Janelle Bissonnette Gagnon ’06, a first-generation college student, would like to simplify the transfer process for community college students. She knows the issues firsthand: Gagnon transferred to Mount Holyoke from Holyoke Community College and then continued at MHC for her master’s in psychology.
She’s currently working as the senior research associate in charge of research projects for psychology professor Becky Wai-Ling Packard, whose research interests include adolescent development, mentoring, motivation of women and low-income ethnic minority youth (particularly in science and technology), and community-based partnerships.
“I had the good fortune of working as a research assistant in Becky Packard’s lab as an undergraduate,” Gagnon says. “This experience not only offered me an opportunity to learn more about and contribute to Becky’s research, it also allowed me to cultivate my own interests in the field.”
Gagnon initially thought she’d pursue a career as a clinical psychologist. But, she says, Mount Holyoke “broadened my understanding of what it means to be a psychologist. I learned there were numerous ways I could pursue my passion to help others.”
Gagnon’s advice to anyone considering a psychology major is to get involved with faculty research. In her case, it led first to a master’s degree and then to her current job. As senior research associate, she initiates contact with project sites, analyzes data, and writes research articles for publication. “Because the projects are funded by the National Science Foundation, I’m also gaining exposure to the process of applying for federal grants and their reporting requirements.” Her experiences with the psychology department, she says, have prepared her to take on new and exciting challenges. “I look forward to what the future has to offer.”