We recently caught up with America Whitten (SFWGS/HS ‘09), currently a junior at University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is working towards an undergraduate degree in psychology. She will be taking the GRE next summer, and upon receiving her BA she is planning to attend graduate school in abnormal psychology.
America is pursuing her major through UCSC’s more demanding psychology intensive. Among the requirements for participation is the Field Study program where students gain the hands-on experience that is imperative for graduate study. America is one of two undergraduates working in the cognitive psychology research lab of Dr. Jean Fox Tree. Dr. Fox Tree specializes in researching the collateral signals that people produce, such as the discourse markers “well” and “you know”, fillers like “um”, repetitions, and repairs. America is currently working on a study that is looking at what we remember from overheard conversations and whether that memory is influenced by the relationships of the people conversing. Her responsibilities include administering tests, coding and transcription, as well as brainstorming new work. One of the youngest research assistants, America thinks that SFWS gave her the ability to think on her feet and be curious, as well as a strong desire for the hands on learning experience that lab research offers.
Overall, America feels well-prepared for her college studies, able to delve deeply into her courses while staying well-rounded. She particularly appreciates having studied Dante and US History at SFWHS because of the skills she gained in critical reading, analytical writing as well as the ease they gave her with primary source material - an important pre-requisite for her current studies. She also fondly remembers all of the non-academic work from SFWS—the plays, reading The Hobbit, and “running around getting to be a kid” are all highlights from her childhood.
Perhaps most importantly, America says that SFWS helped her develop a strong sense of self-knowledge. Responding to the tagline “Know yourself, know the world,” she says that knowing what you want to do with your life requires knowing who you are. This self-knowledge has allowed her to really dedicate herself to her chosen academic direction, allowing her to excel in her major and to look forward to graduate studies.