Whitney Sullivan is a midfielder on the TCU soccer team. She is a psychology major with a child development minor, and graduates next spring. Sullivan knew she wanted to play soccer collegiately, so the soccer recruitment was what attracted her to TCU from North Carolina. She liked the small size of the school and the welcoming team environment she found.
Balancing her soccer career with academic demands is difficult, and requires Sullivan to plan ahead. When the team travels in the fall for games, she “doubles down” on assignments and lab time the week before they leave, in order to stay on track with her class assignments. Most of the lab work requires her to be in the lab because the systems are set up on the computers there, and professors are flexible with her schedule. Her academic advisors and coaching staff also help, by incorporating study hall sessions when away from campus. “They stress the importance of academics, which really motivates me to do well,” Sullivan said.
“Another thing I really appreciate is having so many academic resources available. I have reliable advisors and tutors, that help a lot with preparing me for a career in the field. These resources have been at my fingertips and TCU has done a good job of making that known,” Sullivan said.
In the TCU Developmental and Cognitive lab, Sullivan currently works on examining conflict resolution with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Her responsibilities include sitting in on visits with families, working with research assistants, and operating cameras and technical equipment.
Additionally, Sullivan works with a Physio System that interplays with Excel to examine sensory input and heart rates. She also helps with the effort to recruit families to participate in these types of studies. Recently, she has focused on coding videos, which involved reading behaviors and body language to draw conclusions about subjects.
Sullivan was originally a kinesiology major when she arrived at TCU as a freshman. During her senior year of high school, she took a psychology course that piqued her interest in this field. After having a personal experience with a family friend who was a clinical psychologist, she enrolled in some general psychology courses at TCU.
“After these courses, I was really, really hooked on psychology, and it was really hard to get me away from it!” Sullivan said. “I added a child development minor, and took some more in-depth courses, and my passion for the field just keeps growing.”
After graduating from TCU, Sullivan hopes to go to graduate school to obtain her doctorate degree, with future plans of becoming a clinical psychologist. In the athletic department, a GRE scholarship is offered to juniors and seniors who meet certain academic requirements. Sullivan applied and was granted the scholarship, which will cover the expenses of test prep for the GRE, as well as one attempt of the exam.
In the future, Sullivan wants to work with kids that have gone through some traumatic experience. Because of her work in the lab and various abnormal psych courses she has taken, she wants to focus on autism studies specifically.
“The psychology department has been so helpful and solidifying with my career goals. I’ve gotten help with my CV and research experience, and they’ve helped walk me through the application process. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with these kinds of things, but the psych department does a really good job of making resources available, and following through with them.”
Sullivan credited two professors with having a significant impact on her experience at TCU. She works with Associate Professor of Psychology Naomi Ekas in the developmental lab. Sullivan has taken three courses with her, and Ekas has been helping her with preparations for grad school. “Dr. Ekas has been so outgoing with her interest in autism and development science. I love hearing her story and how she got to where she is now,” Sullivan said.
Associate Professor of Professional Practice Ellen Broom also played a role in Sullivan’s career choice. Broom taught her in General Psychology, the first psychology course Sullivan took at TCU. This sparked her interest in the field, specifically since Broom is the only faculty member who is a clinical psychologist. She told Sullivan how and why she got started in this profession, as well as the different steps involved in becoming a clinical psychologist.
“TCU has shown me the benefit of making connections with people. Making personal connections with people in the career center, for example, helps build self-esteem and helps with people skills. TCU does a lot of that kind of thing unknowingly,” Sullivan said. “People that work in every department - career, psychology, athletics, whatever - they all want to help you. It’s evident in the way they talk to and connect with students. They really want to see you succeed.”