Newsletter Section

Undergraduate Program

President's Medalist: Grace Woodard

Grace Woodard
Grace Woodard

"I am completely indebted to the women in my research lab who challenged me, supported me, and befriended me. Not only are they all amazing female scientists, but they are mothers, friends, partners, and wives, which inspired me to pursue my Ph.D. knowing it is possible to maintain a healthy personal life and be a scientist."

     - Grace Woodard, Graduating Senior in Psychology and 2018 President's Medalist

Growing up in Eastern Washington, Grace Woodard notes that it was not always easy to be a Husky fan. Thankfully, Grace's father, a UW alumnus, not only taught her to be a fan of the Dawgs but, as her high school AP Psychology teacher, helped to ignite her passion for the discipline. Fast forward to the present and Grace is doing her father and her department proud as she was recently awarded the President's Medal. This award is presented annually by the UW President to two graduating seniors who have achieved the most distinguished academic records in their class. Grace is only the third Psychology major recipient of the award since it was first given in 1932 (others were in 1951 and 2004).

In addition to finding inspiration from her father's class, Grace's interest was sparked by the role she played as a caregiver to a young cousin who was being fostered by Grace's family. "I dove into the world of developmental psychology, child resilience, and trauma exposure in order to help her as best I could," recalls Grace, "and I knew that I wanted to attend a school with a world-renowned Psychology department to study trauma exposure and resilience to honor my little cousin." As a UW freshman, a Facebook post seeking student research assistants caught Grace's attention. The following two and a half years would see Grace engaged in honors research with the UW Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress, directed by Psychology Professor Dr. Lori Zoellner.

Along with her honors research project, Grace has engaged in a number of volunteer, internship, and leadership positions both on and off campus. She has served as a members of the ASUW Mental Health Working Group, a member of the First Year Programs Advisory Board, and a Peer Mentor in the UW Interdisciplinary Honors Program. Off campus, Grace volunteered as a tutor/mentor at Garfield High School, working with aspiring first generation college students, with the charity Construction for Change, which focuses on maternal health around the world, and held a competitive internship at Seattle Children's Hospital. She has also taken on a number of leadership roles both within her sorority and the greater Panhellenic Association.

Grace advises future Psychology majors to seek out opportunities and jump on them when they present themselves. "While you learn so much from professors and TAs," says Grace, "experience is the only way to test the value of your knowledge in the real world." Grace plans to work in the field of research and mental health for the coming two years prior to beginning a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology.

Read more about Grace's President's Medal here.

Bonderman Fellow: Melissa Guzman

Melissa Guzman
Melissa Guzman

"While here at UW I've been able to learn so much more about other cultures and it has also made me even more proud of my own culture. Being Latina has really shaped my desire to help people that come from marginalized communities like my own, and I think because of the experiences that I have had I am much more passionate about serving others."

     - Melissa Guzman, Graduating Senior in Psychology and 2018 Bonderman Fellow

Born and raised in the small Eastern Washington town of Othello, coming to UW to study Psychology was just the start of an ever-expanding journey for Melissa Guzman. Following graduation with a double major in Psychology and Law, Societies and Justice, Melissa will embark on the voyage of a lifetime. As a 2018 Bonderman Fellow, Melissa will spend eight months traveling to Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Chile, Indonesia, and Samoa, exploring how people from different cultures express, understand, and interpret gratitude. Created in 1995 by a gift from UW alumnus David Bonderman, the fellowships offer UW students the opportunity to engage in independent exploration and travel abroad. Melissa is the third Psychology major to be awarded this fellowship.

Melissa first learned of the Bonderman Fellowship during her sophomore year. It sparked an interest, which intensified following her participation in a study abroad program in Spain. "Those months abroad really taught me about my capabilities for traveling solo and being independent," recalls Melissa, "which solidified my desire to embark on an eight month solo journey." The Bonderman mission includes "fostering individual transformation via wandering and wondering for eight months of solo travel to two regions of the world, expanding fellows' understanding of themselves and the complex world we live in."

The study of gratitude across cultures is what Melissa will reflect upon as she makes her way across the world. The idea for this topic comes both from personal experience and academic study. "I first learned about the cultural differences of emotions through my Psychology of Emotion class taught by Dr. Tabitha Kirkland," explains Melissa. "The class opened new windows for me and led me to explore how gratitude varies across cultures." Melissa hopes that through the exploration of gratitude in different cultures she will come to understand it through a different lens and ultimately to expand her own capacity for gratitude.

While extremely excited about her upcoming travels, Melissa is not without some nervousness, primarily related to being a woman traveling alone. "I know that this experience will lead me to be more independent and self-reliant," says Melissa, "and being able to say that I traveled solo in seven foreign countries will definitely be something that I hope will inspire other Mexican American women."

Graduation Keynote Speaker: Chris Pugh

Chris Pugh
Chris Pugh

"My experience within the Psychology major has been life changing."

     - Chris Pugh, Graduating Senior in Psychology

Recalling his first quarter on campus, Chris Pugh notes that he was prepared neither for the challenges nor for the growth opportunities that attending the University of Washington would present. A native of nearby Snohomish, WA, the path to UW was neither straightforward nor easy. Fulltime work and personal challenges took center stage for several years following high school graduation before Chris began his studies at Edmonds Community College.

Initial plans to become a drug and alcohol counselor gave way to a broader path as Chris's ambitions brought him to UW in fall quarter of 2016. With the ultimate goal of becoming a licensed mental health counselor, pursuing a degree in Psychology was a logical next step. As a Psychology major, Chris found both an academic home and a community of like-minded people. Considering his experiences within the major, Chris notes that he has been "fortunate enough to come across many different students, from all walks of life, whose primary reason for working within the major has been to be of service to others."

Chris characterizes the transition from community college to UW as both surprising and challenging. He recalls the "strong dose of humility" that he experienced in his first months at UW. The rewards, however, outweighed the trials. "I learned so much about myself," says Chris, "my ability to persevere, and also the importance of asking for help." Reaching out to faculty, advisors, and peers for support, Chris continued to push the boundaries that had at one time seemed daunting. He also gave back to the university community, serving as a peer leader for PSYCH 299. This fall quarter course provides first-quarter transfer students with an in-depth orientation to the Psychology Department, the major, and resources available to them. Peer leaders in the class help new students hit the ground running and work toward building a sense of community.

For Chris, giving back also took place outside of the UW community. During his junior year, Chris had the opportunity to gain valuable volunteer experience at the Eastside Intergroup for Alcoholics Anonymous where he was nominated to serve as chairman of the board. This nonprofit organization conducts outreach programs for middle and high schools, hospitals, juvenile detention and correctional facilities.

Throughout his UW journey, Chris has kept the focus on maintaining a healthy balance of work, academics, and personal life. He advises future Psychology majors to take life one day at a time. "Each and every class that you take," he advises future majors, "and every new and exciting challenge you encounter are all opportunities for growth." Noting that success comes in small strides, rather than instant gratification, Chris encourages students to mold their skills and develop confidence within themselves to accomplish whatever they may desire. For him, the next step will be applying to the Counseling Psychology program at Bastyr University. "Life is a gift," says Chris, "do not waste it."

Graduation Keynote Speaker: Stephanie Yu

Stephanie Yu
Stephanie Yu

"To have a user-centered design process, you must first understand and care for the user above all. Having a background in Psychology was advantageous for me in challenging my peers and people I met in industry to focus on ways to create better tools by taking the time to really understand in depth what people actually want and what they need."

     - Stephanie Yu, graduating senior in Psychology and Human Centered Design and Engineering

Stephanie Yu has always been passionate about increasing understanding and awareness of the mental health field. Inspired by relatives and friends who have disabilities, she was drawn to the Psychology major as she wanted to learn more about behavioral and societal influences that affect us all. "Psychology has taught me how valuable it is to not just make assumptions about people but also to deeply understand and make connections with people," says Stephanie.

In addition to completing two degrees, Stephanie took full advantage of the wide range of classroom, research, volunteer, and internship opportunities available to her. She identifies classes such as Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology as ones that taught her about the huge impact that our experiences have on our behavior and about the importance of considering multiple perspectives. She also remembers particularly enjoying discussion-based classes, such as those taught by Dr. Tabitha Kirkland and Dr. Chantel Prat. "I always felt encouraged by my professors and fellow students to express my thoughts and challenge current assumptions," recalls Stephanie.

Stephanie has a great appreciation for her two majors and the ways in which they both inform and complement one another. She credits Psychology with providing a depth of understanding of people's behaviors and eliciting an open-mindedness to societal influences, and her Human Centered Design and Engineering major with allowing her to apply her skills and knowledge using a user-centered design process.

When asked about her advice for future Psychology majors, Stephanie says, "push yourself out of your comfort zone!" She encourages students to take classes that challenge them and to find inspiration and opportunities by reaching out to professors, advisors, peers, and other supporters. Stephanie's research experiences have ranged from studying Parkinson's disease using fruit flies to researching neurodegenerative diseases to examining individual differences in language. She also volunteered as an assistant teacher with Engineering for Kids, teaching engineering concepts to children in Seattle area elementary schools, and as an art teacher at Circle of Friends Mental Health, working with individuals experiencing homelessness who also had physical or mental disabilities. Stephanie's industry experience includes working on projects with EagleView Technologies, Workday, and Amazon.

Following graduation from UW and travels through Europe, Stephanie's next stop will be San Francisco where she will work as a product design intern for Redfin. "Hopefully, one day in the future," says Stephanie, "I will work in the field of accessibility where I can continue my dreams of creating more tools for inclusivity for people with disabilities."


Undergraduate Accomplishments

The Psychology Department is proud of the numerous accomplishments of our undergraduate students and this academic year has been an especially exciting one! Check out some of the highlights from this year:

Grace Woodard
Grace Woodard

Graduating senior Grace Woodard was awarded the President's Medal, UW's most prestigious award for academic achievement. The President's Medal is presented annually to two graduating seniors who have achieved the most distinguished academic records in their class. Grace is only the third Psychology major to receive this award since it was initially given in 1932. Learn more about Grace here.

Melissa Guzman
Melissa Guzman

Melissa Guzman was selected as a 2018 Bonderman Fellow and will spend eight months traveling solo through seven different countries. The Bonderman Fellowship offers students the opportunity to engage in independent exploration and travel abroad. While abroad, Melissa plans to explore the cultural variation of gratitude. She will travel to Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Chile, Indonesia, and Samoa. Learn more about Melissa here.

Rachel Gerstfeld
Rachel Gerstenfeld

Psychology and Law, Societies and Justice major Rachel Gerstenfeld was recently awarded the George and Barbara Akers Scholarship for the 2018-19 academic year. This $3,000 scholarship rotates each year through the four divisions of the College of Arts and Sciences. Rachel is pursuing a double major along with a minor in Music. In addition to her strong academic work, Rachel has been actively involved with the UW Peer Health Educators, Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Activists, Suicide Prevention and Awareness, campus SafeTALK, and the Green Dot programs.

Sunny Allen
Sunny Allen

In fall quarter, Sunny Allen was named the inaugural Aric Chandler Scholar. This $4,000 scholarship was made possible through the Aric Chandler Endowment which honors the memory of a young man who was poised to transfer to UW from Bellevue College in the fall of 2016. The scholarship fund directly benefits Psychology majors who entered UW from Washington community colleges. Learn more about Aric Chandler and scholarship recipient Sunny Allen here.

The Guthrie Prize was awarded to two graduating seniors, McKenzie Hagen and Sanjana Ravi. Named for the late Psychology professor Edwin R. Guthrie, the prize was established to encourage excellent writing about psychology that is both broad in scope and accessible to the non-specialist. In a tie for Best Empirical Paper, McKenzie won for her paper titled "Child Language Experience as Mediator Between Childhood Socio-Economic Status and Executive Function." She was nominated by her honors faculty advisor Dr. Katie McLaughlin. Sanjana won for her paper titled "Children Who Enjoy Social Interactions are More Likely to be Prosocial." She was nominated by her honors faculty advisor Dr. Kristina Olson.

Ngaio Lace
Ngaio Lace

The College of Arts and Sciences selected graduating senior Ngaio Lace to be a gonfalonier at the UW Commencement Ceremony. The gonfaloniere (as they are called collectively), are outstanding graduating seniors who represent their colleges by carrying large banners - gonfalons - into the Commencement Ceremony. Ngaio is a member of the Psychology Honors Program, working in Dr. Cheryl Kaiser's lab with Dr. Jin Goh.

Members of the 2018 Psychology Honors cohort showcased the results of their research at the Psychology Honors Poster Session on May 24. The poster session, along with the completion of a senior thesis, marks the culmination of a two-year intensive research program. Congratulations to our honors students on this impressive accomplishment: Alya Azman, Jessica Cavalli, Lina Chan, McKenzie Hagen, Elyse Janzen, Nadia Kako, Ngaio Lace, Bella Lee, Su Yi Leong, Kate Luken Raz, Milica Milovanovic, Sanjana Ravi, Sarah Rubin, Chen Su, Natalie Upton, Grace Woodard, and Katy Wright. See more information in the Poster Session program here. Also of note, 72 Psychology majors took part in the campus-wide Undergraduate Research Symposium on May 18.

Chen Su and Susan Joslyn Jessica Cavalli and Sheri Mizumori Kate Luken Raz and Tony Greenwood
Chen Su and Susan Joslyn Jessica Cavalli and Sheri Mizumori Tony Greenwood and Kate Luken Raz 

Congratulations to the Psychology majors who were selected to be part of this year's Husky 100 cohort. These outstanding students are Rachel Gerstenfeld and Sarah Rubin. The Husky 100 recognizes 100 undergraduate and graduate students from the three UW campuses, in all areas of study, who are making the most of the Husky Experience.

This year, nine Psychology majors were named Mary Gates Research or Leadership Scholars. These dedicated students are: Alya Azman, Jessica Cavalli, Rachel Gerstenfeld, Elyse Janzen, Melissa Krook, Su Yi Leong, Naomi McFarland, Hannah Moujing, and Emily Wong.

In winter quarter, eight students were named recipients of a Hagenstein Research Travel Award. Made possible by the Ruth H. Hagenstein Endowment, thses travel awards assist undergraduate Psychology majors who plan to attend and present at professional conferences. This year's Hagenstein Scholars are: Giselle Burges, Elyse Janzen, Melissa Krook, Ngaio Lace, Ha-Yoon Lee, Sanjana Ravi, Sarah Rubin, and Grace Woodard.

Two Psychology majors were selected to be part of the McNair Scholars cohort. The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program provides strong mentorship and guidance for students who are planning to pursue doctoral studies. Congratulations to 2017-18 McNair Scholars Daven Cocroft and Clarita Reyes.