Since 2014, the Psychology Leaders have represented the department through outreach, philanthropy, and teamwork.
Like most organizations, the past couple of years has caused the "Leaders" to reorganize virtually and tap their creative juices to find ways to continue that mission under unusual circumstances.
We spoke with the current President of the Psychology Leaders, Anooha Dasari to give us an update of what they have been up to during that and how you can join.
1 – Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved with Psychology Leaders?
I am a junior studying Psychology with majors in informatics and leadership studies. I'm on track to graduate in the spring of 2022, and I intend to further my education by earning a master's degree in counseling psychology. During my time at UIUC, I was a member of the Social Action Lab, where I worked as a research assistant coding social media data for Covid-19 research. In addition, I am currently an intern at Cunningham Children's Home, where I work with high school students at the CIRCLE academy school
My involvement with Psychology Leaders began during the second semester of my undergraduate studies.
I wanted to join an organization that would allow me to pursue my passions for leadership and service, and Psychology Leaders aligned with these goals. I began as a social media marketer, designing flyers and other marketing materials for our workshops and events. I am honored to be the president of Psychology Leaders for the past year and a half.
2 – With the challenges of a remote year and distancing that must have been challenging, what projects have you been working on?
During the remote year, the Psychology Leaders sought to focus on encouraging and supporting the student body by providing resources and assistance from skilled professionals. We designed three workshops: "How to Remain Competitive Despite Covid-19," "How to Beat Covid Slump," and "Resume Building." We also developed a Stress Relief PowerPoint to help students during finals week, based on materials from the counseling center as well as our personal experiences. We shared a Spotify playlist, stress management tactics, mental health resources, slides on how we deal with stress, motivational study videos, study ideas, mindfulness tips, and more!
The Psychology Leaders are always coming up with new and innovative ways to bridge the gap between the Psychology Department and the Psychology student body. We aspire to guide students to success while also connecting our community via alumni involvement and service.
3 – Please tell us about the current "widget project" from inception to production.
When faced with online study during the pandemic, I relied on fidget rings to alleviate the stress of the online classes. I realized that this unique tool could also be utilized to support students in the classroom. The seed was planted, and I developed it into a proposal for my community capstone project. I presented my idea to my classmates which centered on distributing fidget rings to classrooms to help with anxiety, ADHD/ADD support, and restlessness. They were taken aback because it was the first time many of them had seen a fidget ring. Once my team was formed, I enlisted the help of the Psychology Leaders, who were the project's primary stakeholders. The Psychology Leaders developed the marketing materials and funded the materials for our fidget jewelry-making workshop.
By the end of five months, we had produced over 40 rings at a school-wide workshop that we delivered to a nearby elementary school. We are currently working on sending a one-month check-in via surveys to kids and teachers to measure the growth (personal and academic) from utilizing the fidget rings and find methods to improve our project.
I was amazed that my small-scale project had a greater impact than I originally anticipated. This small, innovative step was able to service 40 students’ academic lives in my community by improving the learning environment and creating more accessibility for those with learning disabilities.
4 – We see you have been active on a fresh new Instagram account. Is this a group project? How do you decide what topics to cover?
Our Instagram account is a new addition to the Psychology Leaders organization. We wanted a platform that would allow us to better interact with our target audience and spread the word about significant issues that we all find inspiring. Each Psychology Leader chose a topic that they were passionate about and were designated a day to post. Sherry Zhang writes about sexual health every Monday. Larysa Brandys writes about healthy practices every Tuesday. Every Wednesday, I share a post about mindfulness and self-care. Katie Atac writes a Social Understanding (including Neurodiversity) post every Thursday. Lastly, every Friday Ashley Liu writes about stress. If you'd like to check out our Instagram profile, search for "psychologyleadersuiuc."
5 – What is the process if someone is interested in becoming a Psychology Leader?
Nikki Wynn oversees reviewing and accepting all applications from people who want to join the Psychology Leaders program. If you are a psychology major with a 3.0 GPA or higher, you can apply to be a member of the Psychology Leaders. Please send your Resume and a 250-word paper to Nikki Wynn, our coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about Psychology Leaders, as well as application requirements, can be found on our website at https://psychology.illinois.edu/academics/psychology-leaders.
Thank you, Anooha! We look forward to what is coming up next.