Ashley Righetti just needed a little nudge. The UW Tacoma senior and first-generation college student didn’t know what to expect when she transferred from Pierce College to campus. She had a budding interest in psychology but Righetti’s family wanted her to pursue business. “I started asking around and meeting with different people in the field of psychology,” she said. “I ultimately decided to go that route, to do what I wanted to do.”
Righetti’s interest in psychology reflects a larger curiosity about human behavior. “When you start to understand the underlying processes and what’s going on psychologically, you start to have a little more compassion for people and the choices they make,” she said.
Psychology is a broad subject with a long list of potential careers. Through her coursework, Righetti decided she wanted to pursue research. She got help in this regard from UW Tacoma’s Dr. Jennifer Harris. “She’s been a great mentor,” said Righetti.
Righetti spent the last year helping Harris with her research on the self-care practices of college students and the impacts on academic performance. Among other things, Righetti has had the chance to develop surveys and analyze data. She recently co-presented a poster at an academic conference, a fact that seemed to sway Righetti’s family.. “They were like ‘Oh, we really want to hear what you talked about,’” she said. “That wouldn’t have happened before.”
Speaking in front of a room full of strangers, like at an academic conference, is not something Righetti would have been able to do a few years ago. She credits Harris and lecturer Leighann Chaffee for helping her become more involved and willing to take risks. “Having other people see something in me that I didn’t see myself has made a big difference,” said Righetti.
Righetti’s senior year has been different from her previous three. She’d never been out of the United States but last summer she decided to join a study abroad in Austria. “I thought that was a pretty big deal,” she said. “I went to a different country for six weeks with a bunch of people I didn’t know. I really feel that stepping out of my comfort zone has allowed me to grow.”
In the fall of 2016, Righetti became President of the Psychology Club. This past spring she and seven other UW Tacoma students were named to the Husky 100. The tri-campus award honors students who have made the most of their time in college. “There’s just so much more to being a Husky than going to school and taking classes,” said Righetti. “I love going to school and I love learning but my experiences outside the classroom are what made my time at UW Tacoma so valuable.”
Righetti graduates in June. She plans to take a year off before returning to school to get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Righetti will apply to schools in Washington and across the United States. “It’s a little bit scary to think about uprooting your life and being gone for five to seven years,” she said. “But my experience here taught me that I can do it.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org