Kelsey Handley | Distinguished Undergraduate Scholar; Academic Excellence By a Major in Psychology

Other Awards: Psi Chi Inductee

Major: Psychology 

Minor: Human Development 

Hometown: Hueytown, AL

Favorite Experience: In February of 2020, I began volunteering with the Action Team at the Women and Gender Resource Center. I cannot stress enough how valuable and enriching it was for me to be even the smallest part of such an organization. As a member of this volunteer-based team, I was expected to serve and take initiative on projects and events meant to spread social justice awareness. There are so many different events, outreach programs, and services offered by the WGRC, and to pick one or even a few to highlight is a difficult task. One example, however, that does stick out in my mind as having significance occurred in a 2021 meeting at which I was able to participate in writing anonymous letters to survivors of domestic violence. We, as a team, encouraged one another to really consider the feelings of these survivors and our own responsibility to advocate for their safety and wellbeing. It was an emotional experience for many of the volunteers, including myself. Experiences such as these that I had throughout my semesters with the WGRC had tremendous influence on my personal and professional goals. I learned the importance of advocating and caring for others within the context of gender-based violence, and I gained much knowledge about the clinical resources that are available to survivors of such violence/abuse as well as the role of social workers, specifically Licensed Clinical Social Workers, in intervening and directly helping survivors. I have no doubt that my time with the WGRC contributed to my decision to pursue a career in clinical social work, and I hope to actively work toward and promote compassionate care for individuals, families and communities.

Favorite Class: It is difficult to choose only one class, as I absolutely loved most of the classes for both my major (Psychology) and my minor (Human Development and Family Studies). However, I think I can narrow my favorite class to a three-way tie between Abnormal Psychology (PY 358 with Dr. Beck), Social Psychology (PY 372 with Dr. Hart), and Adult Development (HD 412 with Dr. Fowler). These three classes all deserve recognition for two main reasons. First, the content of each is not only highly interesting, but they also taught me so many valuable and fascinating concepts, theories, and current research regarding human behavior, mental health, and interpersonal relationships. I believe much of what I learned in these classes will be helpful in my future academic and career aspirations as well as in my daily life as a person who desires to connect with others and spread positivity. Secondly, a crucial component of a good class is the quality of the professor. Each of the three professors I listed above are passionate about the field and go beyond simply teaching the course material. They fostered a classroom environment that encouraged student involvement. When it came time for me to apply to graduate school, one of the above professors even graciously agreed to write and submit a letter of recommendation for me. For all of these reasons, I would highly recommend each of these three courses and professors to any UA student, regardless of their major.

Future Plans: In the immediate future, I plan to attend graduate school to pursue a Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree. I am passionate about the fields of mental health and social justice, and I have always aspired to pursue a career that allowed me to directly help others navigate life and find harmony in their relationships with others. I have always been a problem-solver, but more than that, I have always been sensitive to the needs of others. After obtaining my MSW, I will hopefully have a number of options regarding my next professional steps. Whether I begin supervised work and pursue my license for clinical practice, focus on working for nonprofit organizations in my community, or go back to school to obtain a higher degree with the hopes of becoming a professor, I know that the past four years at UA have prepared me to feel confident in the pursuit of my goals and aware of the opportunities that I have to work toward a life and career that is fulfilling and meaningful on a greater level than myself.