My academic experiences have allowed me to become a really well-rounded scholar. Not only do I have a strong base of knowledge, but I also gained a lot of valuable skills in terms of research and data analysis that will benefit me in the future. Overall, I feel like my experience has helped me develop from just seeing myself as a graduate student to feeling more like a professional in my field.
One thing I am proud of is helping to reinstate the student group for my program. I had never seen myself as much of a leader when I first started graduate school, but I ended up being president of the organization for the past two years and really enjoyed it. The organization now has a really strong group of student leaders and will be a key source of support for Applied Developmental Psychology students. This year I was also nominated by one of my students for Academic Advisor of the Year—it was really rewarding to read that nomination and feel that I had made a difference for this student. Finally, I am proud that I was able to pass my comprehensive exams and dissertation defense over the course of the pandemic!
There are so many people who were critical to my success at Mason, and I have a great deal of respect for all of my professors and mentors. First, my advisor, Adam Winsler, provided me with many opportunities to pursue research and gain other valuable experiences. With his support, I have published several first-authored papers, assisted with a program evaluation of sensory-friendly theatre performances, and presented my work at conferences and invited guest lectures. These experiences he facilitated helped me become a more capable researcher. Michael Hurley and Michael Hock were amazing mentors and sources of support in the undergraduate psychology office where I was an academic advisor. They were always available to answer questions about different university policies or assist with student issues—I truly believe they are some of the most helpful people at GMU, and I am grateful to have been able to work with them. I have become a better advisor because of their support. Finally, Linda Chrosniak has been a cherished mentor since I first arrived at Mason. She helped me navigate my first TA position, and later I was able to mentor a cohort of psychology honors students where she was the primary instructor. She was also a key source of support during my job search this past year. Any time I doubted my teaching ability, Linda was there with words of encouragement. I am inspired by her excellence in teaching and mentorship. I don’t know what I would have done without her!
Take advantage of the various opportunities you will be presented with in graduate school, but also make sure you prioritize your well-being! Finding the right balance between your (many) responsibilities and life is essential to being happy and productive in your program. You will learn quickly that there will always be something you could be doing, but you should set boundaries and make sure to schedule time for your favorite activities and family/friends. Get to know your peers as well! The friends I made in my program were a primary source of support and joy throughout my studies.
In the Fall, I will be starting as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Lindsey Wilson College. Long-term, I want to have a well-established teaching career that also involves a lot of undergraduate research supervision. I love working with and mentoring students, so I want this to play a big role in my career long-term.