It’s no mystery what subject brings out the best in senior Rachael Waldrop. Ask about her research, and she becomes animated with sparkling eyes and a vivacious smile.
“It’s like that when you find your place in life and I think I found mine this semester,” said the psychology major and black studies minor. “Georgia College is 100 percent the best school ever. I love this school. Working with professors is the best. It’s what I want to do. I feel it mirrors my future and gets me pumped.”
Waldrop chose Georgia College for its affordability – but ended up loving everything about the small campus where she found big opportunities. She thrived in classroom settings with professors who “just blew my mind,” challenging her to confront issues like racial division.
Through academic relationships like these, Waldrop discovered her passion for social justice and psychology.
Graduating a semester early in December, Waldrop said she’s a little sad to leave campus but eager to pursue a masters and doctorate in social psychology. She'd like to do research or teach in the future.
She went from a shy youngster growing up in Cumming - where she said few people discussed race - to a confident young woman who says “yes” to opportunity.
Waldrop received the GC presidential award for community service with Gamma Sigma Sigma, tutoring and befriending children with emotional and behavioral disorders. She served as president and vice president of the GC Psychology Club. She helped organize the “Tunnel of Oppression” last spring – an interactive theatrical production showing how offensive comments impact lives. Recently, Waldrop also participated in the 20th Annual South Eastern Model African Union in Athens. In January, she presents research on smoking behaviors among Latinos at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in San Antonio, Texas.
Waldrop said being busy motivates her to get things done.
“I have really come out of my shell and become more expressive and more willing to take risks,” she said. “I’ve met so many interesting people that have impacted my life. I’ve come across so many opportunities that have really been life changing.”
Working in two psychology labs steered Waldrop into research. In the developmental lab with Dr. Dana Wood and Dr. Ashley Taylor, Waldrop studied stereotypes of people living in poverty or with physical disabilities. She then developed her thesis in Dr. Whitney Heppner’s social psychology lab - surveying 160 volunteers in classes that expose students to a variety of cultures. Waldrop hopes to see a reduction of subconscious bias by the end of the semester.
“Rachel is a passionate and talented psychology student,” Heppner said. “She is a leader in my research lab and the department more broadly, providing fellow students with a model of maturity, responsibility and intrinsic motivation for learning.”
Waldrop will present her conclusions in March at the Southeastern Psychological Association in Atlanta.
She’d love to come back to Georgia College as a professor and give back, helping others find their paths in life. Her advice to undergraduates: Adapt. Learn. Realize the way we see the world isn’t necessarily how others view it.
“If you seek opportunity, you’ll find it,” Waldrop said. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to explore new things. Because you never know who you’re going to meet and what you’re going to learn.”