This profile originally appeared on the UMN Center for Academic Planning & Exploration website.
Laura Reimann, a child psychology undergraduate student, shares why she chose to study child psychology and gives advice for other students pursuing the major.
How and why did you choose your major?
As a freshman, I did an internship at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office, and it changed my entire outlook on mass incarceration and the effects it has on children and families. I heard devastating stories of separation, and of parents who knew their incarceration was impacting their children, but did not know how to mitigate those effects. They were scared and uncertain of where their children were and how they were doing. As I completed my internship I realized this was the area I wanted to try and help to change, but I knew that I did not want to be an attorney. So, I approached the child psychology advisor and asked for more information. He gave me some advice about how to choose a major and encouraged me to connect with Dr. Ann Masten. I read more about her research and about the classes in the major and knew this was where I wanted to be!
Please give a description (in your words) of your major including the things you learn, favorite classes, and any challenges you have faced.
The child psychology major is unique because it combines a lot of different class work with field work and research opportunities. During my time as a child psychology major, I have participated in a variety of activities, including field work at the University of Minnesota Child Development Center and have participated in research in the Masten Lab of Risk and Resilience and the Shlafer Lab, which studies the effects of mass incarceration on families.
What types of experiences outside of the classroom have you had relating to your major? (i.e. clubs, jobs, internships, volunteering, study abroad etc.)
I am involved as an officer in the Child Psychology Student Organization where we participate in various events which include community service, hosting guest speakers to talk about topics our members are interested in, and free food! During my first year, I had an internship at the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office where I got to see the court system in action and observe the effects of incarceration firsthand, which led to my involvement in research with Dr. Rebecca Shlafer, that systematically examines these effects. My research interests also led me to pursue an undergraduate research assistant position in the Masten Lab of Risk and Resilience, examining risk and protective factors in the lives of children experiencing homelessness and high mobility, under the direction of Dr. Ann Masten. Finally, I work on campus as a peer assistant at the University Honors Program.
In your opinion, what is one thing, or one piece of advice that other students pursuing your major should know?
Find something you are passionate about, get involved, and be assertive! The Institute of Child Development has so much to offer and it is so important to find an issue or area within the field that you are passionate about and find a way to work on it. Whether it is volunteering at a local school or spending your time in a lab doing research, make sure you love it. When you find something that you care about, be assertive and find a way to get involved. Even if you are nervous, approach professors doing research you care about and talk to them about what opportunities they know of that fall within your areas of interest. The undergraduate experience is what you make it, so pursue things you love and do not be afraid to try something new.