Student Profile: Alanna McPartland
Alanna McPartland finds all aspects of psychology fascinating, but she credits Professor Parrott with engaging her attention from the first class she took in the subject. (Photo: courtesy Alanna McPartland)
By Kara Burritt
Alanna McPartland came to Georgetown University with an interest in studying French, but soon found herself gravitating toward the field of psychology.
Frustrated early on by people questioning what professional path she would take with a degree in French, McPartland, a 2009 graduate of the college, discovered her new calling when she enrolled in an introductory psychology class with Professor Parrott. She remembers thinking, “This is what I’ve been looking for.”
McPartland finds all aspects of psychology fascinating, and she credits Parrott with engaging her attention from the start. “His greatest influence on me was just getting me interested, excited, and passionate about the subject,” she says. She later enrolled in Parrott’s Social Psychology course and officially became his academic advisee.
A double major in French and psychology, McPartland admits that psychology became the major with which she most closely associated. In fact, she even pursued two psychology classes while studying abroad in Paris during her junior year.
In McPartland’s senior year, she completed the Psychology Department’s honors program under Professor Parrott’s mentorship. McPartland had already assisted with various on-campus research initiatives as a volunteer, and Professor Parrott suggested that developing a project of her own would be the best way to learn the process and obstacles of psychology research. Thus, McPartland took advantage of the honors program to design a research project investigating how students regulate anxiety.
In the first phase of her project, she surveyed students’ experiences with anxiety in the academic study environment, as well as how they deal with such anxiety.
Surveying how anxiety manifests itself in students' studying was the first phase of McPartland's research. In the second phase of the project she used these survey answers to tease apart individual patterns and differences in anxiety regulation among the surveyed population. McPartland used these survey answers to tease apart individual patterns and differences in anxiety regulation among the surveyed population. Though backed by Parrott, McPartland says she had a great degree of independence carrying out this research that ultimately grew into her honors thesis.
Since graduating from Georgetown Phi Beta Kappa and maga cum laude this past spring, McPartland’s path has brought her to Mexico City. She works remotely for a consulting firm in D.C., where she had done administrative work as a college senior. Though her opportunities for psychology-related work are limited by the language barrier in Mexico, McPartland hopes to someday pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Says McPartland, “[Psychology] is something where I can be intellectually stimulated in my career and hopefully help people. I can see myself doing this for my life and having it remain a passion.”
Since the self-help craze swept the 1970s, it has become more socially acceptable to speak openly about one’s emotions. Psychology professor and scholar W. Gerrod Parrott has built a career on this recent movement and offers a simple explanation for the explosion of research in his area of interest: “Emotions are everywhere.”
What is your favorite thing about Georgetown University? Georgetown's ethos of higher purpose and service. It suffuses everything that happens here.