By Neva Trenis ’00
Psychology student Jenny Freud ’16 had long known she wanted to go to graduate school. She applied to 11 – fewer than the recommended dozen – and was invited to interview at five. But costs rose quickly with application fees, cross-country flights, food, lodging, and the requisite professional outfit.
So when she learned that she had received the James C. ’87 and Deborah S. Llewellyn Scholarship in Psychology, she was thrilled. And relieved.
“I’m so thankful to the Llewellyns for doing this,” the inaugural recipient said. “There are so many of us [students] who are benefiting from the generosity of alumni.”
The Llewellyn psychology scholarship is a result of the Mary Washington First campaign, which began in 2011 and is well on its way to the $50 million goal before it ends this summer. Rising sophomore, junior, and senior psychology majors with a minimum 3.0 GPA are eligible to apply for the aid.
Deborah and James Llewellyn ’87, both high-level human resources professionals, endowed the scholarship in appreciation of the critical thinking, research, and communication skills James honed under Mary Washington psychology professors. “You could feel their passion for the topics,” he said of such teachers as Associate Professor Debra Steckler, Associate Professor Steve Hampton, and the late Professor Christopher “Topher” Bill. “It was just a terrific experience.”
At graduate school – he earned a master’s degree in psychology from Old Dominion University in 1989 – Llewellyn realized his UMW professors’ teaching and rigorous standards had given him an edge over his peers. And the payoff has continued throughout his career.
“I give a lot of credit to what I learned at Mary Washington, to the skills and the competence it gave me,” he said. “And the confidence.”
Like James Llewellyn, Jenny Freud is leaving Mary Washington ready for whatever comes next. She felt fortunate to be offered grad school interviews, and she said she’s got her fingers crossed that she’ll be accepted. But she’s got more than luck to rely on.
“I do have experience on my side,” the Ashburn, Virginia, native said. “I think UMW gives us experience in research that not a lot of schools do.”
The straight-A student gets credit for hard work and long hours from people like Assistant Professor of Psychological Science Laura Wilson.
Wilson, who studies trauma and sexual assault, had lots of juniors apply to do senior research with her last year. Freud was among the four she chose.
The student team proposed conducting a meta-analysis of sexual victimization. That meant reading 1,400 previously published journal articles on sexual assault, combining the data, and using statistics to summarize it.
Wilson and her colleagues were “blown away” by the specialized and difficult project Freud and her team completed. Their findings deserve to be in a top-level trauma journal, Wilson said, and she plans to have the team submit it for peer review. The four planned to present their findings in April at the Virginia Association for Psychological Science conference and at UMW’s end-of-year Psi Chi Symposium, the capstone of UMW psychology’s undergraduate research program.
Freud brought passion to her work that Wilson rarely observes in undergraduates. “You can see that Jenny is excited to do something meaningful that goes beyond the classroom,” she said.
Freud is co-president of the UMW chapter of Psi Chi, an international psychology honor society. The chapter does service projects and sponsors the Psi Chi Symposium, where presenters must be ready to defend their findings not only to their peers, but also to their professors. “Students get professional practice that they will need in graduate school or whatever they do next,” Freud said.
Off campus, Freud worked as a research assistant at the University of Maryland Center for Addictions, Personality, and Emotion Research. She supported clients in a Baltimore-based pilot study to help them stop smoking, and she assessed whether the method the program used was effective.
When she returned to Fredericksburg and full-time class work, Freud continued data analysis for the Maryland project, and she is coordinating with her supervisor there to publish original research. She also completed an internship assisting with substance abuse treatment at Lighthouse Counseling of Fredericksburg.
Freud has packed the last four years with classes, research, service, and clinical experiences to help reach her goal of graduate study of how addiction and sexual violence intersect.
“It helps that I’m really passionate about this,” she said. “I’m fortunate to have found something that I really love.”
For top performers like Freud, Wilson said, scholarships give financial relief and more. They give undergraduates the confidence to reach higher than they ever thought they could.
“I love seeing good students rewarded for their work, because it almost lights a fire under them,” Wilson said. “The more Jenny realizes that she is on track, the more she is recognized for that. I think she is going to have an amazing career.”