Scholarships and Hard Work Make Student’s Dream a Reality
Alex Tradd in Spain during his junior year—an
"amazing experience." Alex Tradd ’09 (psychology and Spanish) chose to attend UMass Amherst for several reasons. “I was raised in southeastern Massachusetts, and I was looking for a change without being too far from home,” he says. “UMass has a wonderful reputation—as does the psychology department in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Plus, it offers financial advantages. The rural experience combined with the large university and liberal attitude helped me make up my mind."
Most high school students aren’t as focused as Tradd was in his selection process. “I decided as a sophomore in high school that psychology was for me. Nothing fascinates me more than the human mind—I truly have an appreciation for human cognition and behavior. I made a conscious decision to get a head start and took any course that seemed relevant: child development, statistics instead of calculus, extra biology courses. If I thought it might be helpful for a major in psychology, I took it. And once I got to UMass Amherst I was able to take advantage of Psych TAP, which was invaluable.”
For readers who might not know, TAP—or Talent Advancement Program—is a specialized academic learning community offered by invitation only, based on criteria set by the department. In SBS the psychology and political science departments offer the program. TAP provides first-year students a variety of opportunities for a successful transition to academic and social life at UMass Amherst. For example, students who choose to participate in Psych TAP live together in the John Adams Tower in the Southwest Residential Area of campus. They enroll in a section of College Writing 112 and Psychology 100—both of which are taught in the residential area. They take a 1-credit Psychology seminar with other Psych TAP students and meet faculty members “up close and personal” through a variety of academic opportunities.
His outstanding performance in high school and on the MCAS tests in English and math meant that Tradd received a John and Abigail Adams scholarship—a tuition waiver for each of eight semesters of undergraduate education, as long as he maintained a 3.0 GPA. He certainly has done that, and more, which qualified Tradd last spring to apply for the SBS Dean’s Opportunity Scholarship. “I was so excited when I was selected. Even though the Adams Scholarship pays for my tuition, I am still responsible for all the fees—which are more than the tuition—and other expenses, so finances have been tight for me. I considered graduating after my first semester senior year, because of financial constraints. The Dean’s Opportunity Scholarship eliminated that concern, and I will be enjoying the spring semester on campus as well.”
The SBS Dean’s Opportunity Scholarship makes a difference for a wonderful group of students each year. But many other qualified applicants lose out because the College has limited funds. That’s why the Dean is determined to double this endowment. She is counting on alumni and friends to be part of this effort to help students. Every gift, no matter how large or small, matters. Those interested in contributing should click here.
Tradd is enthusiastic about his academic experience. “The professors in each and every one of my psychology courses have been open to interaction with undergraduates. They’ve been so helpful. I’ve been a teaching assistant, an undergraduate peer advisor, and an ambassador to incoming psychology students. In addition, other co-curricular activities have taught me much about teaching and one-on-one counseling.”
His experience in the undergraduate advising office, Tradd says, has been the most helpful of all. “There, sitting down with other students to configure an outline of their undergraduate careers has made me a better communicator. I’ve improved my skills in one-on-one counseling, and I know this will help me as a therapist, should I end up pursuing that goal.”
Tradd points to his semester abroad as an equally enriching experience. “Going to Spain was amazing. I not only completed the majority of my second major there, I also made connections that I’m sure will last a lifetime. The fact that UMass Amherst students can study abroad for the same price as a semester here on campus is a real plus.” Tradd will return to Spain after graduation to teach English for a year before pursuing next steps with psychology.
Having worked summers for the Department of Mental Retardation, Tradd says that he’ll likely not work in that area. “But I didn’t walk away empty handed. My clients at Wrentham Development Center taught me just how rewarding a career in helping people who need you can be. It’s a really selfless feeling, and I’m grateful for it. I want to enter a career in psychology, after graduate school, in which I can provide assistance to people who need it the most, disabled or not.”
Tradd finds that many prospective students are nervous about the size of UMass Amherst. His response is always the same: “I was nervous about the same thing, but I almost immediately found, as most do, that I have my college, my major, my dorm, my floormates, and my friends. Everyone seems to have a niche based on both academic and social life, and within a month of arriving, it’s not so intimidating.” Tradd also tells students to get to know their professors and to get involved. “It makes a world of difference.”
November 24, 2008