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Ilana Olin, M.P.H., M.S.W. (’09)
Graduate Student, University of Georgia
1. What was your favorite experience when you were majoring in psychology at Oglethorpe?
I highly enjoyed taking a “Directed Study” course with Dr. John Carton. During this course, I was able to design, conduct, and analyze a research study of interest. Here, I was able to apply many skills that I had learned in my psychology courses, such as theory-based methodologies in designing the study, and statistical procedures in analyzing the results. This provided me with a firsthand understanding of the many facets involved in conducting a research study to submitting an article for publication. In addition, I have continued to use the skills that I acquired during that Directed Study in my post-undergraduate career.
2. What was your favorite psychology class and why?
My favorite psychology class was “Theories of Personality.” This class was not only highly interesting, but it was also entertaining. For one, we learned about the various psychological theories, their developers, and how to apply them. However, the most intriguing aspect of this class was learning about the life experiences that led each theorist to devise his or her own theory of personality development. More often than not, it seemed that the theorist was highly biased by his or her early experiences and, thus, the theory of personality was rather a theory explaining that specific theorist's personality and developmental factors that contributed to it.
3. What did you do immediately following graduation from OU and how did it affect your path in life to date?
After graduation, I started working in Emory University's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Atlanta Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Here, I conducted psychophysiological research with veterans diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder in order to discover how fears are acquired, extinguished, and why, in the case with those with PTSD, they are maintained. In addition, we investigated biomarkers in order to find risk and resilience markers that predispose or protect one from developing PTSD. During these few years working in this field, I really enjoyed the research process and the public health impact of illnesses, physical and mental, became more salient. (Editor’s Note: Ilana’s work in this lab earned her authorship on a research paper published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, with co-authors that included Dr. Seth Norrholm, Dr. Barbara Rothbaum, and two other Oglethorpe Psychology alumni – AJ McCarthy and Justin Sabree).
4. What are you doing today and what inspired you to enter that field/profession/position?
I am currently pursuing my Masters in Social Work (MSW) and Masters in Public Health (MPH) at the University of Georgia (UGA). The above answers depict the work and educational experiences that have led me to pursue these two degrees. Additionally, all of the OU psychology courses bolstered my passion in research regarding mental and physical health. I think these two degrees meet my career-related and intellectual interests in life: mental and physical health, the mind-body connection, and the public health impact of these factors.
5. How do you use your psychology undergraduate experience in your work or life today?
I use my undergraduate psychology experience in my current academic pursuits. In creating public health programs for my MPH, it is highly important to understand and apply concepts, such as self-efficacy and locus of control, in order to properly tailor public health programs to the intended target audience. The connection between my psychology and social work degrees is much clearer; many of the same theories and therapeutic techniques are applied in both of these fields. Furthermore, I use my psychology experience in everyday life! The knowledge I obtained at OU helps me to better navigate the world, workforce, and my social life. I particularly like utilizing behavioral techniques to encourage positive behaviors and discourage unwanted or annoying ones J.
6. What advice do you have for students earning a degree in psychology at OU or who might be considering your profession?
I would advise students to consider potential graduate or doctorate level programs and careers they would be interested in pursuing in the psychological field. This is for the simple reason that it is highly difficult to earn a “comfortable” living from careers that only require a Bachelor’s in Psychology. This is not meant to discourage anyone from pursuing an undergraduate degree in Psychology; I promise it will be highly engaging, interesting, and you will learn valuable tools that will help you in both your personal and professional lives!