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We Are Knox...

Lauren Smith '12

Graduate Student in Clinical Psychology

University of Notre Dame

Psychology Major, Social Service Minor

Lauren Smith '12 was awarded a graduate fellowship to pursue her Ph.D.
in clinical psychology at the University of Notre Dame. She's training to be
a researcher and clinician while leaning toward the idea of being a professor. While at Knox, Lauren co-authored results of her research with Professor Tim Kasser, her research mentor. A native of Carthage, Illinois, Lauren discusses more about her experience at Knox.

How did you choose your major/minor?

Psychology and social service -- it's very interdisciplinary ... I also studied anthropology, sociology, and education.

Lauren Smith and her fatherWhy did you come to Knox?
Knox was recommended to me, and as soon as I visited, I knew I wanted to go to Knox. I was interested in going to a small college. I was drawn to the fact that people really focused on academics. Knox was also close to home, and that was important for me. My dad and I collect and restore antique tractors -- International Harvester Farmall. We have a 1947 Farmall that my great grandfather bought brand new. We recently bought another one. My dad is good with the mechanicals, and I sanded and painted all the parts. That took several weeks. Now we each have our own tractor, and we've taken them to tractor shows.

Tell us more about your undergraduate research.
The McNair Program at Knox helped me get started doing research. I looked at whether people distance themselves from those who are terminally ill because of thoughts about their own mortality. That research led me to working directly with terminally ill people.

My Honors project took place during my senior year -- three terms, almost a whole calendar year -- studying the social changes that happen in people's lives when they learn that they have a terminal illness. I looked at social networks, comparing the relationships that people continue and which ones end. I studied the theory and designed the method. Then I conducted interviews and recruited hospices who could direct me to patients. I wanted to interview about 50 ill people and another 50 as a control group. (Listen to a podcast that highlights Lauren's research.)

I also received a Ford Fellowship to do a summer literature review that started my Honors research and a Richter grant to support the cost of the research -- mainly transportation to people's homes for interviews. 

Also, in high school, I worked at McDonough District Hospital in Macomb, Illinois, visiting hospice patients in their homes as a volunteer. I allowed the patient's primary caregiver to run errands. For me, it was like visiting my grandmother.

Did Knox help you during the graduate school application process?

The graduate programs I applied to were extremely competitive, and the guidance that I got from the McNair office was really helpful in the application process. Having done research through McNair allowed me to say that I already had research experience, and that I had a research paper that's under review at a scientific journal. That's a long process -- I did the McNair research in the winter of my sophomore year, and we were still submitting it to journals during my senior year.

Lauren Smith, Knox CollegeI noticed that you look really different from your first-year ID photo. How did that happen?
My first-year ID photo -- yeah, I had dreadlocks. I got them on a whim. They were easy to take care of. Until they got really long, and that sort of defeated the purpose. I thought about getting rid of them for a long time, but I was kind of terrified. Some people have to shave their heads. I went to a salon in Iowa City where they cut the ends off and unwind them. It took three hours, and it's incredibly painful. It feels like they're pulling your hair the whole time. It's not an experience I want to have again.

Did Knox meet the expectations you had for a college experience?
In a lot of ways, Knox was exactly what I expected -- academically challenging, but also positive and supportive. I also love the rural setting, and I want to live in a rural area after I complete grad school.

Outside of your major, what classes or activities did you enjoy the most?  
Music, especially the jazz history course with Nikki Malley and playing alto sax in the jazz band (photo below: Lauren, on right). My first year, the band got to go to Spain, and that was an awesome experience. I had never been out of the country before. We got to be on a Spanish morning TV show.

Lauren Smith in jazz band