Student Spotlight: Amanda Parrella C’21

Amanda Parrella C’21 

What attracted you to Drew?

I loved how the Drew Community is small and connected. I wanted to be able to form relationships with my professors and peers, and I knew Drew would give me the opportunity to do so.

Why did you choose to major in psychology?

I knew I wanted to major in psychology since I was in high school. I chose psychology because I have always had an interest in human nature, and dedicated to mental health and encouraging others to seek help. If we want to truly understand each other and be able to show compassion, we have to give people the language to be able to talk about and describe their emotions. Unfortunately, many people have a hard time being able to describe what they are feeling, and I believe this is largely due to the fact that as a society we don’t talk about emotions. This is specifically why I am focused on the importance of childhood and so passionate about this area. Things that happen in childhood can completely change the trajectory of our lives, and I want to be a part of the change that teaches children about recognizing their emotions and being able to communicate those emotions effectively to others. I also want to help children understand they are never alone in feeling those emotions and to never feel ashamed for experiencing them.  I am very passionate about the importance of giving people the language and the vocabulary to be able to describe themselves so we can all connect with one another. I have always dreamed of opening up my own clinical practice one day.

Have you done any internships?

I was inspired by Dr. Kalagher’s course in Adulthood to complete an internship at a nursing home. I was an activities intern at CareOne from August 2019 to February 2020, where I engaged closely with over 40 residents to improve their day-to-day mental health. I was able to do this by leading recreational activities like crafts and bingo that also helped increase their cognitive functioning. Interning at CareOne was one of the greatest experiences I had off campus at Drew.

Do you have any mentors at Drew?

I have been so lucky to have two incredible mentors at Drew. The first is Professor Dr. Hilary Kalagher who is also my academic advisor. So many of her classes have completely inspired me and changed my life. She has truly aided me throughout my time at Drew, encouraging me to take full advantage of all the wonderful opportunities Drew has to offer. She has always believed in me, even when I would doubt myself. My second mentor is Psychology Professor Dr. Adijat Mustapha. I had the chance of a lifetime to complete an independent study with her last Fall. Each week we met over Zoom to discuss various classes of clinical disorders and evidence-based psychotherapy. The weekly conversations I had with her are something I will always remember, and I truly believe that experience has made me a better person. I am forever grateful to both Psychology Professors Kalagher and Mustapha and hope they continue to be my mentors even once I leave Drew. I am so honored to have two strong and intelligent women as mentors.

Besides English, I grew up speaking Italian at home and I am so grateful for Italian Professor Dr. Emanuele Occhipinti for helping me grow and perfect my Italian. His classes helped me grow a greater love for the Italian culture and language.  Professor Occhiptinti has been another wonderful mentor of mine who has been so incredibly supportive and kind to me.

What issue in the world means the most to you?

The issue that means most to me is mental health. I particularly want to work towards breaking the stigma around help-seeking. We all experience times in our lives where we would benefit from seeking help and guidance of someone else. For my capstone project this semester, I was able to complete a poster titled Gendered Perceptions of Help-Seeking for Depression,” that outlined the stigmas society has around help-seeking, especially around men, and how that is harmful for both males and females. Harmful rhetoric is used against women to wrongly illustrate that they are allowed to seek help because they are weak and emotional, and of course, it prohibits men for seeking the help they not only need but deserve.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew?

One of my favorite memories at Drew was being able to complete my own research project titled Gendered Perceptions of Depression: A Sad Comparison.” The entire time I was under the supervision of Psychology Professor Dr. Christopher Medvecky who offered me so much guidance and support throughout this experience. My research project aimed to investigate how gender influences people’s conceptualization of depression symptoms (as described in a vignette) and recommendations for help-seeking behavior. In this study, I found that while the gender of the vignette character did not influence participants’ conceptualization of the severity of depression symptoms, participants were more likely to indicate that the female character should seek help. These results speak to the influence of gender socialization as a potential barrier to establishing needed mental health services.

How has being a first-generation college student influenced your journey at Drew?

I am so excited that in a few weeks I will be the first in my family to graduate from college!

Being the first in my family to graduate from college has motivated me to work hard and show gratitude throughout my entire four years.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out that you wish you had when you started?

Take classes not only for the purpose of fulfilling a requirement but just because it interests you. The professors at Drew are truly here to be your mentors, so I would say to start making connections with them. They will be your biggest support system and resource, especially when it comes to finding internships and jobs. Finally, and most importantly, I would tell all the students to always practice self-compassion.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

In 5 years, I hope to be practicing as a clinician helping children and adolescents.

Are there any fun facts you would like to share?

During my free time, I love to bake! It is a creative outlet for me and I love sharing my desserts with my friends and family.

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