Keri Carter Pipkins (B.S. 1996)
* How/why did you choose Psychology as a major?
When I started college, I knew I wanted to help people, and I was interested in the field of psychology. At the time, I believed I would eventually go to graduate school, but I was unaware of the breadth of opportunities available until later in my college career.
* What specific skills did you develop by taking Psychology courses?
Critical thinking, problem solving, reading comprehension, academic (APA style) writing skills, written and verbal communication, active listening, teamwork, SPSS, and research methods.
* Outside the classroom, what opportunities/experiences were most beneficial?
Experiences interacting with the public were useful in helping me gain a broader perspective outside of campus. I didn't have an internship related to my career goal, but I did work every summer and the transferrable skills I gained as a lifeguard and swim instructor were extremely valuable in getting a job and getting into graduate school.
* Did you believe that you “had to” obtain more schooling after your bachelor’s degree?
I believed that "I had to" go to graduate school to be able to pursue a career in a counseling profession, but I did not believe I had to go to grad school to get a job out of college.
* In retrospect, what would you have done differently as an undergraduate?
Absolutely! I would have volunteered in the community more, studied abroad, and pursued academic research opportunities. I did not take advantage of the opportunities this university and the Champaign-Urbana community provide as a student.
* If you continued more schooling after your bachelor’s degree, share your reasons.
Initially, I came into college assuming I had to earn an M.D. and become a psychiatrist or a Ph.D. to become a psychologist if I wanted to be a counselor or therapist. By my senior year, I had learned there were master's level degrees that might allow me to do this work. Initially I thought I wanted to work with children in a school district as a guidance counselor, social worker, or school psychologist. Instead of guessing which route to take, I went back to my summer job full-time and used my spare time to research graduate programs and career options. I decided on Counseling Psychology and chose Northern Illinois University's Counselor Education program.
* Describe how you utilize your undergraduate Psychology skills in your current job/career.
I use my undergraduate experience every day as I work with current Illinois students. In addition to many of the transferable skills I mentioned above, I utilize my knowledge of various theories as well as my abilities to analyze and synthesize information.
* What pearls of wisdom can you offer to current undergraduate students?
I did not truly appreciate the education I received as an undergraduate until I started graduate school. I felt extremely prepared for graduate study because of my experience as a Psychology major at Illinois. Also, I encourage psychology majors to begin exploring careers early by reading about careers, talking to people in interesting careers, and working or volunteering in a variety of settings. Many psychology majors pursue successful careers without continuing their education and some, like me, do not go immediately to graduate school. Learn about your options and keep an open mind.
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