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Meet Our Students

Class of 2021

The following students were kind enough to share their advice and personal experiences at UVA to help our future students to be successful.  Click on each students name to learn about their favorite classes, activities, and experiences at UVA.  We hope you enjoy learning about their scholarly journeys and feel inspired as a result.

Jessica Smith
Jessica Smith Quote
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Jessica Smith  -  Annandale, VA  -  Class of 2021

Academic program: Psychology

About my profile picture: This is from when I studied abroad in Australia right after my first year in the summer of 2018. I was at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and got to pet and feed some kangaroos!

My path to psychology:  I wasn’t planning on studying psychology when I first got to UVA, I was actually pre-law and declared Foreign Affairs my first semester… but I really had come to terms with my love for science which then later developed into a fascination with behavioral health.

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology class was 100% without a doubt, social psychology (PSYC 2600)! This class was not only my favorite content-wise, but this is the only class where I can truly relate something that happens each day to the content I had learned.

Favorite psychology professor:  Professor Mazurek taught my social psychology class that I took first year. I’m about to graduate and continue to rave about him to anyone who asks me which class they should take if they’re wanting to take a psyc class! He’s such a wonderful lecturer and really made himself available for extra help outside of class. He really cares for his students and wants them to succeed! 

Other UVA classes I recommend: My top 5 classes I’ve taken (besides social psychology) would have to be Intro to International Relations (PLIR  1010), Hitler in History and Fiction (HIEU 3505), Intro to Data Science with R (STAT 1601), RM: Psychobiology Laboratory (PSYC 3210), and Grammar and Composition I in Spanish (SPAN 3010).

Student organizations I recommend: I’ve been heavily involved in the University Salsa Club since I was a first year, and I was actually the President for the club this year (2021)! It’s truly been a ‘home away from home’ for me and allowed me to not just make some of my greatest friends, but develop my love for Latin dance.

Volunteer activities to consider: I used to volunteer with the UVA Health System through Madison House. I was a patient ambassador, and also an assistant in the outpatient pediatrics PT/OT clinic.

Undergraduate research experience:  I was the lead undergraduate research assistant with the Center for Behavioral Health and Technology (which is part of the UVA SOM, Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences). When I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in academic research, I spent the day shadowing in the summer of 2019 when I was in Charlottesville and sought a student position! This research center is nothing like anything else I had ever seen before because it’s such an interdisciplinary lab that utilizes technology to implement engaging, interactive, and comprehensive interventions which improve outcomes with individually tailoring programs. Additionally, for over 10 years, the center has been involved in eHealth, the development and testing of clinical interventions via the Internet. I had the privilege to work with clinical psychologists, public health specialists, software engineers, etc. all in one center!

Psychology Distinguished Major Progam (DMP): I was in the Psychology Distinguished Majors program. I prepared a thesis under the supervision of faculty member Kelly M. Shaffer, PhD. The resulting thesis was based on secondary analyses using an existing database from our national clinical trial, SHUTi OASIS, regarding cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). But in addition to a primary outcome, we’re working on moderation analyses regarding differences in depression and anxiety and polypharmacy at baseline to post timelines between our treatment and control groups.  Visit the Reid Conference Open Science folder to read more about my research.

Advice for new students:  The Psychology classes are not easy so do not be discouraged! I didn’t do super well in my first psychology class. If the content is something you’re really passionate about then stick with it!

Future Plans: I’m excited and sincerely blessed to be employed for the next year as I will be taking a gap year. I’ll be continuing to grow my skillset and build up my resume for applications to PhD programs in the near future!

Neemah Koroma
Neemah Koroma Quote
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Neemah Koroma - Woodbridge, VA - Class of 2021

About my profile picture:  I was at one of my first UVA football games (I am on the left) and I had gone with my friend Deebii who lived in my first year dorm and later became my roommate and one of my closest friends!

My path to psychology:  I was inspired to study psychology ever since I enrolled in social psychology the second semester of my first year with Professor Christopher Mazurek. I was in love with learning about how the mind works and how important our environment contributes to who we are, how we perceive ourselves, how we perceive other people and how we perceive the world. I wanted to continue my studies in learning about the mind since it is so intricate and plays such a big part in the world around us and how we respond to it. With every class I take I continue to love learning about it.

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology class has to be social psychology. While it helped me pursue my interest in psychology, I love that its focus is in understanding and prioritizing the situations around us and other people and how we tend to overlook and underestimate its importance. To this day, because of the class, it really helps me self-reflect and be slow to automatically assume someone's personality instead of their situation which is so common to how we as humans work in order to make things more simple, even if it isn't right. This is a class I would recommend to everyone and not only just psychology students.

Favorite psychology professor:  My favorite psychology professor would be Professor Seanna Leath. I took her class on the Psychology of Black Women during Spring 2020 and I just loved it. We were able to have thoughtful discussions about the many struggles Black Women have to go through in America, many struggles that are overlooked and not truly understood by those who are not part of this intersectionality. It resonated with me because I continue to go through many of these struggles as a Black woman myself. I enjoyed finally having a professor who understood what I went through.

Other UVA classes I recommend:  Other classes I would recommend would be Professor Amrisha Vaish's class on Child Psychology (PSYC 2700) and Tobias Grossman's class on Infant Development (PSYC 3490). Even if you don't like children, you'll very much enjoy the information without feeling overwhelmed and really understand how they work and why they act the way they do. Professor Rick Maye's class on Intro to U.S. Healthcare (GNUR 5390) is also an amazing class that I recommend to everyone, especially because you learn not only how US healthcare works, but how much if it affects our lives and those around us- the good and the bad. It brings to light a lot of the misconceptions we have about people's health. I don't know anyone who has taken any of these classes and regretted it!

Student organizations I recommend:  I was on the student advisory board of the Center for Global Health and I am the committee head of our annual Global Health Case Competition. Every year we host a competition where students across disciplinary schools are presented a global case and work for a week to solve it and then present it to a panel of interdisciplinary and international judges. The winner is sent to the national competition for a grand prize. I was also on the executive board for Happy Kids Healthy Kids where (before Covid-19) we would volunteer at various elementary schools in Charlottesville and teach kids healthy food and exercise habits. I love kids and I love health so this kind of went hand in hand with what I want to do in the future. Of course I would recommend all the ones I am a part of because they are such a great experience, but there are hundreds of others I couldn't even begin to just name one. UVA has a great site that lists anything you may be interested in.

Volunteer activities to consider:  I have since spent the end of third year at home so I was not able to do all the volunteer activities I was hoping to do. I was able to volunteer virtually with My Sister's Keeper this past semester where UVA students mentor BIPOC high schools students in Charlottesville, where more of the focus is on Black high school girls. I would most definitely recommend volunteering at the Haven which works to provide food and sustainable housing to the homeless population in Charlottesville. My best friend works there and loves it and has taken on a leadership role; they are almost always looking for volunteers to help out.

Undergraduate research experience:  For all of second year I volunteered as a research assistant in the Early Development Lab where I worked on the Spatial App project. My friend who was working in the psychology lab had sent me information that EDL was looking for new assistants so I applied. While there was/is several projects, Spatial Apps worked to figure out if there is a difference in how parents interact with their children in spatial games electronically or physically and if there's a larger extent in interaction and scaffolding. I worked under Sierra Eisen who has since left to complete her Postdoc at Wesleyan University. I helped schedule and recruit participants, run experiments, and code the data that we recorded. Currently, I am a research assistant in the FHIRE lab under Professor Seanna Leath and work alongside brilliant students! The research focuses on how racial and gender identity beliefs contribute to psychological resilience in Black women and how discrimination and stigma affect outcomes of Black girls and women. There are various lab and paper projects of a variety of studies that are currently in place, so there is always something that needs to be done! The lab works very hard to create a community where everyone is free to express what is happening with their project or life in general.

Advice for new students:  What helped me be successful in my psychology classes is realizing that most of what you learn is what takes place in real life. When I study, I always try to apply what I'm learning to reality to make it much more relatable and understandable, rather than just memorizing. If there was a particular topic I wasn't getting, I would go to a professor to better understand it.

Future Plans:  As a pre-med student, I hope to one day become a physician. While anything can change, I still hope to become a child psychiatrist after medical school. I love that we are in the generation where there is more freedom to talk about mental illness, especially because every individual is going through something that may be hard to deal with. Many children, especially BIPOC children, go through adverse childhood experiences that affect them well into adulthood and deal with disorders that aren't recognized or dealt with properly in many cultures. I want to be a part of the solution to this problem and bring affordable mental health to communities that get overlooked.

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Mary Isaac Cargill  -  Vinton, VA  -  Class of 2021

Mary Isaac Cargill

Academic Programs: Psychology and English (concentration in Modern and Global Studies)

My path to psychology: I’ve always been fascinated by the unknowability of the human mind.  In this field, every answer leaves you with new questions, so there’s always something new to pursue.

Favorite psychology class: I really enjoyed the Psychology of Black Racial Trauma with Professor Leath.  The discussions we had as a class and the topics we covered in the course were very pertinent and granted me deeper insight into the field.

Favorite psychology professor:  I really enjoyed Professor Jaswal’s class and overall teaching style.  I learned a lot from him, but more importantly, he clearly cares a lot about his students and their success.  (I’m a little biased because he’s also my advisor!)

Other UVA classes I recommend:  I really recommend any of the upper-level seminar courses, especially the Psychology of Women and Gender, and Autism: from Neurons to Neighborhoods.

Student organizations I recommend:  The Psychological Society is such a great community that gives you access to some really helpful resources, and I can’t say enough good things about Hoos Connected – I highly recommend everyone check out that organization!

Mary Isaac Cargill Quote

Undergraduate research experience:   I’ve worked in a few different labs as an undergraduate research assistant, but I currently work in the Jaswal Lab.  I didn’t have the most normal introduction to the lab – I cold-emailed Professor Jaswal and came to his office hours to discuss the potential of me joining the lab; after a brief meeting with him and the lab manager, I was accepted for the upcoming semester.  The Jaswal Lab researches a variety of topics related to autism, including perceptions and stigma, emotion recognition, and terminology.

Psychology Distinguished Major Progam (DMP): I knew I wanted to do a DMP when I started at the Jaswal Lab, and I am thrilled to be working with Professor Jaswal on this project.  My project focuses on perceptions of autism and autistic people as influenced by different terminology, namely person-first versus identity-first language.

Advice for new students:  I strongly advise people to get to build relationships with their professors – they genuinely want to see their students do well, and they can be a great source of support.  I also think anyone with an interest in research should seek out opportunities to work as an undergraduate research assistant – it’s one of the best decisions I made during my time in college!

Future Plans:  I am currently in the process of applying to PhD programs for Clinical Psychology to continue my research on autism.

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Giovanna Veiga de Almeida  -  Belo Horizonte, Brazil  -  Class of 2021

Giovanna Veiga de Almeida

Academic program: Psychology (major), Sociology (minor)

My path to psychology: I wanted to better understand the human mind and to help others.

Favorite psychology class:  Clinical Psychology in Everyday Life (PSYC 4500)

Favorite psychology professor:  Robert Emery

Other UVA classes I recommend: Family Policy (SOC 4057), Intro to Social Psych (PSYC 2600), Infant Development (PSYC 3490), Criminology (SOC 2230), Dracula (SLAV 2360), Sex and Intimacy in the Time of COVID-19 (NURS 4559).

Student organizations I recommend:  Autism Allies, Psychological Society, TBLA (Towards a Better Latin America), and BRASA (Brazilian Student Association)

Volunteer activities to consider: There are many cool opportunities to volunteer with Autism Allies! I helped with cooking classes in the past, but you can also volunteer for fitness classes, craft nights, and many other fun activities.

Undergraduate research experience: Yes, I am a research assistant at JADE Lab and we study the organizational, social, and psychological forces that regulate individual and group behavior. Working in a lab is an amazing opportunity to develop research skills and make friends, and JADE usually interviews new RAs every Spring.

Psychology Distinguished Major Progam (DMP):  I wrote a thesis on the effects of social media on close relationships during the coronavirus pandemic. Specifically, I aimed to investigate under which circumstances technology exacerbates feelings of loneliness, social exclusion, and psychological distress. Since the pandemic started I have been really curious about the toll social media is taking on relationships, and under the guidance of Professor Eileen Chou, I have decided to study these things into more depth.

Advice for new students:  My main advice for new students is to try and explore different classes, clubs, and research opportunities at UVA! Four years go by really quickly and you often regret not exploring different things and figuring out your interests earlier.

Future Plans: I am currently applying for graduate school in clinical psychology and post bac positions in research.

Giovanna Veiga de Almeida Quote
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Tristan Liu  -  Norfolk, VA  -  Class of 2021

Academic programs: Psychology (major), Entrepreneurship (minor)

Tristan Liu

My path to psychology:  I was inspired to study psychology because I was fascinated with learning more about human behavior and relationships at different levels.  I found psychology to be applicable to many different fields because it incorporates a wide variety of subjects, especially at UVA where a lot of the courses focus on strengthening analytical skills.

Favorite psychology class:  PSYC  2700: Child Development was one of my favorite psychology classes I took at UVA.  I enjoyed learning about the biological, social, and cognitive development stages that children go through and how it can affect their socialization.  

Favorite psychology professor:  There are so many brilliant psychology professors within the department that it’s hard to choose one.  Alison Nagel who is the program director for Hoos Connected has been a big part of my UVA experience.  Fred Smyth has also been a reliable resource and professor for me as a psychology major. 

Other UVA classes I recommend:  I recommend any courses in the EDHS department if you’re a psychology major because a lot of them intersect with what we learn in psychology.  EDHS 3850: Introduction to Counseling with Paul Harris is a really engaging course if you want to learn more about counseling theories and skills.  If you’re more creative, I highly recommend ARCH 2070: Design & Thinking with Elgin Cleckley.  SLAV 2360: Dracula is also a popular course that many students enjoy.  

Student organizations I recommend:  A few organizations I’m currently involved in are the UVA Student Council’s Art Committee, FeelGood, OYFA, and Hoos Connected.  If you’re interested in facilitating, Hoos Connected is a great way to start.  Being a facilitator for the program has been one of my most fulfilling experiences since I get to work with exceptional faculty and help incoming students foster connections. 

Volunteer activities to consider:  I recommend working with Madison House if you want to get involved with volunteering.  I’m currently an Arts Mentors Program Director for Madison House and it’s been fun getting to meet the kids in the Charlottesville/Albemarle County area and interacting with them in creative ways.  

Undergraduate research experience: I’m a research assistant for the Social Hierarchies and Behavior lab where our research is focused on the why disparities between social groups persist and how group-based inequalities affect the way we see the world.  This past semester, we analyzed how place-based resentment correlates with the prejudice and racial demographics of certain areas.

Advice for new students:  My advice for new students to be successful at UVA is to dive headfirst into the community.  It seems scary and overwhelming at first, but I guarantee that stepping out of your comfort zone is the best thing you can do.  One way to do this is by joining different clubs and organizations when you first get here and meet people with similar interests.  To those interested in psychology, make sure that you’re genuinely passionate about the subject because it does require a fair amount of work but it's worthwhile. 

The psychology department at UVA is filled with some of the brightest minds and constantly making breakthroughs in the world of research.  I’ve been able to meet a diverse range of students and faculty through the department which has also allowed me to build great relationships and research experience.  If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it’s a rewarding experience. 

Future Plans:  After graduating, I plan to attend graduate school and work in the field of nonprofit organizations, specifically those aimed at mobilizing women in their communities and ending world hunger.  

Tristan Liu
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Kayleigh Harris  -  Williamsburg, VA  -  Class of 2021

Kayleigh Harris

Academic program:  Psychology and Sociology Double Major

Favorite psychology class:  Social Psychology (PSYC 2600) and Social Dynamics

Favorite psychology professor: Professor Wood really helped to broaden my understanding of what psychologists can and do study and she has helped to push me towards achieving my own goals in the psych department here at UVA as my DMP advisor.

Student organizations I recommend:  I am part of the Virginia Women's Chorus and have met many of my closest friends at UVA through the chorus so if you're at all interested in singing I definitely recommend checking us out and auditioning!

Volunteer activities to consider:  I am a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service organization here at UVA. Joining APO is a great way to find friends and a group of people who are passionate about serving our community.

Undergraduate research experience:  I worked as an RA in Dr. Brown-Ianuzzi's BASH (Behavior and Social Hierarchies) Lab. I got involved simply by emailing Dr. Brown-Ianuzzi and letting her know I was interested, she immediately set me up with her grad students to see if I'd be a good fit and it's been a wonderful experience.

Kayleigh Harris

Psychology Distinguished Major Progam (DMP):  For my final in Professor Wood's Social Dynamics class, I wrote a research proposal with two grad students, Professor Wood found our proposal really intriguing and offered to fund our project! I ended up taking the lead on the study and reached out to Professor Smyth to see if I could be included in the DMP for my project and was accepted! My research focused on the effects of high or low gossip and in-group/out-group distinctions on prosocial behavior towards fellow group members.

Future Plans: I have applied to several business school Ph.D. programs in Organizational Behavior and I am also currently on the hunt for jobs.

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Virginia Syer - Richmond, VA - Class of 2021

Virginia Syer

Academic programs: Psychology and English double major, Religious Studies minor

My path to psychology:  My high school guidance counselor and Mindfulness teacher, Alex Peavey, studied psychology here at UVA and he was a very influential figure for me. I have always been passionate about mental health, and his knowledge and understanding inspired me to pursue an understanding of my own. 

Favorite psychology class:  Introduction to Social Psychology was my favorite psychology class. I took this course in the Spring of my first year with Professor Mazurek, and I loved learning about human behaviors, thoughts and emotions and how they are influenced by the perceived presence of others. It was fascinating and I loved to look for the content we learned in class out in the real world. It was the first psychology class I took at UVA and it solidified my interest in the field. 

Favorite psychology professor:  This is a hard question, but if I had to pick I would say Professor Joseph Allen. I took Adolescence: Theory and Development with him in fall 2020. The course was over zoom, so it was a different experience than my other psychology classes, but I just found Professor Allen to be very knowledgeable and also kind and understanding throughout the pandemic. I also loved the content of the class. 

Other UVA classes I recommend:  I took PSYC 4500 Special Topics: The Human Brain as a January Term class in 2020 with Professor James Morris and I would highly recommend the class for a 4000 level seminar. As someone who tends to find more interest and ease in the social and relational aspects of psychology, rather than the anatomical (is this the right word? Or do I mean biological/ neurological?) or statistical aspects, I was nervous for the course, but it was still so interesting and definitely beneficial. I had taken Cognitive Neuroscience before it, which gave me some background, but background was not necessary considering Professor Morris’ teaching was great. It gave me a much fuller understanding of psychology. 

Virginia Syer Quote

Student organizations I recommend:  I was a member and a co-publicity chairman of the Psychological Society and I highly recommend involvement. The Psychological Society is a student organization that has about four events per semester to foster interest in the study of psychology. These events are speaker series, panels, or even movie nights with psychological films. You only have to go to two events to be a member, and it is an extremely helpful liaison between students and the Psychology Department. It is a great way to stay informed about opportunities in the field. 

Volunteer activities to consider:  I recommend involvement in Madison House because they have many different options for volunteering based on student preferences, and it is a great way to engage with the Charlottesville community and get-off grounds. I worked in kindergarten and second grade classrooms as well as an early learning center and it was really cool to witness what I had been learning in Child Psychology while volunteering.  

Undergraduate research experience:  I was a research assistant for the Wilson Lab throughout 2020 and I definitely recommend being a research assistant when a position is available. I got to facilitate the experimental design and collect data for the lab, as well as accumulate and summarize relevant research on the topic of study to help formulate effective data-analysis techniques. The research explored relational satisfaction for college students, and I learned a lot about the topic but also about research and experiments in general.

Advice for new students:  I think a huge thing is to maintain or cultivate a love of learning and look for the content you’re studying in the real world. We are really lucky to get an education from UVA and it is so much more enjoyable when we allow our education to alter our perspectives and engage our knowledge outside of class. The world becomes much more interesting when we allow what we learn to create a holistic understanding. 

Future Plans:  I am still figuring out what I want to pursue after school, so to be determined, but I am thinking about jobs that mix psychology and writing.

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Jessica Morrel  -  Baltimore, MD  -  Class of 2021

Jessica Morrel

Academic program: Psychology major

My path to psychology:  I have always been fascinated by how the human brain and body work and I wanted to enter a field where I could use this passion to help others and to advance our understanding of how the brain makes us each uniquely human.

Favorite psychology class:  Neural basis of behavior (PSYC 2200)! Definitely a challenging course but so incredibly rewarding. Provides a great introduction to neuropsychology and is the class that made me realize I wanted to get a Ph.D. in psychology and study neuropsychology later down the line!      

Favorite psychology professor:  John Van Horn

Other UVA classes I recommend:  Brain Mapping with MRI, Child Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology!!! The first is an upper level class that I would recommend to third and fourth years who are interested in neuroimaging and the physiological side of psychology. The second two are fantastic courses for any year that provide a great introduction to two fascinating topics in psychology.     

Student organizations I recommend:  Alpha Phi Fraternity, Madison House Art's Mentors Program. The first is the sorority that I am a part of and the second is a Madison House program that provides undergraduate mentorship to local youth through fun arts activities and bonding games.

Volunteer activities to consider:  Through my sorority, I volunteer with the Boys and Girls club of Charlottesville which is a great way to give back to the community and work with kids. I also volunteer with Madison House as described above, and I am a volunteer crisis counselor through Crisis Textline which is an organization that provides moment to moment support and crisis counseling to individuals experiencing a wide variety of crises.

Jessica Morrel Quote

Undergraduate research experience:  Yes! I worked for Dr. Adrienne Wood's Emotion and Behavior Lab. In this lab, we study human emotion and how behaviors such as vocalizations and body movement communicate our emotions to others. I got involved as a third year and have been in the lab until graduation! Additionally, the summer after my third year, I began in a role with the University of Maryland's School of Medicine Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry working under the mentorship of Drs. Kristin Scardemalia and Cindy Schaeffer. In this role, we are currently studying the outcomes of an implemented telepsychiatry program that provides telepsychiatry services to incarcerated youth.

Psychology Distinguished Major Program (DMP): I applied as a third year and started the fall of my fourth year. I got my idea from a data set that Dr. Wood's lab had been looking at which contained video recordings of conversations between undergraduate dyads. My project was an investigation of the degree to which personality variables such as anxiety and fear reliably predict interactional synchrony (which is the term we use to describe physical synchrony during social interactions). I am interested in looking at how different personality variables can impact our ability to successfully synchronize in social interactions, which is a key component of the development of social bonds, and how synchrony impacts the way people feel about these social interactions. 

Advice for new students:  Attend lecture, be engaged during class (ex. take notes, jot down any questions you have about material, take note of things that interest you and you want to look into more), go to office hours, and read the textbook! If you do these things, you will no doubt succeed as a psychology student and a student in general!

Future Plans:  I am currently in the process of interviewing for a position as a research fellow with the NIMH's Postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) program where I would spend two years research with a neuropsychology lab before applying to Ph.D. programs in Clinical Psychology. Down the line, I hope to become an independent neuropsychology researcher and clinician.

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Victoria Bergman  -  Gainesville, Virginia  -  Class of 2021

Victoria Bergman

Academic program: Psychology major, Sociology Minor

About my profile picture: This is a photo from my fall trip to Richmond with my UVA roommates! 

My path to psychology:  I’ve always felt a push to help others. I tell myself that if my difficult experiences can guide someone else through hard times, the painful moments are worth it. Having someone to talk to and share your emotions with is something so many people overlook. The world can never have too much kindness! 

Favorite psychology class:  Professor Lanice Avery’s class on the Psychology of Women and Gender was phenomenal. While I definitely had to stay on top of my work, it was a great crossover of gender studies with sociological and psychological perspectives. I was very intrigued each class and still remember many of those facts years later. 

Favorite psychology professor: I may sound biased because he is my advisor, but Professor Meyer is a super nice and knowledgeable teacher. I’ve had him for a couple classes now, and he always knows what he is talking about and does not make you feel overwhelmed! R-Studio coding always sounded intimidating to me, but his classes make it manageable. 

Other UVA classes I recommend: I recommend anyone in any major to take a Women and Gender Studies class. Not only are the professors fun and fantastic, but the classes incorporate outside speakers from all aspects of the community, and tackle the hard societal topics many people shy away from. 

Victoria Bergman Quote

Student organizations I recommend: Currently, I am a part of the Chi Alpha Christian fellowship. If religion is important to you, or you want to do some self-exploration, there are a multitude of religious groups on grounds you can check out! My group and others typically involve worship, small groups to study scripture and meet friends, as well as volunteer options. 

Volunteer activities to consider: Madison House activities are a great way to get involved. They have a wide range of options to fit your likes. 

Advice for new students: Definitely try and apply for a research position or any major related volunteering, and even consider getting a job within the community. It really helps you stay well-rounded and allows you to make connections and friends in Charlottesville. Make the most of your time at UVA! It goes by so fast, but it will really help you discover who you are and who you want to be. 

Future Plans: I ideally want to be a therapist in the future and work in a practice with other individuals. After graduating, I’m taking a gap year to work before I embark on graduate school to get a Master’s in Counseling. 

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R. Craig Gallagher  -  Virginia Beach, VA  -  Class of 2021

R. Craig Gallagher

Academic program: Psychology and Cognitive Science (double major)

About my profile picture: Looking ridiculous, but excited to participate in a linguistics study.

My path to psychology:  I think it started as pure curiosity. The brain is uniquely fascinating, and there’s still so much we don’t know about it. I’ve met plenty of brilliant professors and students who share my interests, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how great of an inspiration to me they all have been since the very beginning. Ultimately, it’s the people who keep me going.

Favorite psychology class:  That’s a tough one! I’d say The Nature-Nurture Debate with Dr. Turkheimer is a definite contender. I’m a fan of Dr. Turkheimer’s work in the field of behavioral genetics, and his lectures are unlike many others. 

Favorite psychology professor:  Dr. Dennis Proffitt’s introductory course on perception was the first psych. course I took at UVA, and it was a big factor in my decision to study psychology and cognitive science. Dr. Proffitt’s passion for teaching and research was nothing short of inspiring. He probably wouldn’t remember me from when I was his student, but I’ll never forget the joy of attending his lectures. I hope he’s enjoying retirement!

Other UVA classes I recommend: Psychology of Women and Gender with Dr. Avery provides a great opportunity to explore the impacts of intersectional systems of oppression on health and well-being. Dr. Avery is a fantastic professor, and her work is as interesting as it is important. All psych. majors should take this course.

R. Craig Gallagher Quote

Student organizations I recommend:  Phi Sigma Pi (PSP) is, without a doubt, my favorite group on Grounds. It’s a gender-inclusive fraternity that isn’t associated with the IFC or ISC, and it introduced me to some of my closest friends at UVA. PSP has been a huge source of support and inspiration for me, and I’m so grateful for the kindness and love afforded to me by the people I’ve met through the organization. WXTJ is a close runner-up -- there are lots of fun, creative, and awesomely weird folx in student radio. I’ve also met a lot of great people through various student theatre organizations on Grounds (FYP, SotL, etc.). Every troupe has something unique to offer its members, and they’re all a lot of fun.

Volunteer activities to consider:  Volunteers with International Students, Staff, and Scholars (VISAS) is an excellent program to get involved with. I’ve had the chance to work closely with a handful of ESL students as a classroom consultant. These students are a lot of fun to work with, and their unique perspectives on UVA’s culture are invaluable. The LGBTQ+ Center is also a great place to volunteer, especially now that it’s above ground.

Undergraduate research experience:  I’ve assisted with research at three different labs at UVA. Not a brag, this is more of a testament to my indecision. I spent one summer at the Cognitive Aging Lab, where I administered a battery of cognitive tests to wonderful, mostly elderly participants in a search for latent predictors of cognitive decline. I spent some time at the Dodson Cognition Lab assisting primarily with literature review on the topic of eyewitness identification. And now I assist with research at the Virginia Affective Neuroscience Lab (VAN lab for short), where I’ve contributed to an EEG study of partner handholding and sometimes write scripts to help with data processing. This is my second year at the VAN lab, and I’m still loving it! 

Psychology Distinguished Major Program (DMP):  Yes! I’m writing my thesis with the support and supervision of Dr. Coan and his amazing graduate student Nauder Namaky. I’m a huge fan of Dr. Coan’s work, so it’s a dream come true to have this opportunity to follow up on some of his past research. I’m currently analyzing fMRI data from a past VAN lab study of partner handholding in order to examine potential conditional indirect effects of perceived social support on threat-related neural activation in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. I’m hoping this research will serve to improve our understanding of the neural processes underlying the social regulation of affect. It has been a very interesting and informative experience thus far. I encourage any students interested in the program to start exploring research opportunities as early on in their undergraduate career as possible. There’s no shortage of interesting work going on in UVA’s psychology department, so students have plenty of options.

Advice for new students:  There isn’t much advice I feel qualified to give, but I’m happy to offer a favorite quote of mine:  “We can do without an extended family as human beings about as easily as we can do without vitamins or essential minerals” - Kurt Vonnegut (

If I’ve learned anything in my (admittedly short) time studying the dynamics of social relationships, it’s that this quote holds true. I don’t know why, but I sometimes struggle with acknowledging this facet of humanity. I am often compelled to avoid asking for help, even when I need it. But relying on others for support truly ought not to be considered a personal failing -- after all, it’s only human! I think it’s important to remind oneself that it’s okay to lean on other people in times of need. It’s also important to be there for others whenever you can.

On a less sentimental note, I encourage all people with an interest in psychology to become, at the very least, hobbyist statisticians. I’m willing to bet most people who choose to major in psychology aren’t exactly jazzed about having to do a bunch of math, but I promise it isn’t as bad as it seems. What you learn will get you far not only in the psychology major but in life! If you’re intent on fully understanding the many findings you’ll hear mentioned in lecture, you’ll first need to understand the underlying statistics. Them’s the breaks. Plenty have learned this the hard way, and I count myself among them.

Future Plans:  I'm interested in continuing to study social neuroscience with clinical applications. Long-term, I'm interested in becoming a clinical/quantitative psychologist, which means I’ll eventually be applying to research-oriented clinical psych. Ph.D. programs. In the meantime, however, I’ll be looking to fill a post-bacc research specialist/lab manager role in order to get more experience in the field (and to take a break before diving head-first into the depths of academia).

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Parnia Ashari  -  Fairfax, VA  -  Class of 2021

Parnia Ashari 

Academic program: Psychology 

About my profile picture: It's a picture of me apple-picking at Carter's mountain.

My path to psychology:  As a multicultural student myself, I was always very interested in the psychopathology of multicultural students as they navigate through unique life experiences that some other students may not have. This may include immigrating to a different country, facing language barriers, and balancing multiple identities at the same time. Therefore, I wanted to study psychology to have a better understanding how these types of unique life events impact the mental health and wellbeing of children that carry this identity into their adulthood.

Favorite psychology class:  As of right now, my favorite psychology class was the Minority Family course I took with Professor Wilson which taught me a lot about many different  and diverse family structures within the United States and how they go about defining family in their communities. This class was particularly interesting because it focused on historical trauma, family dynamics, and how cultural identity brought from the country of origin impacts the psychology of different family members. As a multicultural student myself, I came into this class thinking I have a good idea of how cultural values can impact the psychology of individuals but I quickly realized that this looks different depending on the identity that a person from a  community/culture holds. 

Favorite psychology professor:  I have had great experience with all psychology professors at UVA and learned so much from each and every one of them. However, if I had to pick my favorite psychology professor, it would be Dr. Lanice Avery because I have been her research assistant for some time  and am truly intrigued and inspired by the work she does and the questions she asks in her lab. Also, the culture she has created within the RISE Lab alongside her amazing grad students is not only welcoming, but also challenges me to think outside the box and navigate how to ask difficult, but extremely important questions in the field of psychology.

Other UVA classes I recommend: I recommend taking Intro to Social Policy with Professor Lehmann at the Batten School because it is a very important class for anyone who is interested in going into the fields of social work, medicine, and psychology. As a former social worker and current lawyer/lobbyist, Professor Lehmann provides an excellent perspective on what advocacy for social issues can look like within the structure of the US government.

Parnia Ashari Quote

Undergraduate research experience:  I am very involved in undergraduate research here at UVA. I got really interested in research my first year after the first few weeks of taking Intro to Social Psychology. Soon after, I joined Professor Clore’s social psychology lab where I worked with graduate student Adi Shaked to study emotions and how shared or unshared experiences between people can bring about the feeling of closeness or distance between them. 

Currently, I work for the RISE lab as a research assistant and also as a DMP student where we ask important questions on Black women’s intersectional identities and how cultural stereotypes or gender ideologies may impact their psychological and sexual health outcomes. I love working at the RISE lab and would definitely recommend anyone who is interested in their work and research in general to apply for an RA position! 

Psychology Distinguished Major Program (DMP):  As someone who grew up in the Persian culture, I was always very interested in the unique relationship between the Iranian mother and daughter. Based on my own observations, I had noticed that the Iranian mother-daughter dyad seemed to be very interdependent and at times codependent which could have both positive or negative outcomes on the daughter as she transitions into adulthood. Therefore, with the help and support of my amazing advisors at the RISE lab, for this DMP, I decided to study the influence of the Iranian mother-daughter relationship on the adult daughter’s level of codependency, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.  

Since I had planned to first study the Iranian mother-daughter dyad in Iran, I ran into a few problems on how to collect data from this population that was inaccessible from the United States. However, with the help of two wonderful professors in Iran, I was able to find participants for this study. 

Overall, I love working on this project because through it I learned how to collaborate on research projects, translate questionnaires from English to Farsi using a scientific method, and test for the reliability of the translated questionnaire. I’m very thankful for this experience and am excited to see what I find in this study. 

Advice for new students:  My main advice for any student at UVA would be to follow what you believe you’re good at, not what society/parents/others may tell you that you are going to be successful at. From my experience, once you find that one thing that you’re passionate about, you’ll be good at it and will ultimately find success in it. I have had many friends who let their parents influence many of their academic and career choices. However, what I’ve come to notice is that the friends who choose to follow their passion feel ultimately happier and more successful at the end. 

Future Plans:  My future goal is to become a practicing child clinical psychologist. Therefore, I am hoping to apply to Clinical Psych PhD programs in the next year. 

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Rachel Rumana  -  Tallahassee, FL  -  Class of 2021

Rachel Rumana

Academic programs: Psychology and Chemistry (double major)

My path to psychology:  I am pre-med, and I feel that it is very important for doctors to have a strong background of psychology when interacting with patients! As a psychology major, I have such a large bank of knowledge that I can use in the future.

Favorite psychology class: Using Principles of Clinical Psychology!

Other UVA classes I recommend:   Anything in the School of Education!

Student organizations I recommend:  Hoothon, which is Dance Marathon at UVA! Hoothon raises money for UVA Children's and the Children's Miracle Network through year-long fundraising and a huge event at the end of the year.

Volunteer activities to consider:  Madison House Medical Services. I am a Program Director in UVA Children's and it is so rewarding to work with kids! My job is Social Skills, so I help kids with learning disabilities basic social skills that can help them fit in better with their peers. I highly recommend any volunteering in MedServices to everyone!

Rachel Rumana Quote

Undergraduate research experience: Hsu Lab in the Chemistry Department. I work with different cancer cell lines and treatment options. Professor Hsu was my advisor first year, so when I looked him up, I found out information about this lab and asked if I could join. I love my work in the lab, and I am so happy I got involved in something that is so worthwhile!

Advice for new students: Don't be afraid to get out there! You will only get out of UVA what you put in. Get ready for the best 4 years of your life because they go by way too quickly and it is so easy to take advantage of the situation.

Future Plans: Medical school after taking a gap year working as a medical assistant for Charlottesville Dermatology.

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Maeve Berman  -  Falls Church, VA  -  Class of 2021

Maeve Berman

Academic programs: Psychology and French (double major)

My path to psychology:  I actually came into UVA intending to follow the pre-veterinary track, but during my first semester I discovered that I really did not enjoy the required courses (especially chemistry!); that semester, I had signed up for Intro to Cognition with Professor Jaswal and (even though it was at 8am) I loved the class and it made me want to take more psychology classes. The more psychology courses I took and the more I learned about the field and the possible career paths, the more passionate I became about it. I think it's the most interesting field of study there is and I've learned so many fascinating things! 

Favorite psychology class:  It's tough for me to pick one favorite class, but if I had to choose, I would probably pick Abnormal Psychology. As someone who's interested in clinical psychology, this class was so interesting to me. We learned about all the different psychological disorders, their causes and symptoms, and how to treat them. There was a lot of information to learn, but it led me to think about the human brain in an entirely different way and it added to my passion for mental health awareness.

Other UVA classes I recommend:  My favorite class outside of psychology has been Gender Violence & Social Justice with Professor Kaplan, in the Women and Gender Studies department. This was another class that changed how I think about things, and I learned so much about so many different aspects of gender-based violence. The class was always either student-led discussions or presentations by a guest speaker, all of whom do really important and inspiring work. We also were given the opportunity to write a research paper on any topic of our choice, and to do an experiential project with a local organization. This was the most supportive class environment I have ever been a part of, and I think it's a subject that everyone should learn more about, so I always recommend this class to anyone who ever asks me for class suggestions!

Maeve Berman Quote

Volunteer activities to consider:  Madison House! They have so so many opportunities for students to get involved, no matter what kind of volunteer activity they are looking for. I volunteer with Charlottesville Area Riding Therapy, where I get to help people with developmental or physical disabilities through equestrian therapy. The barn is so beautiful and it's so rewarding to get to help people from the Charlottesville community, and to get to see them enjoy the horses every week.  

Undergraduate research experience: During my 3rd year, I worked as a research assistant in the Early Development Lab, run by Dr. Lillard. I took her Child Psychology class during my 2nd year, and I was really interested in her lab's research, so I went to office hours to meet with Dr. Lillard, and she introduced me to some of her graduate students, and I eventually applied and interviewed and was able to join the lab. I got to work on research about children's spatial learning, and how they learn differently using physical versus digital toys. I had been unsure of if I would enjoy research, but this turned out to be one of my favorite experiences at UVA so far. I met some really amazing people and got to be part of fascinating research, and I learned a lot.   

Advice for new students:  To be successful at UVA in general, I would say that it's important to explore. If I hadn't signed up for classes outside of my original plan of study, I wouldn't have discovered how passionate I am about psychology. It's okay to look around and take some time to find out what really interests you, and it's okay to change your mind! In terms of psychology, if you take a class that you find really interesting, go talk to the professor! Everyone in the psychology department is so kind and wants to help students thrive, and there are so many resources available to you. 

Psychology is the best major :) and I hope you know that everyone at UVA is rooting for you to succeed, no matter what path you choose!

Future Plans: I'm really interested in both developmental and clinical psychology, so my current plan is to take a gap year or two and get a job after graduation (hopefully related to one or both of those fields) so that I can get some life experience and decide exactly what I want to do in the future. Right now, the plan is to attend graduate school after the gap year(s) to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, but nothing is set in stone and I'm excited to see what the future holds!  

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Nadia Milman  -  Oakton, VA  -  Class of 2021

Nadia Milman

Academic programs: Psychology and Spanish (double major), Social Entrepreneurship (minor)

About my profile picture: Traveling in Portugal after participating in the UVA in Valencia Summer Study Abroad Session.

My path to psychology:  Two things inspired me to study psychology. First, in high school, I took AP Psychology and found it very interesting. Second, I took a first year COLA Seminar in which we read the book "The Power of Habit." I was really intrigued by the book which focused on the psychology behind why people develop habits and make decisions. 

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology class was Adolescence with Joe Allen. It was very interesting and relevant, plus Prof. Allen is a great lecturer. Even though I have only taken one class with him (Adolescence), Prof. Allen is my favorite professor because of the interesting and compelling way he designs and structures his lectures.

Other UVA classes I recommend:  Two of my favorite Spanish classes at UVA have been Business Spanish and Modern Spanish Literature from the Middle Ages to the 1700s. Additionally, I really enjoyed Intro to Eastern Religious Traditions. 

Nadia Milman Quote

Student organizations I recommend:  I was on the Leadership team at HackCville (now Forge), which was a great way to develop new skills and meet interesting people!  

Volunteer activities to consider: From First Year until Covid didn't allow the activity to keep going, I have volunteered with College Mentors for Kids. You get paired with your Little Buddy, a 1st through 4th grader at a local Charlottesville elementary school, and do an activity with them and the group every week for a few hours. My favorite activity was when we got to tour the football locker room and play games on the practice field.

Advice for new students:  My advice would be to find someone in your class to exchange notes or study with. A lot of the 2000-level classes are really big and it is easy to feel lost, so having someone that you know in the class is very helpful! 


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Raj Mehta  -  Reston, VA  -  Class of 2021

Raj Mehta

Academic program: Psychology and Economics (double major)

My path to psychology:  I decided to study psychology because it is so relevant in understanding why humans react to things in the way they do. It helps to explain how a malevolent leader can intimidate an entire nation into trusting him, and why normal people who would consider themselves to be fundamentally "good" often fail to step up in emergency situations. Ultimately, psychology allows us to identify the flaws in the human condition and to improve ourselves.

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology class was PSYC 3420, "The Nature Nurture Debate" with Professor Turkheimer. Nature vs. nurture is really one of the most fundamental topics in the field of psychology and Professor Turkheimer is a leader in the field who made a point to explain to us his own studies and the studies of his peers in a really accessible and informative way.

Favorite psychology professor:  My favorite psychology Professor was Professor Emery. Professor Emery is incredibly passionate in every lecture and his energy is contagious. In addition, he makes it known that he is more than willing to talk with and help out students after class. Each of his lectures were extremely unique and he is more concerned with making sure students get the most out of the class than sticking to a traditional curriculum.

Other UVA classes I recommend:  I recommend AAS 3652 (African American history since 1865) as an extremely interesting introductory course that teaches history in a way that differed immensely from the cut-and-dry approach of high school. I recommend PSYC 2410 with Professor Emery (mentioned above). For an econ class, I recommend ECON 4350 (Corporate Finance) with Christopher Mcgee as a class that gets past the theory side of economics and lets you see the real-world effects.

Raj Mehta Quote

Student organizations I recommend:  I am in Rise Together, which is an organization that goes to schools in the local Charlottesville area and tutors them each week. It is very low commitment and there are opportunities at the elementary, middle, and high school level that are all very fulfilling. 

Undergraduate research experience:  I worked for the Early Steps Lab for a year, but stopped to focus on my DMP this year. The lab was focused on early life interventions in rural, low-income Charlottesville families that were then tracked as those children grew up. I found the lab on the UVA website and applied. I worked under Professor Wilson, who is now my DMP advisor, and my work in his lab definitely helped to inform my DMP.

Psychology Distinguished Major Program (DMP): Yes, I am in the Distinguished Major Program for Psychology. I am doing a critical literature review on the impact of childhood trauma on the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. I've always been interested in the mechanisms behind drug addiction and this has been an opportunity for me to really dig into that research in-depth and try to contribute my own unique conclusion to the field.

Advice for new students:  I think that UVA is such a competitive environment that oftentimes it can feel like if you aren't going down a specific path you are going to fall behind. In the long run, though, I have come to realize that it is much more important to choose major(s) that you truly enjoy because those classes are the ones you are most likely going to be willing to put in the time to do well in. Take classes outside of your comfort zone during your first and second year because we are lucky to go to a school that offers classes in so many areas and you might just find something surprising that interests you.

Future Plans:  I am doing an internship with the American Health Associates right now, but I am still undecided on my employment direction after graduation. I would like to get involved in public sector research for a year or two before going to law school.

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Brynn Chavira  -  Roanoke, VA  -  Class of 2021

Brynn Chavira

Academic programs:  Psychology and Youth and Social Innovation (double major)

My path to psychology:  I have a strong interest in understanding mental health and working toward improving available mental health services. I especially have a passion for working toward extending mental health services to people who may otherwise lack access.    

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology class I have taken at UVA is Introduction to Clinical Psychology (PSYC 3445). The curriculum covers information on clinical psychology research and practice. The class was not only interesting and engaging, but also extremely practical and helpful for students hoping to enter the field.  

Favorite psychology professor:  My favorite psychology professor is Dr. Vikram Jaswal. I have been a research assistant in Dr. Jaswal’s Lab for the past 3 semesters and also took his class “Autism: From Neurons to Neighborhoods”. I admire Professor Jaswal’s commitment to conducting research that includes the voices of autistic individuals and to educating his students through inclusion of reports by autistic individuals, as well as peer-reviewed academic material. 

Other UVA classes I recommend:  Prevention of Youth Violence, Infant Development, Medical Anthropology, Autism: From Neurons to Neighborhoods, Introduction to Clinical Psychology

Brynn Chavira Quote

Student organizations I recommend:  I have made some of my best friends and developed my leadership skills through involvement in UVA Greek Life!  

Volunteer activities to consider:  Last fall, I volunteered at Hospice of the Piedmont Center for Children, helping with weekly grief workshops for children. It was an incredible experience that I recommend to any psychology major, or anyone interested in a helping profession.  

Undergraduate research experience: I was a research assistant in the Jaswal Lab. The Jaswal Lab conducts autism research that is informed by autistic individuals and those who are close to them. We work to conduct research that respects and includes autistic people and will produce knowledge that is meaningful and useful. When browsing through research opportunities available on the UVA Psychology website, I found myself drawn to the research conducted in Dr. Jaswal’s lab. As the lab’s work piqued my interest and I appreciated the strengths-based perspective it employs, I applied to the Jaswal Lab and was accepted!   

Psychology Distinguished Major Program (DMP):  I was a student in the Psychology Distinguished Major Program. After finding a mentor who was willing to oversee my project, I began exploring the literature relevant to the type of research conducted in his lab to hone my interests. My project examines the perception of facial emotional expressions by neurotypical people. We are exploring whether non-autistic people perceive the facial expressions produced by autistic people differently than they perceive the facial expressions produced by other non-autistic people. Additionally, we seek to answer the question of whether experience mediates the ability of non-autistic people to accurately identify autistic facial expressions of emotion. We asked participants to identify which emotions were best portrayed in a series of images of both autistic and non-autistic people modeling the six basic emotions. We expected to find that participants who have a close personal relationship to an autistic individual would identify the facial expressions of the autistic models with greater accuracy as compared to participants without a relationship to an individual with autism. 

Advice for new students:  Go to office hours for any classes you’re struggling in or just find particularly interesting. If you’re interested, get involved in research, especially if you want to pursue graduate study in psychology! 

Future Plans: I hope to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, and become a Clinical Psychologist participating in both research and clinical activities.

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Erin Mayhew  -  Gretna, VA  -  Class of 2021

Erin Mayhew

Academic programs: Psychology and Speech Communication Disorders and Psychology (double major)

My path to psychology:  I thought psychology was a great second major to complement my CSD major.  When working in the medical field and with others, it is important to understand the minds of others.

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology class is PSYC 3480 Adolescence: Theory and Development.  This course discussed very difficult topics about adolescence, but were very interesting to learn about.

Favorite psychology professor:  My favorite psychology professor is Dr. Joe Allen, who taught the Adolescence course I mentioned above.  He was so knowledgeable about content taught in the course, which made the content easy to learn.

Other UVA classes I recommend:  Vikram Jaswal's seminar about Autism (PSYC 4155) and Introduction to Child Psychology (PSYC 2700)

Student organizations I recommend:  I'm in Autism Allies, NSSLHA (National Student Speech Language Hearing Association), and Virginia Ambassadors.

Volunteer activities to consider:  I am involved in a Rise Together, which is a volunteer-based mentorship program.  As a mentor, we are involved in classrooms to work with middle and high school students with homework, social emotional learning, and college preparation.

Advice for new students:  Be passionate about what you study! With psychology, there are so many different branches, so find the one that you enjoy the most. 

Future Plans:  I am planning on attending graduate school to become a Speech-Language Pathologist, with hopes of working with children with speech disorders.

Erin Mayhew Quote
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Lauren Leggett Smith  -  Virginia Beach, VA  -  Class of 2021

Lauren Leggett Smith

Academic program: Psychology (major), Spanish (minor)

About my profile picture: Me and my best friend Shelby Curry the night we won the national championship! Go Hoos!

My path to psychology:  I took AP psychology in high school and fell in love with the material and teacher. It was the class I felt most applied to everyday life. I am also pre health and felt psychology could also be applied to any branch of medicine I might choose to pursue in the future. 

Favorite psychology class:  That is hard because every psychology class I have taken at UVa I have loved. The hardest in terms of material and testing was the Neural Basis of Behavior. We had to memorize so much structural and functional information about the brain, but information from this class provided a great background for future courses in the major. The professor was also so kind and understanding. He was also a legend in terms of the department and field. My two favorite courses were Research and Data Analysis II with professor Meyer and Adolescence and Theory with professor Allen. I loved the data analysis course because I learned how to code using R studio, which I then used in the lab I am currently working in. Professor Meyer was also extremely personable and quite hilarious! I loved adolescence and theory because professor Allen has so much passion for the topic. He truly cares about his students and adolescents in general. While being his student, you get the feeling that he wants you to succeed.

Favorite psychology professor:  Definitely Joe Allen! Again, he is an amazing researcher and holds his own practice on the side. He also gave a talk in a J term course I took my fourth year about his most recent research and I loved that too. He is also an accommodating and understanding individual.

Other UVA classes I recommend: I am a Spanish minor so I HAVE to recommend going abroad to Valencia and taking part in the Spanish program there. Although my time was cut short due to COVID, I would do it all again! In terms of psychology, I would have to recommend social psychology. Learning how and why human beings interact the way they do on a social level is so cool. Its habits we fall victim to everyday that actually have a scientific basis. 

Lauren Leggett Smith Quote

Student organizations I recommend:  I am a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity on grounds. I joined the first semester of my second year when I transferred to UVa. Through this organization I have learned so much about the Charlottesville community at large and have become involved in my ‘home away from home’ outside of grounds, which I think is something all UVa undergraduates should make a priority. Members serve during the week through ‘midweek hours’ and every saturday morning at ‘project’. We have partnerships with an array of organizations; for example: Meals on Wheels, Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center, Boys and Girls Club, local elementary schools, the Habitat Store, Rivanna Solid Waste Authority and many more! I have had the opportunity to volunteer at all of these organizations and more. I have also made great friends at UVa because of APO. 

Volunteer activities to consider:  In addition to APO, I also participated in Cavs in the Classroom spring of my second year through Madison House. Every Tuesday I drove to Baker Butler Elementary to help tutor students in second grade that were struggling with certain subjects like reading and math. It was so awesome to get off grounds and feel a part of Charlottesville. I also loved my kids. They were adorable. I am also a student notetaker for CAPS. I would highly recommend this volunteer opportunity. If you are good at note taking during lecture, it's as easy as uploading your notes to the SDAC website after. I myself have used SDAC services in the past, it is an awesome and vital resource for the student body.

Undergraduate research experience:  I am currently working in Alev Erisir’s lab in the psychology department. We study the DLGN of the mouse brain, specifically examining the visual cortex. I also worked in Robert Grainger’s lab for a semester second year working with the genetic disease Usher Syndrome in a transgenic frog species.

Advice for new students:  Take classes you are interested in, not just to fulfill requirements! Although hitting the mark is important in terms of degree requirements, you are here to learn first and get a degree second. The classes I took based on interest were by far my favorite! 

Future Plans:  Hopefully I will be going to medical school in the fall of 2022! I am studying for the MCAT as we speak. If that doesn’t work out I am going to take the GRE next year and apply to physician’s assistant school.

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Rachel Corney  -  Williamsburg, VA  -  Class of 2021

Rachel Corney

Academic program: Psychology 

My path to psychology:  I have always been fascinated by how the brain can change and adapt throughout life, especially in children. I knew early on that I wanted to work with children, and found later that I want to do this through a psychological and child developmental lens. 

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology class was Survey on Neural Basis of Behavior. This class introduced me to the physical and biochemical nature of the brain, which provided me a deeper understanding of how the brain functions. It was also the hardest class I’ve ever taken at UVA! 

Favorite psychology professor:  I recommend taking Introduction to Perception, Understanding Autism (through the School of Education), and Child Psychopathy!

Other UVA classes I recommend:  My favorite student organization/club at UVA is the Salsa Club! The people and art of Latin dance is so welcoming and is a great stress reliever. I am excited to continue salsa dancing even after I graduate. 

Student organizations I recommend:  My involvement in undergraduate research has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my college career. I have been a research assistant at the Supporting Transformative Autism Research (STAR) Initiative for two years and have had the privilege of meeting wonderful researchers, expanding my research knowledge and interests, and receiving much appreciated guidance from my mentor. Even though the lab is through the School of Education, I am able to directly apply the information and research findings to Psychology. We conduct various research studies to help improve the lives of individuals with autism, as well as their families. Doing so has educated me immensely on the disorder and I have even conducted my own research on the benefits of mediation for young adults with autism. All of this would not be possible had I not received the high level of support and encouragement from my fellow researchers at STAR.

Psychology Distinguished Major Program (DMP):  I am in the Distinguished Major Program under my advisor, Dr. Rose Nevill. Even though I am a psychology major, I was able to petition for my project to work through the School of Education. Due to my interest and research involvement with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I decided early on that would be my topic. I later discovered the lack of existing literature on mantra meditation benefits for people with autism and decided to dedicate my research to filling that gap. My study consists of a 6-week intervention with approximately 22 participants, both with and without autism. Each participant is required to recite/listen to a given mantra for 30 minutes a day and is given pre- and post-test to measure their symptom levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and ruminative thoughts.  My hope is to provide these people with a lifelong coping technique and someday publish my thesis. 

Rachel Corney Quote

Advice for new students:  If you want to be successful in Psychology during your time at UVA, you must talk to your professors! Having a personal connection with one makes it much easier to gain a research assistant position, and also makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. Classes, work, and research is easier when you know your professor/mentor well and trust them to guide you along the way. Also, if you choose to conduct your own study be prepared for various challenges. Things may fall through, results may not work out as planned, or you may mess up, but this is perfectly okay and normal. We are all learning, and instead of getting discouraged, learn from your mistakes and embrace the challenge. You learn SO much along the way!

Future Plans:  Throughout this whole college experience, I have grown to love research and wish to pursue it as a career. However, I am convinced hands-on learning and direct care with patients is crucial in order to gain experience. Therefore, I am planning on first working with children and adolescents with special needs and working abroad elsewhere to gain more knowledge on other culture-appropriate psychology techniques. I also wish to go back to school to earn my Master’s degree and, eventually, my PhD.

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Jake Greenberg  -  Orange County, CA  -  Class of 2021

Jake Greenberg

Academic program: Psychology (major), Women, Gender, and Sexuality (minor)

My path to psychology:  I took AP Psychology in high school, and excelling in a subject for the first time really fostered my growth mindset with academia and career aspirations.

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology course at UVA was Introduction to Clinical Psychology with the most phenomenal professor Dr. Jennifer Beard. After that course I decided I wanted to pursue a Psy.D. in clinical psychology. I definitely would check out this course if you may be interested in becoming a clinician. 

Student organizations and activities I recommend:  I just recently retired as a diver at UVA, but my experience as an athlete was extremely formative and unforgettable. I have been a volunteer at the LGBTQ+ center since my first year, and that was a great experience for getting to become more comfortable with my queer sexuality.

Hoos Connected Leaderhip: I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Hoos Connected program on grounds. Last semester, I learned and trained clinical skills to become a co-facilitator for a group of first year students in the Spring. In groups we talk about a wide range of difficult, in-depth life conversations, as well as the difficulties of being a first year student. If you’re a first year student, please check out joining a group! If you’re interested in getting involved, visit the Hoos Connected page! 

Undergraduate research and Distinguished Major experience:  I have been a psychology research assistant for Spring of 2019, Fall of 2019, and Spring of 2020 semesters. The first semester I was an RA for Dr. Dodson’s Memory Distortion Lab where I worked on PTSD Distinguished Major Thesis. I read full-document interviews of confidential rape cases, and then fill out questions pertaining toward the victim's PTSD from the assault (questions taken directly from the DSM-5 checklist for PTSD) as well as the legal proceedings taken place. The following two semesters I was an RA for Dr. Grossman’s Social Neuroscience Lab. In this lab I worked on a research study that studied working memory in children ages 5,6,7,10. My duties included recruiting families, completing the studies with children in the lab room, and completing coding forms.

Advice for new students:  Prospective psychology students, there are many opportunities to explore classes in the psychology department. Take classes that interest you, and definitely check out the PSYC4500 courses that change every semester.

Future Plans:  In fall of 2021, I will be attending the California School of Professional Psychology in San Diego, California to pursue a psychology doctorate (Psy.D.) in clinical psychology with an emphasis in family and children. 

Jake Greenberg Quote
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Maya Stephens  -  Blacksburg, VA  -  Class of 2021

Maya Stephens

Academic program: Psychology (major), and Frank Batten School's Accelerated Master of Public Policy program

My path to psychology:  I've always been extremely interested in how and why humans make decisions. I think it is the most central thing one could study, since these are literally processes that every human goes through nearly every second of the day. I also greatly believe this can be turned into a force for good through research and proper implementation, and I want to be a part of that.

Favorite psychology class:  I don't even have much interest in clinical psychology, but I really loved Intro to Clinical Psychology with Noelle Hurd. It was really interesting to go through the background of clinical psychology research, learn how disorders become diagnosed, go through interesting therapist-patient scenarios, and discuss the various ethical dilemmas that may be faced! Professor Hurd was also wonderful! 

Favorite psychology professor:  I am a bit biased because I do research with her, but Professor Karen Schmidt is fantastic. Remarkably smart and skilled at making material digestible for students, but it is also very apparent how much she wants her classes to be manageable and to work for the students and their needs. Almost all of the psychology professors I've had classes with have been amazing though. 

Other UVA classes I recommend: The Religious Studies department has some really interesting classes, such as Spiritual but Not Religious or Religion, Ethics, and the Environment. I like those classes because they show how very, seemingly, different aspects of life can actually connect fairly strongly and influence each other. Public Policy Challenges of the 21st Century was also extremely interesting, even if you're not determined to go into policy. There was such a wide array of topics and issues covered in that class and I think everyone can benefit from understanding how certain decisions in our government are made, as well as find a topic they care about to dive more into for the projects.

Maya Stephens Quote

Student organizations I recommend:  I'm the president of a club called FeelGood @UVA. Normally, pre-Covid, we sell grilled cheese outfront of Clemons library on Sunday nights and 100% of our proceeds go to an organization called The Hunger Project, which fights poverty and hunger in developing countries. It's a wonderful cause and I have learned so much about global sustainability and development through it, but also, the people are amazing. Always a good time to be with my fellow executive team and the general body! Plus grilled cheese!!! 

Volunteer activities to consider:  I participate in a lot of new student programs at UVA, such as Greeters for when first-years arrive to dorms or Days on the Lawn helpers in the spring. I love interacting with new or potential students, talking about UVA, and passing down words of advice from what I've learned through my time at UVA. Madison House's "The Big Event" each year is also a favorite of mine, and a great way to go into and give back to the Charlottesville community. 

Undergraduate research experience:  I currently do research in Dr. Karen Schmidt's lab in the quantitative psychology department. I reached out to Dr. Schmidt because I was interested in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, which often requires some knowledge of Item Response theory work, which is one of Dr. Schmidt's specialties. I ended up meeting with her and her graduate student, Tara, and they helped me find a project that I could work on. I feel very fortunate for them; They've helped me learn R programming and I am way more comfortable with quantitative analysis than I thought I ever would be thanks to the experience of working with them. 

My research is on suicide attempt warning-signs. Specifically, I am evaluating text messages sent prior to a suicide attempt for the emotional tone that they carry. These findings are being compared to retrospective survey data from the attempters, in which they cite the emotions they remember feeling during the period before their suicide attempt. It involves a lot of coding in R and text analysis work, but has been extremely educational for me. Most importantly, the work feels impactful and important, and so I am grateful to be involved.

Psychology Distinguished Major Program (DMP):  I am in the DMP program and my project relates to my research described above. I am using structural equation modeling to analyze whether emotion found in text messages before a suicide attempt are predictive of the retrospective emotion cited by participants for the same pre-attempt period of time. 

Advice for new students:  Try to be open-minded to different realms of psychological studies! The curriculum naturally exposes students to a decent amount of areas of study, but remaining open to it is essential for not only enjoying the classes, but also parsing out where your main interests lie. I'd carry this over to how I recommend experiencing UVA, at least for the first couple of years. Taking a variety of classes, even stuff I thought would have no interest or benefit to me, was the best decision I ever made and led to my favorite class experiences at UVA, as well as some unknown passions. 

Future Plans:  I'm going to be finishing up my Master of Public Policy for an extra year after I graduate from undergrad, but after that, I don't really know! I've always wanted a Ph.D. in Psychology, but I'm also more recently called to jumping into the workforce and joining organizations that fight for the causes I care about. I guess we'll see what I end up doing!

Favorite psychology quote: I once heard this quote about Psychology from a professor that I absolutely love, and so I thought I'd share: "Psychology is the study of predictable irrationality" 

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Kayla Pelletz  -  Ashburn, VA  -  Class of 2021

Kayla Pelletz

Academic program: Psychology and Youth and Social Innovation (double major), Health and Well Being (minor)

My path to psychology:  I love a good mystery and the human mind still remains a puzzle. Through a psychology major I knew I would be able to uncover and learn about our mysterious brain. Specifically, the puzzling developing brains of children.

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite Psychology class I took was Child Psychology with Professor Amrisha Vaish. Not only did it solidify my passion for child psychology but it was eye-opening and applicable.

Favorite psychology professor:  Professor Vaish and I have developed a strong relationship over the years. After taking her class I began working in her Early Social Development Lab (ESDL). I have been a research assistant for the past 3.5 years where I have had the opportunity to work alongside Professor Vaish and her graduate students. I admire Professor Vaish's leadership skills and passion for studying child psychology as well as her passion for being a respectable mentor. 

Other UVA classes I recommend: Child Psychopathology gave me an abnormal lens to view child psychology through. I also enjoyed taking Cognitive Aging. I spend a lot of my time learning about children, so Cognitive Aging allowed me to learn about the brain at the other end of the spectrum.

Kayla Pelletz Quote

Undergraduate research experience:  I got involved in the Early Social Development Lab second semester of my first year at UVA after taking Child Psychology with Professor Vaish. She advertised her lab in class and I immediately knew I wanted to join her research team. I have worked on a variety of studies over the past 3.5 years including studies about gratitude and sharing. A graduate student, Stefen Beeler, and I received the Double Hoo Award in which we designed a study together to research how identifiability of a recipient impacts children's prosocial behavior. We are currently finishing collecting data for this identifiability study. 

Psychology Distinguished Major Program (DMP): I am in the Distinguished Major Program. My study in the Early Social Development Lab gave me a head start in writing my thesis as I already had all my data. I submitted my thesis last semester on my study about the impact of identifiability in young children's prosocial behavior. 

Advice for new students:  My biggest advice to be successful in psychology is to join a lab. Whether you intend to pursue research after undergrad or not, being part of a lab is an incredible experience. Some of my most memorable moments at UVA happened while working in a lab.

Future Plans:  Attend graduate school to earn a masters in school counseling

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Courtney Bryan  -  St. Petersburg, FL  -  Class of 2021

Courtney Bryan

Academic program: Psychology (major)

My path to psychology:  I really enjoyed my Intro to Psychology course with Professor Dodson. It was a great overview of the discipline and I found all of the studies very interesting. Also psychology is the study of the human mind and behavior, it can't get much cooler than that! I've always been a people person, so I thought if I understood psychology better, it would help me improve my communication and connection with others. I hope to become a doctor and I think majoring in psychology will prepare me well for the psychological side of healthcare and patient relations.  

Favorite psychology class:  This is a tough one, because I have really enjoyed all of my psych courses. I'd say one that was really amazing was Abnormal Psychology with Professor Emery. He made lectures very interesting with facts as well as anecdotes from his career in clinical psychology. Some topics in the course can be difficult to address since it pertains to mental health, but Professor Emery handled them with respect and honesty. I learned a great deal from his class and it has been one of my favorite courses taken at UVA. 

Other UVA classes I recommend: Highly recommend Sociology of the Family with Professor Wilcox. Very interesting class about courtship, dating, family dynamics, and relationships in general. Will definitely apply to real life. Also recommend Greek Mythology in the Classics Department as well as a Courses in English: Fairy Tales in the German Department. Both of those classes let me explore literature I always found fascinating. Finally, Psych courses I really enjoyed were Cognitive Neuroscience, Adolescence: Theory and Development, and Disease, Health and the Psyche.

Courtney Bryan

Student organizations I recommend:  I am a part of COVID 19 Student Service Corps at UVA. I highly recommend it because it is a good way to volunteer during the pandemic and help out the Charlottesville community. The organization has different projects ranging from getting more PPE for the UVA hospital to thank-you baskets for respiratory therapists. 

Undergraduate research experience:  I worked in the Early Social Development Lab for 1.5 years. I researched the different psychology labs at UVA and found ESDL really interesting because the lab works with children and explores their social development. I applied, interviewed, and became a research assistant. The project I worked on, under Professor Vaish and Stefen Beeler, was exploring the relationship between gratitude and perception. I really enjoyed my time at ESDL and I highly recommend to students who are interested in research and enjoy working with children to apply to become research assistants there! The lab is great and everyone is friendly and welcoming.

Advice for new students:  Psychology is a wonderful major! To be successful you need to put in the effort and ask for help when you need it. Everyone always says this, and I'll say it here too, but go to office hours. Get to know your professors and TAs because they are great people and they want to see you succeed. Go there to ask questions about the material or just to chat about the psychology profession. To succeed in general at UVA, make sure you are taking care of your wellbeing as much as you are focusing on school. Take time to hangout with friends, exercise, and eat well because a healthy mind will enable you to succeed in your studies.

Future Plans:  I am applying to medical schools in hopes to become a physician. With my work with children in the ESDL and interest in healthcare, I hope to possibly become a pediatrician. I also hope to utilize my knowledge gained from my psychology courses to help me better connect and communicate with future patients.

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Joohee Yang  -  Harrisonburg, VA  -  Class of 2021

Joohee Yang

Academic program: Psychology (major), Spanish (minor)

My path to psychology:  I love getting to know people on a deeper level. Psychology is intriguing to me because it encompasses both the unique characteristics that make individuals who they are and the broader attributes we share. Studying psychology has helped me become more empathetic, making me quicker to appreciate how people are intricately made and slower to make assumptions and judge. 

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology class has to be “How to Build a Healthy Brain,” a signature course offered over J-term. What stood out to me about this class was how it highlighted the importance and relevance of psychology in our daily lives and how psychology is woven into many other academic fields. Getting to hear the diverse perspectives of experts from all across the country over a 10-day period felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Other UVA classes I recommend:  PSYC 2410 Abnormal Psycholog and ANTH 2400 Nationalism, Racism, and Multiculturalism

Student organizations I recommend:  I was a part of the exec board for UNICEF for two years, and it was such a wholesome experience. It’s a very welcoming organization that allows you to participate in a lot of different global campaigns aimed at advocating for the rights and well-being of children. I have also been an active member of Grace Christian Fellowship all throughout college, and it has really served as a home away from home. 

Joohee Yang Quote

Volunteer activities to consider:  Helping first-year students move in was probably the most fun volunteering activity I’ve participated in. It’s so awesome to offer support to first-years knowing you were in their shoes not too long ago and sometimes even stay in touch with them! 

Undergraduate research experience:  I really enjoyed research in high school, and I knew I wanted to get involved in a lab in college as well. I started working in the Provencio Lab in the Neuroscience department because neuroscience is a passion of mine that I think goes hand in hand with psychology. Our experiments studied the fear-conditioning responses of wild type vs. transgenic mice lacking intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs). Light has shown to enhance learned fear responses, and this is significant when considering treatment for illnesses such as PTSD. By quantifying c-fos expression, we were able to analyze neural activation and begin to identify which areas of the brain are involved in fear-conditioning.     

Advice for new students:  Psych courses are so much more fun when you really digest the material and push yourself to see concepts from class in everyday life. Learning and understanding more about the human mind and behavior should ultimately lead us to become better listeners, friends, and advocates for the well-being of others. 

Future Plans:  I plan on going to Physician Assistant (PA) school and would love the opportunity to help those in underprivileged areas. 

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Alyssa Pendergast  -   Leesburg, VA, VA  -  Class of 2021

Alyssa Pendergast 

Academic program: Psychology and Biology (double major)

About my profile picture: I attached a pic of my dog Rookie because he is my world!

My path to psychology:  It's just an interesting science. Even though I'm not pursuing a career in psychology, what I've learned from this major can apply to all careers and everyday life.

Favorite psychology class:   Social psychology and abnormal psychology were both fun :)

Favorite psychology professor:   Professor Emery is great!

Student organizations I recommend:  Veggies of Virginia and Madison House :)

Volunteer activities to consider:   I walked shelter dogs through Madison House pre-COVID, and at home, I foster cats. I recommend fostering and helping shelter animals to anyone who's able.

Advice for new students:   Study with other people.

Future Plans:  I hope to be a conservation zoologist, possibly working in a government department with funding benefits for grad school ; ) It would be cool to be able to get a Ph.D in zoology.

Alyssa Pendergast Quote
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Connar Mulcahy  -  McLean, VA  -  Class of 2021

Connar Mulcahy

Academic program: Psychology (major), Environmental Science (Minor)

My path to psychology:  My struggles with mental health made me interested in pursuing a career as a clinical psychologist to help others with their mental health issues.

Student organizations and volunteer activities I recommend: I am a part of Active Minds, which is a CIO that focuses on fighting the stigma against mental health. As part of Active Minds, the club and I help run the “Out of the Darkness Walk” for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and I would strongly recommend for more people to donate and volunteer.

I am also a part of Essentials, which is a small Christian group that meets at the Eunoia building on JPA. I would strongly recommend this group as all are welcome and the fellowship has allowed my faith in God to grow tremendously.  

Advice for new students:  To be successful in psych or at UVA in general you need to be organized and not wait until the last minute. I found utilizing office hours and asking for help from TAs when I did not understand the material to be extremely helpful as well.  Finally, make friends and study together because studying in groups and explaining material out loud helps way more than doing it by yourself.

Future Plans:  I plan to take a gap year to travel and visit my mom in Germany as well as doing more volunteer and internship work. I hope to then attend graduate school, where I can focus on achieving my goal of becoming a clinical therapist.

Connar Mulcahy Quote
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Sarah Woods  -  Springfield, VA  -  Class of 2021

Sarah Woods

Academic program: Nursing and Psychology (double major)

My path to psychology:  I took a psychology class as a high school senior on a whim and completely fell in love with the subject. Learning about how and why people behave, think, and feel absolutely fascinated me. I knew I'd have to take more classes once I got to UVA, and from here my interest in psychology only grew, especially in studying how we learn and develop.

Favorite psychology class:  My favorite psychology class so far has been Psychology of Women and Gender! The professor was awesome and the material was very engaging. As nerdy as it sounds, I actually found myself reading that textbook just for fun because the studies and findings in it were so interesting.

Favorite psychology professor:  My favorite professor is Professor Vaish! I took her class on moral development last semester (Fall 2020).  She's so knowledgable and kind, and she really excels at creating an open, engaging classroom. I'm really glad I was able to take her course and I strongly recommend students try and take at least one of her classes!

Other UVA classes I recommend: If you can, I also recommend taking a few of the classes offered by UVA's School of Nursing. Our course on microbiology is informative, focusing on topics such as diseases and the way they present and effect the body, and is taught by an absolutely wonderful professor. Growth and Development Across the Lifespan is another great course in the SON and covers a more anatomical and health-focused take on how people grow and develop. I found this class really helpful when paired with my psychology courses! Finally, a non-SON class I recommend is any class focusing on creative writing! The class I took was low-stress but highly rewarding, and I made a lot of good friends! 

Student organizations I recommend:  In regards to student organizations, I'm one of two School of Nursing UJC representatives, as well as a Nursing Student Ambassador. I'm also a Peer Leader for the Blueprint Leadership Program. While I was definitely more active pre-COVID, I'm also a member of Club Figure Skating. Finally, I'm a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority. All of these organizations are ones I'd recommend! However, overall my advice is to find the activities that you're passionate about and focus on them, whether that means finding leadership positions, helping new members, or just having lots of fun!

Sarah Woods Quote

Volunteer activities to consider:  I highly recommend volunteering through the SPCA here in Charlottesville! You're able to make a difference in the lives of the animals and the families who adopt them, and you get to spend time hanging out with dogs and cats! It's a win-win!

Advice for new students:  My biggest piece of advice is to put yourself out there! I think this applies to pretty much every aspect of college. Put yourself out there by joining new clubs or introducing yourself to the person sitting next to you in class. Alternatively, put yourself out there by asking for help when you're overwhelmed or by reaching out to a TA or professor. Make connections, whether academic or social. You are your own best advocate, and you'll be surprised by the results putting yourself out there can bring!

Future Plans:  While a lot of my future career plans are undecided, I'm currently hoping to find a job as an ICU or ED nurse and work there for 1-2 years. After gaining experience in the field, I plan to go into nursing research. I'm not sure what topic I want to investigate yet, but I know my psychology degree will be instrumental in helping me find research positions and in knowing how to conduct studies. Nursing research is the perfect blend of both of my degrees and I know that's the field I eventually want to find myself in! 

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Sierra Bowen  -  Roanoke, VA  -  Class of 2021

Sierra Bowen

Academic program: Marketing and Psychology (double major)

My path to psychology:  I came into UVA not knowing what I wanted to do. My first psychology class was Personality Psychology, and I fell in love with it. Learning about people, their behavior, and why they do what they do is so intriguing to me. I wanted to continue taking psychology classes for as long as possible, and I feel that it really helps me in my daily interactions with people. 

Favorite psychology class:  Abnormal Psychology was my all-time favorite psychology class. I loved learning about mental illness and personality disorders. Robert Emery was an awesome professor for this class, too!

Favorite psychology professor:  I really enjoyed Professor Smyth. He’s very funny and personable, and you can tell he is very knowledgeable about the field. 

Other UVA classes I recommend: I recommend joining COMM 4371, or what we like to call “Promotions”.  It’s a year-long, 9 credit class for fourth years of any major where you have the opportunity to learn so much about marketing and advertising. We work all year on creating a campaign for a client, and compete in a national advertising competition in the spring. This year, we have been working on a campaign for Tinder!

Student organizations I recommend:  I am a part of Pancakes for Parkinson’s (P4P) and Hoos Connected. In P4P, we spend all of fall semester raising money and planning our pancake event that’s open to students and anyone in the community. All of our proceeds go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation to help them research Parkinson’s, raise awareness of the disease, and hopefully one day find a cure. 

Hoos Connected is a group for first years and transfer students to come and talk about their transition to college. I went through the process of becoming a facilitator last fall and will be facilitating my first group this semester! I wish I would have known about it sooner, so I definitely recommend it to first years/transfers, or upperclassmen who would be interested in acting as a mentor to students!

Volunteer activities to consider:  I am a Program Director and volunteer for Adopt-a-Grandparent at Madison House. I have been visiting Mary Williams Community Center since 1st year, and it’s so fun to spend time with the members there and lead them in crafts and games. It’s very rewarding and it’s a great study break, too!

Advice for new students:  My advice would be to not compare your successes to those of others! That will only set you back. Chase your passions at your own pace and don’t worry if you don’t have a plan, or if things don’t go according to plan. No one has it all figured out, trust me!

Future Plans:  I hope to work at an advertising agency after graduating. At some point, I would love to own a business, but I’m not sure yet what it would be.

Sierra Bowen Quote
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Max Belkin  -  Jacksonville, FL  -  Class of 2021

Psychology University of Virginia

Academic program: Psychology major

My path to psychology:  My parents are both psychologists so that certainly influenced me, but initially I did not want to follow in their footsteps. I took a couple Psych classes because of recommendations by others and they ended up being some of my favorite classes at UVA. Also, I’ve always had somewhat of a knack for how the brain works and how people interact with one another. Even when talking with my friends, I feel like I have an innate understanding of how others are feel and why they’re feeling the way they are. Everything culminated in my second year and I just really felt a passion towards Psychology. I felt like it was the best use of my talents and what I would be the most successful in.

Favorite psychology class:  It would probably be the first Psych class I took: Introduction to Perception. I just found the subject matter really interesting. I gained such a greater understanding for not necessarily how the world works, but how people work to understand the world around them. Which, to me, was so unique and offered such a different perspective that I had never been exposed to before. 

Favorite psychology professor:  Either Dennis Proffitt or Christopher Mazurek. Professor Proffitt taught Introduction to Perception and I think that was also an influential factor in why I enjoyed the class so much. He was very knowledgeable and really engaging, even in a big lecture. Professor Mazurek was also among my favorites as well. I took Social Psych with him and that too was one of my favorite classes at UVA. 

Max Belkin Quote

Other UVA classes I recommend:  I took Dracula a few years ago and really enjoyed that class. Sport Psych was really interesting (I like sports a lot so that was certainly a factor in my liking). I also enrolled in a course with Professor Paul Harris in the Curry school and he’s a fantastic professor, so pretty much any class he’s teaching.

Student organizations I recommend:  I’m in a fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi. I would highly recommend it, and just Greek life in general. I’ve made my closest friends here and it’s an experience unlike anything else you’ll not only have in college, but in life.

Volunteer activities to consider:  I volunteered with Madison House my first year and beginning of second. They are probably the biggest volunteer organization at UVA and are very well run. They have many different opportunities and connections for people to volunteer in pretty much whatever area they want to. My first year I volunteered at an after-school program for a local Middle-school and that was a very fulfilling experience. My second year I volunteered at the hospital because I want to go into the medical field (but I was unable to volunteer for very long because I ended up having surgery and could not go). My first year I also volunteered at the ASPCA in Charlottesville with an organization called HASS (Human Animal and Support Services). That was also really fun and rewarding because I love dogs, but who doesn’t.

Undergraduate research experience:  I worked with Professor Per Sederberg in his lab at the end of my first year and throughout my second year. My mom actually found some research opportunities for undergrads, online, and his intrigued me the most, so I just emailed him and asked if I could help out. When I was working with him, the lab had a couple different projects they were working on, mainly focused on memory and functions of the brain when trying to memorize/remember certain images. I was one of the initial study volunteers in testing the program they developed to determine memory and reaction time when trying to recognize images that flash on a screen. 

Advice for new students:  At UVA, just explore as much as you can. College is about having novel experiences, and experiencing things that you probably never will again. If it interests you, just try it out. If you don’t like something, no one’s forcing you to stay in a club or stay in that major. Have fun and enjoy yourself. Too often, people get so caught up in the competitive nature of UVA and finding a summer internship, being in a prestigious club or whatever else it may be, and they lose sight of just enjoying themselves. Obviously, you’ve come to UVA for the academics, but that shouldn’t mean you need to sacrifice your enjoyment and well-being for that. Specifically for Psychology, in order to be successful you obviously have to work hard, but, going back to my earlier point, if you find what you enjoy (the classes, the major, etc.) it really doesn’t feel like hard work. Once you find that passion, gear your studies towards it. Often times people major in something they enjoy and then don’t end up going into that field or ever using that knowledge again. If you really enjoy child psych, for example, talk to a professor, find a research lab, volunteer somewhere. There are so many avenues in which you can use your knowledge and expertise, you just have to seek them out. 

Try to seek out new opportunities. College is a time for exploration unlike any other. Whether that be through taking classes that don’t pertain to your major (of which were some of my favorite classes), seeking out different groups of friends or clubs. This is the only time in your life that you’ll be surrounded by thousands of different people, with such different backgrounds and experiences with such a vast array of knowledge you have access to with unparalleled ease. There is so much time in life to figure out your path and discover what you want to do. Use college as a stepping stone to be more learned just in life. If that guides you and helps you learn your passion, then great. If not, there’s nothing to worry about because you are gaining knowledge and experience at one of the best institutions in the world, something that billions of people could only wish for. Also, don’t take your time for granted. Make sure to enjoy it to the fullest because one moment you’re eating at Newcomb with dorm-mates or pulling an all-nighter in Clem 1 and next thing you know you’re applying for virtual graduation. These four years go by so much faster than you can imagine.

Future Plans:  In the future, I want to be a doctor. Either medical or psychological. I also love kids, so I really want to do something in the pediatric field. Currently, I am applying for post-graduate pre-med programs so I can finish some of my Med school requirements and then hopefully I’ll go into Med school after that.


Meet More Alumni

New student profiles are added on a regular basis.  Check back soon to learn more from our Psychology undergraduate students.  If you are a psychology student and you are interested in sharing your academic journey (favorite classes, activities, and advice for success) please contact us, [email protected].