement,” said Boyd. “It makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing."
Boyd looks forward to pushing for equitable education by conducting research that highlights current racial issues, but she also wants to emphasize the positive outcomes of better educating Black children. She ultimately wants to be an educator and to teach courses regarding racial differences in learning.