Even some of the brightest and most talented students struggle with education. And one Waxahachie High graduate was inspired by her collegiate challenges to hopefully discover a way to impact the success of future college students.

“The most stress that I’ve ever felt was in college,” said Katie Hinds, who was recently awarded $25,000 to begin independent research to improve college students’ brain performance.

The 2007 Waxahachie High graduate continued a successful soccer career in higher education and managed to balance grades and goals scored. As Hinds completed her undergraduate degree at Texas Tech University, she was even named to the Academic All-Big 12 team.

“I felt extremely overwhelmed in college. We call it information overload. I totally felt like I had information overload,” Hinds explained. “I did not know how to manage my day-to-day tasks.”

Just like any college student, Hinds procrastinated with schoolwork. She was an excellent student with award-winning grades but admitted she could not retain the information from her undergraduate studies.

But she managed, graduated from Texas Tech with an undergraduate and graduate degree and has since gone on to establish herself professionally.

Most recently, Hinds along with her friend, Susan Larkin, and four other new scientists were awarded funds to implement research through a study that empowers college students with their personal and academic success during the Friends of BrainHealth Scientist Selection Luncheon.

A total of 13 people competed for the Jennifer and Peter Roberts Distinguished New Scientist award.

“We were super excited because this really has been years in the making," Hinds emphasized. "We’ve wanted to do something like this for years but haven’t had the funding to do it. So, to have this opportunity, it honestly felt very special and was very motivating to achieve what we’ve wanted to achieve for a few years now.”

The duo both work at the Center of BrainHealth in Dallas and became acquainted while working in the teen training department. At the beginning of their employment, they worked closely with teenagers at camps and also conducted one-on-one training and worked in group-sessions.

“But both of us have a passion for college students. We think that, over the years, this group of students was missed,” Hinds said.

Hinds now works as a clinician at the Center for BrainHealth, where she manages a team of five people who deliver training programs to veterans, active military personnel, their spouses and caregivers. The goal of the Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training — also known as SMART — is to improve brain health and performance while minimizing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Hinds expressed the nonprofit she works for has not yet implemented these tactics to benefit college students. The program has reached veteran college students, but not the general post-secondary education student.

“What Susan and I are doing is adapting that [training] and changing it to make it more relevant to college students," Hinds explained. "So the training is not new, but to make it more meaningful to college students is new."

Hinds and Larkin will work with 60 college level freshmen or sophomores aged 17 to 22 at the University of Texas at Dallas. Participants will then be randomized into two groups. One will undergo the SMART training while the other half will enroll in a brain health workshop, where students only learn about the brain but not the strategies.

The program will teach students to synergistically integrate nine strategies, based on three different cognitive processes, which are strategic attention, integrative reasoning and innovation.

Students will learn to prioritize to-do lists to efficiently complete large tasks and minimize multitasking. The program will encourage students to take five, five-minute breaks and find new ways to learn instead of repeating the same study patterns.

“In school, most of us are taught to memorize information, and during the test, you regurgitate it. Research, in general, has shown that’s a super fragile way to learning information," Hinds elaborated.

Hinds believes the SMART approach will help students encode and interpret information in a more meaningful way that will help them adequately memorize curriculum in the long-run.

“For the students that we’ve worked with, they’ve never heard of anything like this,” Hinds said.

Hinds' first-hand experience balancing collegiate soccer and academics seemed impossible. Even though she successfully persevered through school procrastinating, she realized in her graduate studies that she didn’t recollect undergrad information.

“We have these tools that I so wish I had in college because I think it would have totally changed how I approached school," she said. "I think I would have been less stressed and actually remembered more information in a deeper way.”

With an extensive background in soccer, her whole life Hinds was educated on physical performance. When she participated in her first training session at the Center for BrainHealth, she fell in love with the brain and how it can perform.

“I would say my goal is now is to help people feel empowered and to take control of their own brain performance,” Hinds expressed.

Hinds plans for SMART to be implemented at UT-Dallas after the study is complete. She hopes the training can be incorporated as a mandatory freshmen-level course to impact all students.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450