The Brackenridge alum I chose to connect with via Pitt Commons was Sam Cwalina, a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California. It is incredible that as Pitt students we are able to make such connections with people across the country, and, I expect, the rest of the world. I chose to request a meeting with Ms. Cwalina due to our overlapping academic interests. As an undergrad, we both decided to study psychology, and we share an interest in public health as well. Through this connection I am hoping to gain a bit more clarity in regards to the process of applying to graduate school for psychology in particular, and what life as a doctoral candidate in the field of psychology may look like.
I expect that my experience connecting with my research mentor was quite uncommon for this fellowship, for she approached me about the possibility of conducting research through Brackenridge and offered her mentorship rather than me reaching out and seeking that guidance myself. Dr. Amy Murray Twyning was my professor this past spring for Imagining Social Justice (a class which I highly recommend- especially with Dr. Murray Twyning as an instructor). While in a meeting to discuss a paper for the class, Dr. Murray Twyning introduced me to the Brackenridge fellowship for the first time and suggested that I consider proposing a study. From there I began brainstorming ideas and ultimately decided to utilize this opportunity to finally study a phenomenon which has always been of interest to me. Thus I proposed my study of investigating depictions of mental illness in literature and discovered the notable concentration of such portrayals in classic Russian literature, resulting in the specific research I am now conducting. This study has sparked my newfound interest in Russian history, which I likely never would have stumbled upon otherwise. I am glad to be able to learn about an era and place that I have never before considered much in my academic career.
Before I continue my academic journey, I wish to have a bit of time in between my studies. My hope is to take a year off in between undergraduate and graduate school to take a productive break and see a bit of the world. I am therefore quite interested in connecting with individuals who have done this so that I can pick their brains about how to plan and fund such excursions. I think it is important to gain a more expansive worldview than Pittsburgh is able to offer, especially before delving into the world of academia and clinical psychology, as I hope to do in and beyond graduate school.
**featured image from Aberystwyth University**