Arianna Stone is a Psychology major with a minor in Social Science. She is from Salem, Ore, and originally earned her Associates of Arts Oregon Transfer degree from Chemeketa Community College before transferring to WOU. As a 2020 graduate, we interviewed Stone about her impact on multiple WOU communities, her fondest memories, and her future plans.
Are you a first-generation student? What has your experience been like?
I am a first-generation, non-traditional student. My experience has been incredible! It’s been, at times, unbelievably difficult, terrifying, and deeply alienating; at the same time, so joyous and full of wonderful growth and laughter and friendship. My daughter was a year old when I went to college, and I was pregnant with my son for my entire sophomore year. While it has been emotionally so challenging, I have also had the remarkable honor of watching my kids grow up inside institutions of higher learning where they feel a comfort that I never had (and maybe still don’t entirely feel after all these years!), so that has been amazing.
It has been different, as well, not having any family to really go to for advice or guidance about college, but that has given me opportunities as well. I have had the chance to help my older sister come to school as well, and she will be the second person in our family to earn a college degree in 2021, a Math major and a Ford Scholar (can you tell I’m proud of her?). What I didn’t have, I’ve been able to become and embody, which is something that I cherish about my experience as a first-generation student.
Could you tell us how it feels to graduate with honors?
I will graduate Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA–I’m just really proud of that. I worked so incredibly hard for that; it was absolutely never easy. I had to bust my chops every single term. and I just want to say that it was so many days of burning the candle at both ends, working 40 hours a week at one job, 10 hours a week at the other job, 16 credit hours at school, plus being a tutor, TA, RA, advisor, wife, mom, and sometimes having the opportunity to sleep. I had one term where I genuinely didn’t get to sleep for longer than five continuous hours for the entire term. Studying at two a.m. with the baby in my arms, studying at the cashier desk at my night job, coming to class straight after working a night shift and not sleeping until that afternoon–I just never quit because it was so important to me.
What has been your most memorable class?
Dr. Cloud’s Cognitive Psychology 360 class was my very first class in-person at WOU. I remember I was self-conscious, because I had given birth to my son in July 2018, over the summer between transferring from Chemeketa to Western, and I took my first term (fall 2018) all online, so that I could spend a little more time with him when he was still a newborn. So, it was winter 2019, I was really nervous in a new school that seemed huge and scary compared to my little community college, and I felt old at 29, really frumpy from my baby weight, and just so nervous.
It turned out that Dr. Cloud was also coming back for her first term back from maternity leave, she had just had her second child in June, and we had a lot in common. Also, I didn’t know it then, but I loved cognitive psychology. Like, that is actually my passion in this life. I was made to be in that field, so it was a match made in heaven. I ended up working in Dr. Cloud’s lab and she was (and still is!) a mentor for me. I will never forget that first day in class and afterwards feeling like, “Okay! If that woman is going to be at least one of my teachers, I can definitely do this!”
What have some of your extracurriculars been?
I have been a research assistant, teaching assistant, writing tutor, psychology peer advisor, and Psi Chi Honor Society executive board member during my time at WOU. I have also held an outside job, two internships, and been involved with the Childhood Development Center at WOU, where my daughter attended preschool (until the lockdown).
Because of this, I spent a lot of time on campus! I did this because I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, but also because I genuinely wanted to be involved in these activities. I have loved very few things more than I have loved being a research assistant in Dr. McCarthy’s Cognition, Action, & Perception Lab and Dr. Cloud’s Evolutionary Social Psychology Lab. I always sign up to TA more of Dr. Brannan’s 301 classes because I love helping her students learn Introductory Research Methods–it’s such an exciting time for so many students, as they learn for the first time how amazing research is! Working in the Writing Center is one of the most kind, gentle, encouraging, and loving work environments that I have ever been involved in anywhere, let alone a place where I have been paid to work. Giving my time to students to advise them on their classes and path to graduation as a Peer Advisor has been some of the most personally gratifying work that I have done on campus, and working with our Psi Chi chapter has helped to keep the chapter alive and welcome new high-performing Psychology students to be recognized for their achievements. Every part of my extra-curriculars at WOU have been tied to my overall love for Psychology, my future career goals, and things that made me happy, supported my growth, and gave me and my family a greater sense of community and belonging. I wouldn’t give up any of those responsibilities for the world, even if they did add more to my plate.
Do you have any advice for current and prospective students?
Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, every single time. You don’t have to be the smartest or the strongest, but if you are the one awake late into the night working, putting the hours in, tirelessly striving for your goals, you will be the one who feels like a winner at the end of the day. I know that it sounds corny and cheesy, but that really was my secret for success–I just genuinely worked as hard as I possibly could every single day.
What has been the highlight of your time at WOU?
The teaching opportunities that I have had at WOU have been the most amazing part of my time here. I absolutely credit all of the professors who have given me the opportunity to tutor, TA, and guest lecture with helping me figure out the right career path for [my life] and the place where I feel the most at home and the most comfortable. From all of the behind-the-scenes peeks behind the curtain as a TA (especially as the almost constant TA in Dr. Brannan’s many 301 classes!) to the wonderful experiences in the Writing Center helping students from every major with different writing challenges, I have been given so many opportunities to build and hone the skills I will need in my future.
One instance that especially stands out is when Dr. McCarthy, another professor who has been a mentor to me throughout my time at WOU, gave me the opportunity to give a full lecture in class and prepare all of my own materials from the book chapter. It was so much work that I didn’t expect, but I was thrilled. Afterwards, reading the evaluations that he asked students to give me at the end of my class gave me the ego boost of a lifetime. I still look at those evaluations when I’m having a bad day to cheer me up!
What do you love most about the major/minors you completed?
I am so passionate about psychology because I think it underlies every important thing that we do as humans. I think that many problems can be solved by considering a psychological approach, and I believe that we are on the cusp of a great new awakening in terms of psychological advances and ways to utilize psychology as a resource within other disciplines. My husband is in medicine, and we talk often about how many patients would benefit from not only therapeutic clinical psychological care, but also from psychological resources outside direct patient care–like industrial/organizational psychological interventions in hospital management. Cognitive psychology has a lot to say about how we can accomplish our goals, teach and learn, raise our children, have successful marriages and interpersonal relationships, modify our behaviors, and so many more things that are relevant to the vast number of problems that people face every day. I see psychology as a lens that can tell us a lot about how we work internally and thus give us tools to solve problems externally, and I am excited about how we better integrate this awesome discipline into the future.
What has been your biggest achievement, success or accomplishment in college?
Getting accepted into grad school is probably the biggest accomplishment, because it represents all the other accomplishments rolled into one, for me. Earning my bachelor’s degree alone has been my dream for quite a few years. Being able to do it and show my children that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams is pretty gratifying. I feel that I have made my parents, my kids, and my husband proud of me, and that is an amazing accomplishment.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I have been accepted into a Psychology Ph.D. program at Oregon State University in fall 2020, so that’s the next stop on my journey. The program I’m in has an emphasis in Applied Cognition, and the lab I am working in is specifically focused in teaching and learning. We are already working on a project (online, of course!) to collect data surrounding remote learning during the coronavirus crisis and looking to analyze the ways that professors and students are finding to make distance learning the most effective.