Rachel Faulkenberry is a senior in the College of Education and Allied Professions double majoring in psychology and art.
Faulkenberry is from Newberry, South Carolina. Upon graduation, she will be traveling to New Zealand as a hand-picked graduate student in an elite clinical psychology doctoral program at the University of Otago, with esteemed researcher and professor Martin Sellbom as her mentor.
Faulkenberry met Sellbom while presenting a research project at a conference in Minneapolis and he specifically requested that she apply for the program.
“Going to a different country for a graduate program was never something that I had in mind,” Faulkenberry said. “I had a really cool opportunity to actually meet the people that developed the instrument that I was researching and present in front of a lot of people who I've read all of their research and papers before. One of those people invited me to apply for his program and I'll be working with him next year.”
Faulkenberry has a particular interest in psychology research. She has worked on multiple research projects and co-authored papers with professors, which is unusual for most undergraduate students.
“My favorite thing about Western and what I love to tell prospective students is that the faculty here are so amazing,” Faulkenberry said. “Everybody that I've ever had the chance to work with in the psychology department has been really supportive and really invests their time in their students. As an undergraduate student, I've had the opportunity to be involved in a lot of research projects and you don't really get those experiences at larger universities.”
Faulkenberry has researched a wide range of topics, her latest being the mental health of student athletes at WCU.
“I’ve worked with three different professors on topics including PTSD research, personality and suicide risk, and also human sexuality,” she said. “Recently, I've been doing a lot of work with student-athletes at Western Carolina and just seeing what their mental health needs are like compared to the rest of the student body. I'm also working on a couple of projects that I'm hoping to submit for publication soon.”
She hopes to continue conducting research as a graduate student and one day become a professor, perhaps at WCU.
“I really hope that I can contribute meaningfully to the field of psychology and to our understanding of topics like personality,” Faulkenberry said. “I also hope that at some point as a professor, I can be a mentor to students and give them that experience like I've had here.”
Outside of the research lab, Faulkenberry is also a student ambassador for the psychology department, a photographer, an artist and an avid reader.
“Western is a really cool environment where you can get involved in a lot of different things and everyone's really encouraging,” she said. “What is most important to me is that I love all the things that I'm doing and I'm hoping that I'll have the opportunity to keep doing the kinds of things that I love doing.
“Western is so much more than I ever would have expected it to be. It has been such a supportive community. I think the biggest piece of advice that I could give for other students is to not be a bystander in their education. There's so many cool opportunities and there's so many different things that you can get involved in here. You just have to ask.”