Alumni Spotlight

Harpreet Kaur '06
Doctoral Student
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Majors: Psychology, Biology

Activities: Psi Chi member and president, Psychology Club, Beta Beta Beta, Delta  Phi Upsilon

What first attracted you to Whittier College? I was initially drawn to the College's philosophy of questioning and challenging existing ideas. I wanted to be in an educational environment where I would build upon my creative thinking skills, while being challenged academically. The size of the school also attracted me to Whittier College. I wanted to be at a college where I would get to know my professors and peers, and Whittier College promoted that supportive yet challenging atmosphere.  

Why did you choose to study psychology? I was interested in the field of psychology as a young child. I volunteered in the Special Education class in the fifth grade and have continued on a path of service since then. Also, I have always been interested in how our biology, environment, and culture shape us as human beings. Pursuing an education in psychology has helped me chip away at the question and develop my own ideas about the human mind. 

Describe your experience at Whittier College. What was your favorite class? My experience at Whittier College was challenging, inspiring, and fun. I remember having thought-provoking discussions in my classes starting my freshman year. I was challenged in every class and knew my professors were invested in my success. I formed close relationships with my peers and faculty members. The relationships I formed with faculty and peers were essential to my success at Whittier  and beyond.

My favorite class at Whittier College was "Psychology of Women" taught by Professor Ayesha Shaikh. It was a course in which I applied theory and principles of psychology to everyday life. I learned to think critically about issues relevant to women and psychology. I have carried these skills with me since taking that class and her course inspired me to develop a course similar in content. I taught a "Psychology of Gender" course in Fall 2012 at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I used some of the assignments Professor Shaikh used in her class and the students gave positive feedback. I was very excited to read about students’ experiences in their reaction papers. I felt very proud when I read that my class inspired students similar to how Professor Shaikh's class inspired me. 

Did you intern while at Whittier College? Where, and what was that experience like? I interned at Whittier Area First Day Coalition. I worked closely with Don James and Ted Knoll to help author their Community Engagement Model. I also had the opportunity to attend group sessions and observe intakes. I enjoyed this experience because it allowed me to work closely with professionals in the community, work with a diverse population, and gain unique clinical experience. This experience confirmed my decision to pursue a doctorate degree in psychology. 

What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? My first job after Whittier College was at a learning center developing curriculum for students. I worked there part time while continuing to work as a research assistant for Professor Shaikh. I applied for Ph.D. clinical psychology programs and was accepted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I am currently a fifth-year doctoral student and just finished interviewing for internship positions at medical schools  and children's hospitals across the country. I am hoping to finish my doctorate degree in the next year and continue to serve maltreated children in foster care and adolescent victims of sexual exploitation. 

The education I received at Whittier College benefited me tremendously with respect to my current position. I strongly believe that my research assistant position and involvement in conference presentations made me a strong candidate for Ph.D. programs. Professor Shaikh, Professor Camparo, and other psychology faculty members did a great job preparing me for graduate school. The opportunities they presented were essential to my success in graduate school. I often think about their dedication to teaching and feel fortunate to have worked with such a great group of professionals. 

What advice would you give to future psychology students when they graduate? I would advise future psychology alumni to pursue their goals wholeheartedly. I heard numerous statistics about the low acceptance rates of clinical psychology programs and used that as motivation to work that much harder. I was able to strengthen my application with the support of faculty members at Whittier College. I would also advise future graduates to utilize resources at Whittier. We are lucky enough to get to know our professors (which sets us apart from many other schools) and they are very invested in our success. 

Finish this sentence: I am a ‘Poet for Life’ because… the lessons I learned in my four years at Whittier College continue to motivate me to challenge myself, inspire others, and serve my community.   

-Are you a graduate of the Department of Psychology and want to share your story? Contact the Office of Communications at therock@whittier.edu.

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