Work and Organizational Psychology Concentration

Janelle Gonzaga, 2021

Janelle Gonzaga

How did you choose your degree program?

Coming into George Mason, I was pursuing a major in chemistry. During my first semester, I took Honors 110: Principles of Research and Inquiry through the Honors College. This class required students to write a detailed research paper regarding any topic of the student’s choice. Initially, I was thinking of writing about a topic that related to chemistry, but I later on decided to research about a topic relating to psychology. In addition, I wanted my topic to be relatable, contemporary, and an issue that needed to be addressed towards my generation. My research question was “How Mobile Phone Usage, Technological-Related Anxiety and Depression Affects College Students”.

During this semester-long process of researching, this helped me rethink my entire career path both academically and professionally. Researching this topic not only made me realize how passionate I am with psychology, but it also helped make me realize that being a chemistry major was not the best fit for me. I discovered that my passion was not working with chemicals, but rather wanting to teach others on how to improve their well-being and mental health. This pushed me to change my major completely, as well as my ambitions from becoming a chemist to being a mental health advocate.

How did your academic experiences in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences impact you?

The Honors Psychology Program influenced my career path interests and research skills. I defended my thesis, "Assessing Pitch Discrimination and Absolute Pitch in Classical Guitarists and Non-musicians", to my three committee members: Dr. Thalia Goldstein, Dr. Linda Chrosniak, and Dr. Michael Hurley. My additional guidance member was DaSean Young. I'm so grateful I got to collaborate with all of my mentors throughout this process and motivated me to keep going, especially since I had to complete most of my research remotely due to COVID-19.

However, I realized that after 3 semesters of researching and conducting my own study from scratch, I had a feeling that research was not the right path for me. Usually, people who were a part of this rigorous program tended to say they loved research so much, they ended up becoming professors and researchers later on in their lives.

That being said, I'm thankful that Mason has this experience, because there are not a lot of universities that offer this extensive research program for undergraduates (which is usually 1 semester compared to the 3 that I completed). Even though I'm probably not one of the typical folks who come out of the program and say they like conducting research, I'm glad I still did it so I know what to expect for graduate school for psychology if I go down that route. If anything, it was a great lesson that showed the experiences you pursue can definitely help influence what you want (and what you don't want!) in your life.

What accomplishment(s) during your time at Mason are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of being one of the members who helped revamp the Psychology Club at George Mason University when they started the organization again in November 2018 (the organization started in 1999, but was discontinued due to the lack of future leadership to continue the organization the year after). I was appointed Historian from 2018-2019, Vice President from 2019-2020, President from 2020-2021, and Senior Student Advisor for the 2021 fall semester.

It was an interesting time to become President because that was when we needed to have all of our events virtual due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, the executive board and I were able to think out of the box to unify the club members even though we were physically apart. Some events we held were fundraisers for mental health organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, play psychology-themed Jeopardy over Zoom, presented about “Therapy: Stereotypes, How to Find a Therapist, and Alternatives” for Asian Pacific American Coalition’s retreat, and created a YouTube podcast, “Say Psych Right Now”, to strike conversations with club members surrounding mental health and stigma.

I want to thank Dr. Hurley for being an enthusiastic faculty advisor for the organization. I also want to thank Jean Lim, Alessia Holmes, and Rayan Dye for being an amazing executive team that year because you all helped me give the energy and support I needed to be a great leader you all helped me become. You all also brainstormed creative ideas that would keep members excited for the next meetings to come. We did THAT.

Are there faculty or staff members who made a difference during your Mason career? Please give an example of this impact if possible.

There are so many people that I would love to thank, so even if I didn't have their names down on personally, I want to thank every staff member and faculty member who've made a difference in my life. These are some of the folks I'd like to give a shoutout to:

Dr. Michael Hurley- for absolutely everything that he’s done for me. I would list them all, but it would be way too long to add here.

Matt Trkula- for letting me be a part of the classical guitar ensemble for two semesters before I began my research regarding classical guitarists.

DaSean Young- for being my cheerleader, the cool marching arts leader and researcher that helped me bond with him during my first days in the Social Skills, Imagination, and Theater lab, and the one who volunteered to mentor me during my thesis program even though no one told him to do so. I couldn’t have been able to finish the program without him.

Etlin Flores- for being such an amazing human being and for giving me guidance for graduate school. I’m so glad she was my Community Director when I was a Resident Assistant.

Dr. John Woolsey- for being a great professor during my time in the Honors College. I’m so glad I got to be a part of this program during my time at Mason and got to work with him.

Justin Plakas- for helping me realize how incredible the process of digital manual photography is. It became my new hobby over quarantine and helped me find a new way to appreciate life. He’s also helped me find a creative outlet to express my passion for mental health advocacy.

What are your current career plans following graduation? What are your long-term career goals?

As of now, I will transition from part time to full time as a substitute teacher at my former high school next semester. My long-term career goals are still up in the air, but I would like to work for a company or organization that focuses on mental health advocacy.