Newsletter Article

Meet the TrIG Peer Leaders

“By being a TrIG leader, I hope I am able to pay forward the comforting experience from my own TrIG.”
Rachel Odegaard, TrIG Peer Leader

Rachel Odegaard
Photo: Rachel Odegaard

Psychology TrIG peer leaders Rachel Odegaard and Vanessa Yuan are united in their desire to help create community and ease the transition for the first quarter transfer students in their classes. But, united as they may be in what they hope to accomplish as peer leaders, they came to their leadership roles from very different backgrounds and with different perspectives. While Rachel was drawn to the TrIG leader experience due to her own very positive first quarter UW experience, Vanessa saw her work as a peer leader as a way to help others avoid the confusion and loneliness that characterized her introduction to the University. “I decided to be a TrIG leader because I personally encountered a lot of challenges during my transition to UW,” says Vanessa, who did not have the opportunity to participate in a TrIG. “It was hard for me to concentrate and understand how to study for large lecture classes,” she remembers, “and it was also surprisingly hard for me to find a sense of belonging initially.”

Vanessa Yuan
Photo: Vanessa Yuan

Having grown up in Hong Kong, Vanessa arrived at UW as a transfer student for Pierce Community College, in Lakewood, WA. She chose UW because of its status as the premier educational institution in Washington State, and because of the large amount of research opportunities available for undergraduates. For Rachel, who grew up in neighboring Kenmore as the daughter of a UW alum and transferred from Shoreline Community College, the University was a natural choice. “We are certainly a Husky family,” she says. Having initially struggled in choosing her academic area of interest—English… journalism… nursing… psychology?—Rachel would find a much greater personal struggle was yet to come. At 21, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Although the treatment was by no means easy,” Rachel recalls, “I feel fortunate that it ignited a passion for school that I hadn’t felt since high school.”

Both seniors, Vanessa is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in psychology along with a Bachelor of Arts in communication, while Rachel is working on a psychology Bachelor of Arts with a minor in diversity studies. As they help to welcome the new UW students, they have no shortage of recommendations and words of advice for the aspiring psychology majors. For Rachel, Professor Nancy Kenney’s Psychobiology of Women class is a standout. “She was the most enthusiastic and entertaining lecturer I have ever had the pleasure of listening to,” says Rachel of Dr. Kenney, “I never missed a lecture and looked forward to class each day!” Vanessa credits Professor Jaime Diaz’s Introduction to Drugs and Behavior class, as well as other more clinically oriented courses, as having helped her to better define and refine her own area of interest. Both Vanessa and Rachel encourage their TrIG students to exploit the human resources available here at UW by forging connections with faculty, graduate students, and academic advisors.

Having made the move from community college to the UW, Rachel and Vanessa are now working toward their next big transitions—this time, to graduate programs. Vanessa plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology with a focus on depression and/or eating disorders in adolescent and young adult populations. Rachel is in the process of applying to the UW Master’s in Social Work program, with the goal of working in oncology counseling to provide support for cancer patients, their families, and caregivers.

Two students. Two very different backgrounds. One goal: to draw upon their own experiences—and challenges—to help ease the UW transition for this fall’s group of new transfer students