Hometown: Ridgefield, Conn.
WCSU Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Internships: Spring 2014 internship at The Sobering Center operated by The Midwestern Connecticut Council on Alcoholism
Activities: Nontraditional student with work/family obligations, I run my own online business
Honors and Awards: Dean's List every semester eligible, 3.98 GPA, Dan DeRosa Memorial Award, Psychology Senior of the Year Award, Western Research Day Award
Sean Congdon went to the University of Connecticut for three years in the late 1990s. "I was young, unfocused and had zero ambition," he says. "Things have been completely different this time around at Western."
Congdon says when he was ready to go back to college, he knew it would be in New England. "There is something about this area in general that is attractive to me. Connecticut has always been 'home' in my heart, and New England is such a wonderfully diverse part of the country. I had visited a couple of other schools in the region, but WCSU just felt right to me. When it was finally time to come back to school, I made an appointment with the admissions department, and they were absolutely wonderful to work with. In fact, everyone I met during my initial communications with WCSU was fantastic, and beyond the school's excellent reputation, the people behind the school really sold me on coming to Western."
Having spent 15 years outside of academics "living life, traveling, working and really gaining an understanding of myself and the world around me — I realized that the reason I am on this earth is to help other people," Congdon says. "We are all part of this journey in life together, and it's our responsibility to help one another achieve the best quality of life possible. The field of psychology analyzes and seeks to answer some of the most fundamental processes underlying the human experience, and there is still so much more to learn and achieve within the field. At the same time, the knowledge we have already gained allows professionals within the field to work with individuals to provide a better quality of life, to overcome obstacles and to move them towards self-actualization."
Congdon says there have been several members of the WCSU Psychology Department faculty who put into action his philosophy about helping one another. "Dr. Robin Gustafson has been really encouraging and helpful to me on both an academic and personal level. I was her student instructor, which is the same thing as a teaching assistant, for Psych 324 – Experimental Psychology. It was a great experience to get to help other students in what is widely considered to be one of the more difficult psychology classes. She has been my adviser for the last couple of years, and has really given me a lot of her time and shared a tremendous amount of her knowledge with me. Dr. Bernie Gee has also been a huge influence on me – I am currently involved in an Independent Study with Dr. Gee, working with a couple of other students in his Vision Lab where we are researching vision in relation to cognitive processing. He has also given me a lot of his personal time, shared a lot of his knowledge with me and really given me a lot of direction. And I have to mention Dr. Shane Murphy – who has a wonderful teaching style and is one of the kindest, most approachable people I have ever met. He, too, always has time to discuss things with me and has been really encouraging to me throughout the past couple of years. I've really learned a lot from all three of these professors – both about psychology and myself."
Asked what he will remember most about his Western experience, Congdon says, "It has to be my experiences helping other students. I'm a tutor for a bunch of psychology classes, and had the student instructor position for a semester. In addition to that, I think I have a very approachable personality — a lot of my fellow students have asked me for help with things outside the confines of being a tutor or SI. I will get stopped in the hallway or after class, or receive an email asking a question, which I always do my best to answer. It was tough coming back to school full-time in my mid-30s and being in classrooms filled with students nearly half my age, but I really feel like I developed some great relationships with fellow students on an academic level while I was here."
After graduation, Congdon plans to take some time off while applying to Ph.D. programs in both Clinical and Social/Personality Psychology. "I may or may not pursue the Ph.D. right away," he says. I think that ultimately a Ph.D. is in my future, but it may not happen for a couple of years. During my 15 years away from school, I was a musician and managed a record store. I've always dreamed about owning my own store, and that's a very real possibility too — although if I do that, I will still be pursuing my education. I need to keep my mind moving forward within the field of psychology regardless of when and where I choose to continue my education."
Congdon's advice to new students entering WCSU is: "Develop relationships with your professors. Go to their office hours, pick their brains, get involved in the subject they are teaching. Professors want nothing more than to help students achieve their goals and dreams, but I feel like a lot of freshmen don't realize that. You get out of college what you put into it – these can be some of the most formative years of your life if you choose to make them so. Or, they can just be another four years. College is a lot like life in general: the more you put into it, the more you get out of it."