Lauren Morrison ’21
Next Step: PhD in clinical psychology at Stony Brook University.
Because a liberal arts degree can take you anywhere, many BCLA students’ career trajectories take unexpected twists and turns while others follow a more linear career path directly related to their major. In the fall, Lauren Morrison will be continuing her psychological research as a Ph.D. candidate at Stony Brook University. Morrison’s interest in psychology began when family members with autism and dementia revealed how variable everyone’s neurology is, and how much it can change over time. While her interest in the brain was sparked from an early age, her first real chance to study it was in an AP Psychology course in high school.
It was during her senior year of high school in Long Beach, CA that she decided to apply to LMU. “It was far enough from home where I could live on campus and have my own experience, but still close enough to go home and see my family,” explains Morrison. After attending the Black Student Overnight experience, the deal was sealed. “I was able to see the kind of community LMU has for Black students through the relationships they had with their staff and faculty. Four years later I can definitely say that I made the right decision!”
Morrison has developed a range of skills expected of graduate students and is leaving the Bluff as a formidable researcher. She started out as an Engaged Learning Assistant for Professor Deanna Cook and then worked in the Psychology Applied Research Center (PARC) as an Undergraduate Research Assistant. “Following my first year at PARC, I participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, where I independently researched the impact of intersectionality, discrimination, and conformity on health disparities in Skid Row,” recounts Morrison. “This furthered my interest in research as a career, and after conversing with a pediatric psychologist at the Black Graduate Conference in Psychology, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. Currently, I am independently working with a post-doc researching college students and vaping behaviors.”
She credits LMU’s approach to research, which emphasizes an ethical framework and partnerships with local community organizations, as well as her Jesuit and Liberal Arts education for making her stand out to graduate programs. “LMU offered an interdisciplinary education, and tons of programs and opportunities to explore my interests,” says Morrison. “I was able to complement my psychology major with a bioethics minor and courses in sociology and African American studies to gain a comprehensive education. I was able to understand issues of psychology, but also the social, racial, and ethical implications behind psychological health disparities.” In her junior year, Morrison took Professor Stefan Bradley’s “Black Community Engagement” course, where she had the opportunity to volunteer at Loyola Village Elementary School as a learning tutor. “Dr. Bradley was an amazing professor and allowed me to do work in the Black community and taught me the importance of doing so and the history of the work I was doing.” This ability to synthesize knowledge from different disciplines helped Morrison situate her psychological research in a bigger, more nuanced ethical picture – and to apply it in real-world contexts.
Despite a busy class and research schedule, Morrison also found time to devote herself to extra-curricular activities. She has been heavily engaged in student life as a member of #BlackatLMU, and as President of the Tau Kappa chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She also held undergraduate representative positions on the BCLA Student Engagement and Success Committee, as well as the Presidential Black Leadership Accountability Council. All of which were valuable networking tools and service opportunities for Morrison.
Morrison applied to DePaul University, University of Houston, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and Northwestern University, but the environment at Stony Brook helped her arrive at her decision. While Stony Brook’s highly ranked Clinical Psychology program matched with her research interests and offered competitive funding, the warmth of its faculty and students reminded her of LMU.
Morrison’s ultimate career goal is to become a pediatric psychologist. “I want to combine research and clinical work to help children navigate the world with a better quality of life and the sustainable skills to deal with their disorder(s) and burdensome aspects of their environment” Morrison says. The advice she offers to incoming students is to “look into and take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Not all of them will fall in your lap, so it is important to build relationships with as many people as possible because you never know where a connection will lead you.”