Determined and Filled with Coffee: Olivia Grella

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Olivia Grella, 2013, Willimantic, CT

What are you up to? I'm in my senior year at Eastern Connecticut State University. I study psychology and have done a lot of research in the areas of eating disorders, body perceptions, cultural standards, and exercise behaviors. Other than that, I run cross country and track. I also work in the Advising Center where I help freshmen and sophomores with any school counseling problems or concerns.

How'd you get here?  A lot of coffee to carry me through long nights of sitting behind a computer running statistics. My roommates would rotate who would come to the lab and bring me the next cup. To be completely honest, I never thought I would become so invested in the research aspect of psychology.

When I first started psych I was completely set on becoming a high school guidance counselor and didn't want to spend time in any other area. But after I took a class where I conducted my own research on physique anxiety and exercise behaviors, I realized I wanted to keep doing more. I became close with some of my professors and started helping them with their own projects. I also became a TA for research classes and started helping other students with their research projects. With the guidance of one of my professors, I did an independent study where I looked at cultural standards, body perception, and eating disorder rates. It wasn't until I built these connections with my professors that I went back to my original research and starting doing more with it. This past December, I was given the honor to present this research at Eastern’s Psychological Science Conference. I’m in the process of finding new conferences, possibly ones outside of Connecticut, to present at. 

What are your goals?  I really want to go to graduate school and become a licensed clinical psychologist. I submitted applications to master’s programs in the area of clinical mental health counseling for the time being. Once this degree is completed, I plan to move onto a PhD program in clinical psychology and meet those licensure requirements. I plan on continuing to research and to start focusing more on eating disorders. I really want to use my degree to do something that will make another person's life better. This is where I feel the most passionate. My dream is to become an Eating Disorder Specialist and work on developing new prevention programs. Even though I "narrowed" it down to a concentration, I could still go in so many different directions. That's the great thing about psychology: even if I don't get there right away, the thought of working on a college campus as a clinical mental health counselor or working at an outpatient center with a mixture of patients would make me just as happy because I would still be helping other people improve their mental health.

Advice for WHS Students? Don't pick a path just because it's comfortable. For me, I wanted to be a guidance counselor because it was the only aspect of psychology that I really knew. I was comfortable knowing that the job was actually out there and it was attainable. I'm so happy though that I experienced different parts of psychology and found the research aspect to it as well as the clinical/counseling side. So I really encourage you to explore new things. I know it sounds cliche, but you only know what you've experienced and it's hard to make a life decision if all you know is what's happening around you. If you have an interest in a field, explore every part of it because you never know what you may discover. Also, I highly encourage getting to know your professors, especially if, you have any plans of going to graduate school. They really want to help you succeed and if you build relationships with them early on then you're going to be the one they remember for awesome opportunities. Overall, if there is something you are passionate about, pursue it. Don't let being afraid hold you back. More importantly, don't let others make the decision for you. Your dream may sound crazy now, but with lots of hard work and dedication, you'll be amazed at how much easier and attainable it seems to be.

What are the ingredients for a perfect day? Going for a long run in the morning and coming back to coffee and a good book!

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