Newsletter Article

Psychology Graduates Reflect on Time in Department

Each year, the Psychology Department chooses an outstanding graduating student as our nominee for the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medal. We also select two impressive graduates to be featured speakers at our Graduation Celebration. Below are reflections from our Dean’s Medal nominee Alice Xing and out graduation event speakers Benjamin Chan and Ruwa Rehman.

Alice Xing

“Go to office hours! When else in your life are you going to have access to so many smart, cool people who are there to talk to you about their esoteric interests? For me, I find that I get automatically and unintentionally socially pressured to act more excited about and engaged in my research when I talk to other people about it, and that acting is good enough that I convince myself it's true. Having weekly meetings with my mentors and updating other professors about my project is a great way for me to stay motivated. Find what makes you motivated and make sure you have enough of it.”

(Alice Xing’s advice to future psychology majors)

Alice Xing is the Psychology Department’s nominee for the Dean’s Medal in the Natural Sciences Division of the College of Arts and Sciences. Alice is graduating Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in philosophy. She is a member of the Psychology Honors Program where she has been mentored by Psychology Professor Yuichi Shoda. Home for Alice is the Bellevue and Sammamish area.

Favorite memory as a psychology major: I have lots of good memories, but the one I'll highlight was in my freshman year (fall 2019). I was taking Psych101 and I went to office hours the week of Halloween. Dr. Jacquie Spector was the professor and she had brought two pans of brownies (one with nuts and one without) because it was her birthday the next day. She brought us (delicious, excellent) brownies for her own birthday. That act of generosity made a strong impression on me. And, Dr. Spector introduced me to London fogs! Also delicious!

Most proud accomplishment: Learning to code in R, at least well enough to visualize and analyze my data, has probably been the accomplishment I'm most proud of. I'd heard a grad student learning R in their first year of grad school recommend starting early, but I never imagined that I could actually do it. It seemed so complicated, but CS&SS508 really walked me through it in a manageable way. (Thanks Michael Pearce!)

Alice would like to thank: Thanks go to Cassie for enduring the Honors program with me, Dr. Laura Little and Dr. Debbie Paulsen for teaching me the invaluable skills of statistics, and of course Dr. Yuichi Shoda and Ishika Ray for mentoring me as a researcher and helping resolve the problems I create. Thanks as well to all my professors in the psychology and philosophy departments (Adrian Andelin, Colin Marshall, Monica Aufrecht, and Charles Ives, you're all really great), and to every other professor I've met who've helped round out my college experience (Katarzyna Dziwirek, Issa Abdulcair, Alain Gowing, and Jenny Graves, I'm mentally looking at you). Penultimately, thank you to my employers for giving me valuable life experience, hiring me despite my lack of any experience, and supporting all my scheduling needs: Jana Lamon from the Robinson Center at UW, Adrian Andelin from the Psych department, Nancy Howard at The Whole Cat and Kaboodle, and Drs. Li Jin and Yiwen Su at Su & Jin Acupuncture and Natural Healthcare. And lastly, thank you to my family for your financial, social, emotional, and feline support.

Benjamin Chan

“Take every opportunity to pursue off the beaten track. Your experience and life will be all the better from chasing those possibilities. Volunteer for a committee or council, take courses outside your major (or do two majors!), start your own independent study, find a student job in your field. I’ve not regretted taking all these opportunities, and my experience is richer for it. This is the time to freely explore and answer those questions of ‘what if I did this?’ and know from your own experience if that path is for you.”

(Benjamin Chan’s advice to future psychology majors)

Benjamin Chan was selected to be one of the two featured student speakers at this year’s Psychology Graduation Celebration. Benjamin graduates Cum Laude with a B.A. in psychology, a B.S. in informatics, and a business minor. Home for Benjamin is Singapore.

Favorite memory as a psychology major: I would have to say that while recent, it is still incredible to have conversations with the Psychology faculty. Office hours were best when they weren’t just test prep sessions, but an opportunity to discuss the field, paths forward, and more. Among those, the most fun I’ve had was in those conversations with Dr. Clara Wilkins and others interested in social psychology. Being able to engage in these discussions truly brings more of the topics to life.

Most proud accomplishment: While not related to academics, I will cite my term as Services and Activities Fee Committee Chair as the one I am most proud of. Opportunities abound in the university to experience things you never thought possible, and being able to impact university-level decisions is something I never thought I could do. I’m proud of being able to weather the particularly challenging year and come out the other end, and I never would have done that had I not been given that opportunity

Benjamin would like to thank: Caring staff and excellent faculty are impactful in a college experience, and I want to thank the really impactful ones for what they’ve done for me. It’s a long list but truly, an exceptional journey is not made alone, and all of them deserve all the thanks for what impact they had on me. Amanda Myhre in the UW LiveWell office has been nothing but a wonderful supporter of my entire journey, from my first on-campus work to many challenges beyond. UW iSchool advisor Dowell Eugenio – my degree wouldn’t be possible without him, and faculty Jin Ha Lee and Emma Spiro who guided me through exploration and research in the field of digital communities. Evans School faculty Ben Brunjes who opened my find to new ways of thinking. And, Psychology faculty Clara Wilkins for being so dynamic and helpful.

Ruwa Rehman

“In college we all get advice about attending classes and finishing assignments. I agree that working hard is extremely important, but I think one piece of advice that isn't heard a lot, is to be unapologetically yourself. Be it the classes you decide to enroll in, or in the activities you want to be involved in. Be it academic or otherwise, strive to be yourself first. Be proud of your accomplishments, your values, and your personality; be proud of the person you are. And care for yourself and your well-being. Give yourself grace when things don't go your way or when you make a mistake. I think it is so important to be kind to ourselves and to show up as our authentic selves for our own personal independence and growth.”

(Ruwa Rehman’s advice to future psychology majors)

Ruwa Rehman was selected to be one of the two featured student speakers at this year’s Psychology Graduation Celebration. Ruwa graduated this March with a B.A. in psychology. She was born in Chicago and grew up in Pakistan, but has called Seattle home for the last ten years.

Favorite memory as a psychology major: I think the first time I saw the cherry blossoms as a student. I had come to the Quad once, almost nine years before, as a tourist. But being able to see the cherry blossoms when the Quad wasn't packed, was mesmerizing. The first time I saw them, it was early morning, and there was almost no one there. I found a quiet spot under a tree and sat there for a long time. It was so peaceful, especially since I was able to make connections between what I had done as a person who had just moved to Seattle, and now as a UW student. A lot of my favorite activities at UW involved finding quieter, outdoor areas to explore, like the one area where all the blue heron nests are! It's amazing how much nature there is within the campus to explore. 

Most proud accomplishment: Making it to the Dean's List. There were several quarters where I felt stretched thin. While enrolled full-time at school, I was working full-time, juggling going to campus, finishing assignments and reading materials, going to work, and managing my home. I feel extremely proud that I was able to still excel in my classes despite struggling to manage my time between my different responsibilities. 

Ruwa would like to thank: I would like to thank my best friend for years of unconditional support and my partner for motivating me, and for always being there. I would like to thank Dr. Jessica Brand for helping me learn and grow, academically and personally, in the most mindful, patient, and kind manner. And lastly, I'd like to thank my advisor Carrie Perrin for supporting me and my goals, and for always believing in me and always motivating me.