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Kate Sweeny (Ph.D., Psychology, 2008)
ACn: What is your favorite memory as a student at UF?
KS: Some of my best memories of the University of Florida were at football and basketball games. I was very lucky to be a Gator during some of the most exciting years in college athletics’ history. There’s nothing more exciting than being in the Swamp or the O-Dome during a big Gator game, and it’s even more fun when they win!
ACn: How are you using your degree?
KS: I’m the poster child for a Ph.D. in social psychology. I fell in love with research during graduate school, and after six years of hard work I found a position at a university that will allow me to continue my research in a supportive environment with opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate teaching. I’m in both the social/personality and health areas of the psychology department at the University of California, Riverside, and I feel like I found my dream job.
ACn: What advice do you have for students currently studying in your field?
KS: Get research experience early and as broadly as possible. As an undergraduate, I imagined research to be a boring and lonely activity, but it turned out to be far different than I had imagined. I now see research as a process of problem-solving, of asking questions that interest me and using the tools I gained in graduate school to answer them. I study why people avoid information, how people should give bad news, and how people accept unchangeable situations. Far from boring, I have the opportunity to answer questions that have the potential to make a difference in people’s lives.
ACn: Who had the greatest influence in helping to guide your studies and career?
KS: My graduate advisor, Dr. James Shepperd’s excitement about research is contagious, and from my very early days in graduate school I think he saw a similar excitement in me and did everything he could to cultivate it. Graduate school can be incredibly discouraging at times, but my advisor was my biggest cheerleader while challenging me to do my best work. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible support I received from the other social psychology faculty at UF, including Dr. Greg Neimeyer and Dr. Martin Heesacker. Finally, my parents and my husband always encouraged me to do what I loved; without them I’m not sure I could have pushed through to make it where I am today.