Natalie Lawrence: The Redeeming Power of Education

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Natalie Lawrence, '18 Psychology, wants to give to others the same transformative experience that education brought to her.

Natalie Lawrence decided to make a change. Four years ago she started taking classes at South Puget Sound Community College where she nurtured a burgeoning interest in psychology. “I really liked that you could explain human behavior,” she said. “I felt like prior to that things didn’t make sense and studying psychology really put things into context for me.”

Lawrence transferred to UW Tacoma in the fall of 2016. It didn’t take her long to get acclimated. She found numerous avenues to further her understanding of psychology. During the summer of 2017 Lawrence participated in a study-abroad trip to Brazil, supported by a Gilman International Scholarship, where she researched “intersections of sexual assault, culture and policy within the United States and Brazil.”

Lawrence is especially interested in creating clarity around resources for victims of sexual assault. She was awarded a Bamford Fellowship for 2017-2018 and spent the past year surveying students here on campus and at two universities in Brazil on how well each population understood what resources were available. Lawrence presented her findings at the Undergraduate Research Symposium at the University of Washington Seattle and was honored with a Population Health Recognition Award.

Just a few years ago the future that Lawrence made for herself didn’t seem possible. “I was in a cycle for ten years and coming here broke that cycle,” she said. “It’s truly been a transformative experience for me.” Lawrence plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin for a Ph.D. in psychology and hopes one day to become a college professor. “I just really love school,” she said. “There’s a redeeming power in education. It expels a lot of ignorance and makes you realize there are bigger forces at play.”

This past April Lawrence was named to the Husky 100. The tri-campus award honors those who’ve made the most of their time at UW. Students have to be nominated. “I’m grateful for the honor but, more so, I’m thankful to the people who believed in me and took the time to put my name forward,” said Lawrence.

A five hundred word article cannot possibly do Lawrence’s story justice. The narrative you’re reading makes her journey seem easy, that one day Lawrence woke up and instantaneously turned things around, as if her life were a film montage. “I don’t know if I could have finished without the help of others,” she said. “I received $30,000 worth of funding through scholarships and grants and that made it possible for me to focus on school.” The funding included a UW Tacoma Next Step scholarship, which recognizes exceptional scholarly achievement at the community college level.

Lawrence has an impressive list of accolades including making the Dean’s List for the past two years and graduating magna cum laude. All of this is wonderful but Lawrence has perspective. “I think it’s important if you’re part of a privileged realm to work with organizations and lend your skills to others who are marginalized,” she said. And these aren’t just words. Lawrence spends three hours a week volunteering at Tacoma Community House helping kids and adults learn how to read and write. In other words, she’s helping people change their lives.

Return to 2018 Commencement: 1,850 Change Makers

Written by: 
Eric Wilson-Edge / June 7, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Commmunications, 253-692-4536 or