“My experience at MSU has prepared me to be successful for the rest of my life,” said Sterling, a senior psychology major. “I looked into what sort of programs were offered in this field of study and I thought they would be interesting.”
After completing high school in 2014, she went to college for a few semesters in both Lincoln, Nebraska, and her home state of South Dakota. In spring 2016, she transferred to Missouri State University to enroll in the forensic child psychology program.
At Missouri State, Sterling was able to explore psychology in more depth and enrich her educational experience by working as both a teaching assistant and research assistant.
She served as a teaching assistant for two courses – Educational Psychology and Psychology of Diverse Populations.
“The experience allowed me to get a better understanding of what I was learning because I also had to be able to teach it or understand it enough to grade assignments,” Sterling explained.
“Not understanding diverse populations means you don’t understand everyone.”
Growing up and studying in areas that lacked diversity motivated Sterling to engage in diversity research at MSU.
“I realized it was important to focus on this topic for research and psychology because a lot of the times it’s disregarded – even though not understanding diverse populations means you don’t understand everyone,” she said.
As a research assistant, Sterling worked on several projects alongside Dr. Adena Young-Jones, associate professor of psychology at MSU. One was an online microaggressions study that looked at people’s reactions to the use of insults or discriminatory language in everyday life.
Another was a bogus-pipeline study, a replication of a study conducted in the 1970s. Sterling collected data from participants to evaluate whether they were aware of their own biases while also assessing implicit prejudice.
Sterling said conducting research about diversity taught her the importance of looking at things from someone else’s perspective.
“It might be cultural or individual, but every single person has a different upbringing. Not accepting and understanding that means we aren’t going to understand why they do things a certain way.”
Sterling plans to further her studies in clinical psychology. She has applied to a few doctoral and master’s programs that focus on children and trauma.
“I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had at Missouri State,” Sterling said. “They’ve helped to not only expand my knowledge, but also show me what I would be getting into after I graduate.”