Graduation Keynote Speaker: 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."