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Celebrating our Peer Ambassadors

The psychology Peer Ambassador pilot program was intended to foster a sense of community and connection within the department and offer additional support to new psychology undergraduates (first-year, transfer, and CODA). In this trial semester of the program, the Peer Ambassador team (Karina Seebaluck, Caleb Carwell, Jenny Huang, Kelsey Davis, and Lily Palmer) was successful in initiating the program, collectively connecting with over 100 new psychology students via bi-weekly emails and launching the inaugural departmental e-newsletter (see last month’s issue here). Although the program will not continue, I am proud of everything they accomplished and would like to thank all of them for their hard work and dedication. 

A special thanks to our two graduating Peer Ambassadors, Jenny Huang and Caleb Carwell, who have shared their thoughts below on their undergraduate experience:

What did you enjoy most about being an undergraduate student studying psychology at NC State? 

Jenny: The extensive opportunities and support. I really enjoyed being an undergraduate student in the psychology department simply because of the welcoming atmosphere and freedom to choose courses from a wide range of disciplines. Having psychology as my major gives me a sense of great possibility as there are so many options for my future career. Despite feeling overwhelmed at times by all of the options, the faculty and staff in the department were always so supportive. They care a great deal about the well-being and success of each student and are willing to assist students with setting and reaching their goals. 

Caleb: Learning about the field I am so passionate about. I regard my decision to pursue psychology as one of the best decisions I have made so far in life – and I trust I will always look back on this decision with that same level of appreciation. Psychology is different from a lot of the “hard” sciences in many ways, which makes the field of study even more interesting to me, but the thing I may love most about psychology is that it is relevant to everyone. No matter who you are or what your field of expertise is, everyone benefits from developments in psychology because it is an indivisible part of the human experience. 

What advice would you like to share with your peers and particularly new students in psychology?

Jenny: Establish a support system. As an international transfer student, far away from family, I came to NC State without any friends or connections so I put great effort into searching for people and ways to help me succeed in my school work. However, when the pandemic hit, I was unexpectedly forced to isolate and complete my school work independently. During this time, I, unfortunately, experienced a mental health crisis, but was able to recognize the importance of having a social life and support system. Now that I have integrated more social time into my academic journey, the quality of my work, my mental health, and my entire well-being has improved. 

Caleb: Make connections with experts in your respective field of study and engage in genuine conversation. The insight I have gained through conversations with experienced faculty members has been just as, if not more, beneficial to my development than any classroom experience. The most important bit of insight I have gained from these relationships is that there is no cookie-cutter approach to pursuing a career in psychology – everyone’s path looks different and that’s what makes it such a unique field. 

What are your post-undergraduate plans and how has the psychology department prepared you for this next chapter?

Jenny: Research followed by a Ph.D. program in cognitive neuroscience. Being an undergraduate research assistant in two labs during my time at NC State has ignited my passion for research so I’m now considering doing it as my future career. I plan to continue to build up my research experience by staying in a lab for another year or two and then applying to a Ph.D. program in cognitive neuroscience to pursue my interest in memory and aging. My ultimate goal is to develop new interventions for preventing age-related neurodegenerative diseases. My lab experience has helped me build up my research, communication, critical thinking, and other life skills.

Caleb: Attend graduate school to continue my studies in psychology after enjoying a highly anticipated gap year. My ultimate goal is to become an expert in the practice of clinical assessment and counseling psychology, which will include pursuing a research-oriented master’s degree first – to extend my knowledge of general psychological theories and clinical assessment – and then pursuing a PsyD to gain further expertise. The applied coursework I have taken, including PSY 495, and relationships I have developed with psychology faculty have been critical to my success and personal and professional development.

Are there any specific individuals that you would like to thank for their support and guidance?

Jenny: Members of the FABB lab and HEY lab. I joined the FABB lab during my first semester at State, which was one of the best decisions I have ever made. As a new transfer student feeling disoriented and lost, members of the lab provided me with great support and guidance to adjust to this new environment.  Amy Halberstadt provided academic guidance, and also taught me coping skills to manage stress and my emotions, and graduate students, Xi and Elizabeth, were/are fabulous mentors. Yingchen He and Patrick in the HEY lab inspired my research interests in neuroscience. They also gave me great feedback and helped me organize my wild and crazy ideas into practical research projects, which have given me the skills and confidence to conduct my own research. 

Caleb: Christopher Mayhorn and Nina Ferreri. Christopher Mayhorn, my senior thesis research supervisor and psychology dpartment head, has been a reliable source of feedback and encouragement especially in regards to finding my own solutions to problems. He taught me how to think critically in academic situations and trust my instincts.  His support and guidance has been indispensable to my academic development. Working in Mayhorn’s lab has also given me the opportunity to work with Nina Ferreri, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. While working as a research assistant during my junior year, Nina was instrumental in helping me establish a research foundation, which has enhanced my ability to successfully navigate my senior research project.