Psychology Major Hones Skills Valued in Grad School and Beyond

September 20, 2019

Gabriel Shubert ’20

In high school, Sadie Kirschenman ’20 took an advanced-placement psychology class and quickly developed a sense that this would be her major in college. “I came to Grinnell knowing that I liked psychology, but many people told me that students often switch their majors, so I decided to try new courses my first semester,” she says. She sampled a mix of science and social science classes. 

When she took her first psychology course at Grinnell, Kirschenman rediscovered the discipline that she first fell in love with in high school, but in a much more nuanced way. “Intro Psych was much different at Grinnell than in high school. In high school we were learning theory from a textbook; but at Grinnell, not only did I learn theory but I learned how to read psychology literature, critique that literature, and form my own opinions. I also learned about research methods and how to generate research.” 

Since then, she has taken several psych courses that have a lab component. “The class labs were really important for learning research skills like collecting data and pulling meaning from our work,” she says.

Sadie Kirschenman ’20 next to her poster presentation
Sadie Kirschenman ’20 with her research poster presentation

Kirschenman put her research skills to work on a summer 2019 Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) with Christopher Ralston, associate professor of psychology. His research involves assessing the risk of juvenile sexual abusers to reoffend. Kirschenman’s role was “to use statistics to figure out how to optimize the prediction of recidivism when different risk assessment tools are used together.”  

Together, the two are writing a paper they’ll submit to a psychology journal. They will also present their work at the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers in Atlanta in the fall of 2019. The exciting prospect of getting published and a chance to speak at a major convention is a great chance for Kirschenman to reaffirm the skills she’s learned in class and apply them in the professional world of psychology.

Kirschenman is double-majoring in psychology and gender, women’s, and sexuality studies with a concentration in neuroscience.

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