Grad profile: Emily Peterson

Emily Peterson

Name:  Emily Peterson
Age: 22
Major/Minor: Psychology/American Sign Language studies
Hometown: Tualatin, Ore.
Favorite campus event: Holiday Tree Lighting
Best study spot: Beside the piano in the WUC
Advice to incoming freshman: “Have fun while you’re at Western, this is your independence. At the same time, be responsible. This school has a lot to offer so set a time to where you’re involved with campus organizations and balancing academics and social life.”

It was four years ago that Peterson was drawn to Western for the small class sizes, chance to know professors one-on-one, and cheer team. Since then, she has made many new friends and established a career path she’s passionate about.

With a natural talent for drawing and interest in the arts, she initially declared as an art major.

“After a few terms, I realized that I couldn’t see myself doing this after I graduated, I didn’t want to be a starving artist,” she joked.

By chance, she took a psychology course and found the material interesting. The topic challenged her at first, but an interest and perseverance pushed her to continue a psychology major.

Emily cites Drs. Tracy Powell and Debi Brannan as primary academic mentors.

“They both pulled me through the program and supported me. I took every class I could with them.”

Two years ago, she began working at the Office of Disability Services (ODS), which served to be a strong influence in her career planning.

“My job at ODS has been a great opportunity to finally decide what I want to do with my life, and to work with and support students who have disabilities. I’m there to help students, even if I’m not in the office, students can stop me on campus and feel comfortable asking questions.”

Her passion for supporting students with disabilities has led Peterson to pursue graduate work in special education. This fall, she will be staying at Western to complete the SPED program.

The goal of becoming a special education teacher is significant to her on both a professional and personal level.

“I beat the odds of graduating with a disability and I am so excited to be starting another chapter of my life. I was diagnosed with dyslexia in first grade. I know what the students and parents are going through, and I want to continue learning how to be a supporter of students.”

Acknowledging how hard she has worked through university with her own learning disability, Peterson feels it is important to show other students they can succeed no matter what.

She plans to stay active with the WOU Cheer Team while working on her graduate degree, and taking time to relax with friends in the Monmouth-Independence area.