Mount Holyoke offers so much for students

Sophia Jung

Name: Sophia Jung ’22
Hometown: Claremont, California
Academics: psychology and statistics, Five College cognitive neuroscience certificate
Pronouns: she/her/hers

By Afrika Brown

Sophia Jung wanted to transfer to a school that offered a strong STEM program and psychology department. After visiting the campus, she knew Mount Holyoke was that school. 

Jung found that the College’s affiliation with the Five College Consortium was another bonus.

“The certification in cognitive neuroscience was a great opportunity to get experience and exposure to neuroscience I wasn’t able to get before,” she said.

Jung was particularly interested in the research of psychology professor John Tawa, which focuses on relations between minority groups, intergroup interactions and uses virtual methods to study racial behavior.

Jung joined Tawa in the BEARS (behavioral, ethnic, and racial studies) lab as a research assistant in the summer of 2021. She worked with him on a LYNK-funded study that examined how stereotypes impact Black and Asian experiences and how one’s ethnocultural empathy, implicit bias and awareness of racism can change by using an online virtual platform called Second Life.  

The study was conducted mostly virtually, and Jung worked with about 10 fellow research assistants from across the country. Together they collected data for over 120 participants worldwide.

“The study really opened my eyes to racial and behavioral research. Adjusting to being remote and working in a lab was an interesting experience,” she said. “Because of the nature of the research, it allowed me to hear different points of view on topics, and I learned more about how opinions toward other races are formed.”

Tawa became Jung’s honor thesis advisor. Her thesis is a study that explores how meditation affects perceived trustworthiness through stress and visual attention among white and Asian Americans, using a virtual reality method. For this study, she recruited 65 students from Mount Holyoke.

“Past studies have shown that meditation can affect your biases against and beliefs about other people, specifically people from other races,” she said. “I hope people learn the different effects meditation and social interactions have on people’s lives.”

Her college life was not just research, though. As an active participant in student government in her previous school, Jung decided to become involved in student leadership at Mount Holyoke, where she has served on the Student Government Association as a transfer senator and the chair of special interests.

“The main purpose of the Senate is to bring student concerns on campus to light. We do a lot of advocacy work and are the bridge between student life and other departments,” she said. “It really changed my point of view. Being able to interact with different types of people and [hear] very different voices and stories has been wonderful.”

Jung was able to bring her Mount Holyoke experience full circle when she was selected to be a senior admissions ambassador, working with the admissions office to interview prospective students, give tours and attend admissions events to recruit students for the upcoming school year.

Jung remembers her own great experience with an admissions ambassador who helped her feel like this was the place for her. She feels honored that she’s able to pay it forward by telling prospective students about her Mount Holyoke experience and helping them make the decision to attend the College. 

“After I interview students, they’re like, ‘Oh, I was so nervous, but after talking to you, I want to go to Mount Holyoke more than ever,’” she said. “I think that’s such a wonderful thing to hear because I want students to know that Mount Holyoke offers so much for students, and they can make the most of their experience here.”

Jung has committed to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to pursue her graduate studies.