Making your past-self proud
Since she was child, Alexandria Umbarger had a certain curiosity about the mind and how it works. It comes as no surprise, then, that Umbarger is about to graduate from IU Northwest with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
But what may come as a surprise is the slew of mental and external struggles Umbarger had to face as she pursued her passion. She grew up as a foster child and was denied opportunities that many other children took for granted.
“I was completely independent and wasn’t coming from a strong support system,” she said. “Sometimes it seemed like the world was against me.”
But Umbarger persevered, creating a healthy work-life balance, working on her mental health, and navigating ADHD. She soon found herself in Maureen Rutherford’s lab. The associate professor of psychology was working on research about the effects of drugs on the brain.
“Every day in the lab has been something new and exciting,” Umbarger said. “Dr. Rutherford has taught me so much, and I have had the time of my life working with her.”
Umbarger credits IU Northwest with giving her the resources to pursue her passion. She said not only did she have the chance to grow as a researcher, but she also had the opportunity to connect with professors and peers and develop skills, like public speaking and leadership.
“My favorite part about attending IU Northwest is the relationships I’ve developed throughout my journey here. From life-long friendships to mentorships, I’ll always cherish my experiences here,” she said. “IU Northwest gave me a sense of purpose.”
Looking ahead, the future is bright for Umbarger. Following graduation, she hopes to continue working in research labs and eventually obtain a Ph.D. in psychology and neuroscience. She said that her time in Rutherford’s lab has helped her explore several career paths and build experiences that will set her apart from other grad school applicants.
But at the end of the day, all of her aspirations for the future connect back to one thing: the little girl she was so many years ago. “I aspire to one day make the little girl I used to be proud by helping to improve the lives of the many people struggling with mental health disorders,” Umbarger said.
With her proven commitment to hard work and dedication to bringing important research to light, it’s no stretch to say that little girl is already beaming with pride.