From Psychology to Law School: Calen Garrett, Class of 2023
Calen Garrett’s time at the UW has been anything but typical.
First, there was the nature of Garrett’s arrival at the UW. Originally from the Bay Area, Garrett knew that he wanted to explore education opportunities in another part of the country. Specifically, Garrett was hoping to land at a university in a major city, with a sports presence, and a medical school. UW fit all of those criteria, but Garrett was initially wait-listed. He “worked really hard to try to get off” the waitlist, and was successful--an impressive feat considering how few students are accepted off the waitlist. After that, Garrett was all-in on UW, participating in Early Fall Start, a program that allows first-year students to arrive on campus early and take a UW course before fall quarter starts.
Midway through Garrett’s first year at UW, the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of students across the country to switch to virtual classes. As social activities ground to a halt and social distancing became the new norm, students had to find ways to build community creatively. During the height of the pandemic, Garrett was working as a Resident Advisor in the dorms and was only able to interact with his residents over Zoom. Garrett recalls interacting with his residents in conversations through the dorms’ thin walls. In his last year at UW, Garrett serves as the Assistant Resident Director in Alder Hall.
Discovering a Passion for Psychology
Initially coming into UW as a bio major on the pre-med track, Garrett started exploring other options. One of the courses that Garrett took virtually was Psychology 101 with Dr. Michael Passer, and it was in this class that Garrett realized his interest in psychology. Garrett recalls reading the sections of the textbook that weren’t assigned, and developing a deep interest in how the social environments we inhabit shape who we are.
Service Through Brotherhood
Despite two years of college marked by lockdowns and social distancing, Garrett has found ample opportunities to be involved on campus and make an impact. As a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. , a historically Black, service-based fraternity established in 1906 (at UW since 1939), Garrett has been extremely active in the fraternity’s activities, including voter registration drives, college mentoring, educating about reproductive health, and other community outreach programs. In May of 2020, Garrett was elected the youngest National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) president in UW’s history (the NPHC is the governing body of the nine historically Black fraternities and sororities).
Garrett currently serves as Director of the Black Student Commission in ASUW, having previously served as an intern for the office in 2019. Some of the highlights of his time as Director include hosting “Black Homecoming” event during Autumn 2022, bringing 20 Black community organizations together on the UW campus to share resources and be in community, and organizing the Black Excellence Gala, in which 11 Black Students, Faculty, and Staff were honored for their accomplishments on campus. As BSC Director, Garrett supports constituents across the Black Student Union, the NPHC, and many others across campus. Garrett was recently recognized at the 53rd annual Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMAD) celebration as the President's Achievement Award Scholar.
Garrett will start at USC Gould School of Law in the fall, where he hopes to focus on criminal law. He decided to pursue law school after taking an introductory law class, where the professor remarked that he had a real future in law. As NPHC president, Garrett was also involved in negotiations with the student activities office regarding Greek life memorandums of understanding, and successfully negotiated and funded the creation and installation of nine crests representing the NPHC in the HUB, which are owned by OMAD. Garrett also recognizes that a psychology education will set him apart in the courtroom -- as he notes, the intersection of psychology and the law “is a dangerous combo.”