Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

BHSU student’s research seeks solutions to societal issues

Noah Westerguaard
BHSU junior Lexie Bendigo is using her past to influence a productive research agenda.

Black Hills State University junior Lexie Bendigo’s experience growing up on the Cheyenne River Reservation instilled in her a passion for counseling, helping others and psychology. Her enthusiasm for behavioral sciences has resulted in providing BHSU students with the opportunity for a full-tuition scholarship in the behavioral science department and conducting BHSU research projects on social psychology.

“My dad’s side of the family is Lakota, so I grew up on the Cheyenne River Reservation,” Bendigo said. “Growing up on the reservation, I was exposed to a lot of social problems such as alcoholism, drug use, domestic violence, missing and murdered Indigenous women.”

This exposure to the realities of life on the reservation was present to Bendigo at a young age. 

“My dad was the president of the water board at the time while we lived there on the reservation and so, like, hearing things and putting things together, I was very aware of social issues at a young age,” Bendigo said. 

The struggles and oppresion associated with life on a reservation caused Bendigo to experience issues of generational trauma. 

“My dad struggled with alcoholism, so going into around 12-years-old, I started struggling with a lot of mental health problems,” Bendigo said.

Bendigo’s own mental health issues made her aware of the limited heathcare resources available for people on the reservation. 

“In such a rural area that was something [mental and physical assistance], that was not very accessible for that or information,” Bendigo said.

In high school, Bendigo completed a research paper which centered on the decades of abuse perpetrated by Larry Nassar in his role as a team physician for USA Gymnastics. From there, her research into sexual abuse broadened.

“I decided to do a paper on USA Gymnastics Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse [scandal],” Bendigo said. “From there I dove into sexual abuse on the reservations and the world.”

Through her research and her own experience with the lack of adequate healthcare on reservations instilled in her a desire to make a difference for others in similar circumstances. She eventually decided to seek degrees in both psychology and human services. 

“I became interested in consoling interventions and that is how I got introduced to the field of psychology,” Bendigo said. “I became interested in the study of trauma, specifically generational trauma, and trauma in my family. That is how I decided to go into this field here at BHSU [into] human services and psychology double major.”

In her time at BHSU, Bendigo has made a large impact in the behavioral sciences department. For her contributions, she was awarded the Make a Difference Scholarship.

Rather than just receiving her stipend for the award, Bendigo worked over the summer to make the scholarship more beneficial to future recipients of the award. 

“I got the opportunity through the summer to rebrand this entire scholarship,” said Bendigo. “Before it would only allow students $3,500 scholarship, which is still great, but it will now be a full tuition scholarship in the future.” 

In addition to such an impact on BHSU students in behavioral sciences, Bendigo is working with Dr. Alissa Call, an assistant professor of psychology at BHSU, in continuing social psychology research while also branching out into a new areas of research. 

“This past semester I was chosen as the manager for three research studies,” Bendigo said. “One of which is the consent coding study, which is basically looking at the teacher and student relationships in the media.” 

The second project is a continuation of research from a BHSU graduate. 

“Our Native Americans study was started by Taylor, who has since graduated from BHSU,” Bendigo said. “Her idea was to study how tribal counsel members view and perceive sexuality on the Reservation.”

The third study is unique as it is Bendigo’s own research. 

“The third one is very exciting as this is my own independent research,” Bendigo said. “If it goes through, my name will be on the publication.” 

This research project is tied to her upbringing and focuses on how religion is viewed by victims of physical and or mental assault. 

“We are calling it the religiosity study for short, but what I am interested in looking at is how childhood abuse impacts religiosity later in life,” Bendigo said. 

This research tied back to trauma that Bendigo witnessed and how trauma can impact people from a variety of backgrounds. 

“Because I am interested in trauma and how that affects the brain, I was really interested in this study,” Bendigo said. “We don’t want to stick to just college students or young or older people. We want to get into a database that can survey a lot of people.”

If successful, the project will attempt to understand how childhood trauma impacts people’s views on religion later in life. 

“Lexi’s project is looking at how abuse in childhood influences adult religion and religion tendencies,” Dr. Call said. “We are really trying to look at: Does childhood abuse, neglect, physical abuse, mental abuse change their religious views?” 

With a drive to help others, Bendigo is not only providing assistance to the BHSU community, but attempting to find solutions to broad social problems.