Guest Post: Therapy Dogs Take a Bite Out of Exam Week

Thanks to Dr. K. L. Zupancic (PhD, Principal Researcher) and Nicole Trevena-Flores (M.A., Southeast Community College Psychology/Sociology Student Club Faculty Sponsor) for allowing me to reprint their article which first appeared in Arts & Science Newsletter.

SCC presentation at the League for Innovation in the Community College
2016 Innovations Conference


This is a story about research at the community college level that culminated in fruition, with the presentation of our hard work on this project being accepted at the 2016 Innovations Conference. In 2013, Ms. Trevena-Flores and I wrote a proposal to the Southeast Community College administration requesting that we be allowed to have therapy dogs on campus during finals week, first for the purpose of mitigating stress amongst our college students during finals week, and second for the purpose of providing our students with the opportunity to actively engage in scholarly research on an on-going basis. Back in 2013, we could not have envisioned the far-reaching positive consequences of this research project.

Dr. Rose Suggett, our department chairperson, presented me with the opportunity of submitting a proposal to the 2016 Innovations Conference on the work Ms. Trevena-Flores, the student Psychology/Sociology Club, and I were doing with the therapy dogs during finals week at SCC. All of us worked diligently to get the proposal written and it was the students who came up with the creative, catchy title for our forum and poster presentations at this conference. Shortly after I began work on this conference presentation proposal, the thought of taking therapy dog teams to this conference popped into my head. After all, it was a presentation on therapy dogs during finals week! Dr. Suggett and I began brainstorming on how we would get two large dogs (a Standard Poodle and a Golden doodle) and two other adults (the dogs’ handlers) to Chicago should our presentation be accepted. As for my tiny therapy dog, a five and one-half pound Chihuahua, I could simply tote her to Chicago in my backpack.

The presentation was accepted! We took one of the SCC mini vans to Chicago which transported the big dogs, their handlers, and all of our presentation materials. As a bonus, the conference was held at a dog-friendly hotel in downtown Chicago. Over the weekend that we were at this conference, many times people would come up to us in the lobby, in the elevators, and in the hotel hallways, to ask to pet our dogs. One woman, who stated she had a phobia of dogs, came up to us and talked with us about our therapy dogs. Much to my delight, this woman showed up at our forum presentation! People working at this hotel also came up to us telling us heartfelt stories of their own dogs. One maintenance worker, with tears in his eyes, told me that he had recently lost his beloved “red-nosed Pit Bull.”

Numerous people attended our poster presentation and there was a nice group of attendees at our forum presentation–participants who had many questions about SCC and our therapy dogs during finals week project. Ms. Trevena-Flores, the Psychology/Sociology Student Club, and I had created a pilot project, demonstrated that this on-going activity/research project could work and continues to benefit not only our students but SCC staff and faculty as well, and elicited the help and support of multiple people within the SCC organization to make our dream become a reality. As an Organizational Psychologist, I would say that the Therapy Dogs during Finals Week project is an ideal example of people within an organization working hand in hand for the better good of everyone within that organization including our community and society as well! Thanks SCC for providing us with this opportunity.