Korinthia D. Nicolai

President, VCU Holmes Scholars Program

Ph.D. Student, School of Education
Program Area: Educational Psychology
Graduate Assistant in Department of Foundations of Education

Headshot of Korinthia Nicolai, a VCU Holmes Scholar.


  • Ph.D. (expected May, 2023 ) in Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • B.S. in Psychology, James Madison University

Line of Research

My line of research is motivation and belongingness for students belonging to historically underrepresented groups. I examine how motivation interventions focused on context impact the persistence of students belonging to historically underrepresented groups in STEM positively addressing the underrepresentation of the underrepresented students in STEM majors and careers.

Selected Research and Scholarship

  • (2022, April 21-26), Discussing Race, Ethnicity, and Culture While Teaching Educational Psychology (K. D. Nicolai & X. -Y. Chen, chairs). Symposium to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. San Diego, CA, United States.
  • Koenka, A. C., *Chen, X., *Nicolai, K. D., & *White-Levatich, A. (in press). Conducting equity-focused research from an achievement goal theory framework: Looking back and moving forward. In P. Murphy & H. Bembenutty. SSRL Times Magazine. *signifies equal contributions
  • *Lee, L., *Nicolai, K. D., *Omeish, I., & *Shahbazi, O. (2021, October). Cav Congress: High school students in equity work. Metropolitan Educational Research Consortium (MERC) Conference, Richmond, VA, United States. *signifies equal contribution
  • Nicolai, K. D., Koenka, A. C., & Wallace, M. K. (2021, August). Do predominant measures encompass Black and Latina students’ task values? Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, online.
  • Koenka, A. C., Broda, M., Agger, C. A., Anderman, E. M., Nicolai, K. D., Sjogren, A. L., & Zumbrunn, S. (2021, August). Science motivation among Black high school students: An intersectional approach. Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association.
  • Nicolai, K.D. & Koenka, A. C. (2020, March). Culturally responsive teaching and motivation in higher education. School of Education Research Colloquium at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.
  • Nicolai, K. D. (2020, February) Culturally responsive teaching: A motivational perspective. Holmes Scholars Preconference at Annual Meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Atlanta, GA.
  • Nastos, C. & Nicolai, K. D. (2018, April). Meta-cognitive awareness: Does instructional method matter? Virginia Association for Psychological Sciences, Roanoke, VA.


Korinthia Nicolai is a third-year doctoral student at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Education in the educational psychology track. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology at James Madison University and graduated from Northern Virginia Community College. There she became interested in the cultural effects on psychology and the unique experiences historically underrepresented minorities have in the United States. She is interested in conducting research that brings to the forefront (a) how experiences related to race, ethnicity and culture can affect belonging and motivation, and (b) the implications of these relations for fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in education. Currently, she serves as the president-elect of the Virginia Commonwealth University Holmes Scholars Program and the Junior Co-chair for Graduate Student Committee for AERA Motivation Special Interest Group.

What does the Holmes Scholars Program mean to you?

The Holmes Scholars Program is an opportunity to receive mentorship and peer support to navigate academia as a mixed race (Latina/white) student. The Holmes Scholars Program provides a community at Virginia Commonwealth University and across the nation to connect, collaborate and learn from other scholars. Through the guided support from peers and mentors, along with the professional development workshops, I can continue my development as a scholar.

Curriculum Vitae