Advice From Psychology Honors Convocation Awardees

As an opportunity to reflect on and share their experiences with current and future USD psychology students, the following awardees have provided insight about majoring in psychology at USD.

2013-2014 Awardees

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 Laura Gruninger, Distinguished Graduate in Psychological Sciences

Laura would like to gain some work experience within the field of psychology or social work prior to pursuing a graduate degree.

Additional congratulations to Laura as USD's 2014 valedictorian!


Jason Kowalczyk, Distinguished Graduate in Psychological Sciences

Before continuing onto graduate school, Jason wants to take a year off during which he plansto continue his work with Dr. Goldschmied, begin work with Dr. Weyant, and look for more opportunities to assist in research.

Once in graduate school, Jason plans to earn a PhD in Social Psychology with the intent of becoming a professor.

2012-2013 Awardees:

Photo Awardee


Ashley Taylor, Distinguished Graduate in Psychological Sciences

Ashley is going to Rosalind Franklin University in the fall to start a doctoral program in clinical psychology. Ultimately, she would like to have her own practice and start her own empirically based outreach programs to reduce stress and promote healthy habits in college students.


Rosa Vessal, Distinguished Graduate in Psychological Sciences

Rosa will be busy this summer with an internship, volunteering, studying for the GREs, and planning her August wedding. She will be moving to Arizona after the wedding where she hopes to find a research position, a job in a psychiatric hospital, and apply to masters programs in psychiatric nursing.

Tiana Hayden, Achievement in Research In Psychological Scienes

Tiana plans on applying to graduate school in psychology in the Fall of 2014. In the meantime, she will continue to further her psychological research and work on mastering her GREs. She says, “I can't wait to continue my education in such a wonderful and exciting field.” 

Kelly Goldsteinholm, Achievement in Research in Psychological Sciences

Kelly plans to continue her research at the VA hospital (she’s involved in running a research study addressing effective means of behavioral intervention for veterans with PTSD, depression, and substance abuse disorder). She is taking the GRE and applying to graduate school in the fall. Kelly plans to get her PhD in clinical psychology and would like to work in private practice or at a treatment center for substance abuse.

Daniel Beeunas, Academic Achievement Award

Daniel is a double major in Business Administration and Psychology, and his immediate plans after graduation are to work for a couple years to obtain experience and then perhaps return for an MBA. Long term he would like to find a job where his Psychology experience is useful as well, and he is currently looking into consulting work.

Caiti McDaniel,  Academic Achievement Award

Next semester, Caiti will be attending Colorado State University to earn a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy. She hopes to become a pediatric occupational therapist and work with kids with developmental disabilities.

1.) What was one of the most meaningful aspects of your experience and education as a psychology major at USD?

Ashley: Each of my professors took a personal interest in my education and my graduate goals. The advice ranged from formal class information in the “Welcome to the Major” course to quick chats in the hallways. EACH professor I have had the opportunity to work with in lab settings and in class have given me the tips to succeed and pursue a serious career in psychology. I appreciated their extra effort on top of being great professors- it was truly motivating!

Rosa: The relationships I built with other students in psychology club, psychology journal club, and undergraduate research. These friends are my role models. I learned so much from them including how to get involved in research, find internships, study for the GREs and apply to graduate school. Most important of all, they made Serra Hall feel like home.

Tiana: Presenting my research at the Western Psychology Association (WPA) 2012 Convention. Through the benevolence of USD's provost office, I was granted the opportunity to go to San Francisco and present the work my mentor, Dr. Ichiyama, and I completed the previous summer. During my time there, I was able to meet renowned researchers in the field of psychology, mingle with fellow student researchers, and accept the WPA award for best student research paper. I would highly recommend students studying psychology to attend these conferences. It was an awesome experience.

Kelly: Research with Dr. Blaser was hands-down the most important and personally meaningful aspect of my experience at USD. I feel that I learned so much from her-- how to understand ethical guidelines when conducting a research study, how to apply for and utilize grant funding, and how to submit a scientific article/book chapter to get published! I feel that getting involved in research was even more educational and important for me than my classes were (although I think those were great as well!)--getting involved in research truly showed me that I could achieve anything that I put my mind to and worked hard at--I never thought I would be graduating USD as a published scientific writer!

Daniel: Discovering how helpful and friendly all of the professors in the Psychology department are. All of the professors I had from Freshman year through Senior year not only taught the material well, but were always available and willing to help during office hours. I also had the pleasure of working with Dr. Galván and Dr. Koenig for my Honors thesis, “The Impact of Leadership Style on Employee Motivation,” and they were both incredibly helpful and fun to work with.

Caiti: Being a research assistant was the most meaningful activity I participated in as a Psychology major. Putting the theories learned in class into practice was a great contribution to the learning process. In addition, working so closely with a professor really allowed for academic and professional growth.

Laura: Besides getting to know all of the amazing professors in the Psychology Department, being selected to be a Peer Coach this semester in the Center for Student Success has been very meaningful. In this role, I served as a peer mentor or "coach" to students who were struggling with academics or other concerns. Not only was it meaningful being able to help my peers, but also I gained practical experience in a counseling role.

Jason: All that I learned from my research experience: I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Goldschmied, an amazing psychology professor. Through my research experience with Dr. Goldschmied, I gained a deeper understanding of both the theories I learned in class and the process involved in supporting or refuting those theories. It was not until I got involved that I truly came to appreciate everything offered in the area of psychology. From what I have heard, it is great to work with any professor at USD due to the amount of insight they can provide and the amount of effort they put forth toward your education. Even those students who do not conduct research can gain much from the professors at USD because they are great teachers and really do care about your academic success.

2.) If you could give one piece of advice to prospective or current psychology majors, what would it be?

Ashley: GET TO KNOW YOUR FACULTY! Everyone in the department is friendly and willing to offer practical advice (sometimes research opportunities!) to students who show interest. Also, taking the internship course was a huge boost to my future graduate career, and I suggest anyone seriously interested in psychology should take it.

Rosa: Join Dr. Galván's research team! She pays you in hugs, homemade ice cream, research parties and superb research experience! I learned so much from Dr. Galván and everyone in our team.

Tiana: Take advantage of the amazing faculty at USD. We have the privilege of having a super knowledgeable and friendly staff right at our fingers. Seize the opportunity to talk with your professors after class and during office hours about class materials or any questions you have related to the field of psychology. Offer to get involved in their research if that is something that interests you. There will be no other time in your life that you will have such direct access to these high level thinkers, so take advantage! The close relationships I have made with the department facility has helped me reach new heights in my psychological studies and has helped me determine my career path post graduation.

Kelly: GET INVOLVED in research!! It might seem scary to approach faculty especially if you're new in the major, but all the professors are so nice and really helpful. They always appreciate student interest in their work--the best thing I did for myself the entire time at USD was ask what I thought were stupid questions--that's how I ended up where I am in research today!

Daniel: Do not procrastinate. There’s overlap in a lot of psychology courses and you will retain the information better and for longer if you don’t simply cram before an exam. Additionally, don’t be afraid of Biopsych! I had it with Dr. Galván and it’s not as bad as people claim it is if you go to class and take notes. Plus, office hours are very useful if you need help!

Caiti: Challenge yourself. The department offers a variety of ways to get involved as well as a broad spectrum of classes. Whether it be taking a difficult class, presenting at a department event, or doing an internship, putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is the best way to learn.

Laura: Get to know your professors. Those in the Psychology Department can provide students with great advice and valuable information on potential career paths in the field, as well as talk students through the different graduate programs.

Jason: Get involved with as many things as you can outside of class. You should figure out what aspects of psychology interest you and pursue whatever that entails. Do not think that your only option is to conduct lab experiments; there are many options including internships and clubs. Through these experiences, you will come to value and appreciate your education more and will come to understand what you want to do with everything you learn in psychology.