Kylie Watts at the Arches.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Family Studies Student Wins Karraker Prize

Family studies undergraduate student Kylie Watts ’23 has been awarded the Karraker Prize for her contributions to the field of psychology and sociology. The prize is named after the late Dr. Meg Wilkes Karraker, professor emerita of sociology and founding director of the Luann Dummer Center for Women. Watts has been recognized for her two research papers, “Special Parenting: How Raising a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder Affects Marital Functioning” and “Intersectionality Between Psychology and Religion.”

Outside of research, Watts is originally from Chugiak, Alaska, and came to Minnesota to play hockey at St. Thomas. The Newsroom connected with her to talk about her interest in psychology and experience playing as a goalie for the Tommies.

Why did you want to go into psychology and family studies?

I have always had my own struggles with my mental health and I started therapy as a sophomore in high school. Starting therapy completely changed the path of my life; I became fascinated with psychology and the way that our brains work and how our childhood experiences permanently impact us. I wanted to become a therapist because if I could help anybody function better in their day-to-day life and be that catalyst for change, that’s all I would want to do.

What drew you to decide on the topics for your papers?

I chose those topics because I’m very interested in autism spectrum disorder and how it impacts the entire family system. My mom is a special education teacher at an elementary school and I’ve volunteered a lot of time there. It’s amazing to see the capabilities of those children and it’s also very sobering to see how the families adjust. For my second paper, I had to choose a topic relating to Christian marriage, so I chose psychology and Christian marriage.

What psychology work are you looking to do in the future?

I am looking to get my PsyD and I want to work with the adolescent population in either a clinical or private practice setting with specialization in trauma.

What was your experience playing hockey for St. Thomas and moving to Minnesota?

After graduation, I came down to Minnesota and played hockey here for my first two years on the D-III program as a goalie. With the D-I transition and the time commitment, I chose to prioritize my education and professional goals over my athletic career.

Goalie Kylie Watts blocks a shot during the University of St. Thomas women's hockey team game against the College of Saint Benedict at the St. Thomas Ice Arena in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, on Feb. 19, 2021. St. Thomas won the game by a final score of 6-2. (Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas)

If you could play for any hockey team, what would it be?

I’d really want to play at the Olympics; that’s been a huge dream for me my whole life. Just going to the Olympics and having that experience would be unbelievable; if I could be on a dream team, I’d play for the U.S. women’s hockey team.