Graduates in the Spotlight

Sarah Hoegler

Image of Sarah HoeglerHOMETOWN: Bethel, Connecticut

MAJOR:  Psychology

WCSU DEGREE:  Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

ACTIVITIES: Newman Club (secretary in spring 2015 and vice president in fall 2015), Psychology Student Alliance (since fall 2015), Honors Students of Compassion Club, member of Honors Course Committee (fall 2017), currently Psychology Student Representative. Has volunteered with the Franciscan Friar and Sisters in Harlem and the Bronx, helping them with soup kitchens and service projects, and has volunteered with the Sisters of Life in Stamford. Also holds part-time jobs as a piano teacher and a research assistant.

INTERNSHIPS: Substance Abuse Technician at The Sobering Center in Danbury; Mental Health Worker at Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital in Katonah, New York; Supplemental Instructor for undergraduate research methods and psychological statistics courses, and has been a research assistant for Dr. Mary Nelson in the Psychology Department for almost three years

HONORS AND AWARDS: 4.0 Cumulative GPA/graduating Summa Cum Laude, WCSU School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s list (every semester), member of Kathwari Honors Program (2015-18); Kathwari Honors Program Outstanding Scholar (since 2016), member of Psi Chi National Psychology Honors Society (2015-18), Outstanding New Psychology Student Award (2016), Outstanding Junior in Psychology Award (2017), Veronica Hagman Scholarship (2017), Isabelle T. Farrington Scholarship (2017), Dean’s Circle (2017-18), Willerman Memorial Award in Psychology (2018), 2018 Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award, Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award (2018), Kathwari Honors Program Class of 2018 Salutatorian



At first, Sarah Hoegler came to WestConn because she lived close by and could commute. “I was 17 my freshman year, so I didn’t want to go away from home at least until I turned 18,” she says. “But there are several reasons I chose to stay at WCSU. First, at the end of my second semester here, I asked Dr. Nelson (who teaches statistics and research methods in the psychology department) if I could get involved in her research, and she said yes. She also suggested I apply for the Honors Program, so that I could do research with her as an honors enhancement. From then on, Dr. Nelson and Dr. Kukk, the director of the Honors Program, have become two of my biggest role models here at Western. They have supported me in more ways than I can thank them for, and have helped me to discern my goals and to obtain the skills I needed to meet those goals. Also, through the honors program, I’ve had the absolute privilege to meet some of the greatest friends, who have also been so encouraging and compassionate toward me. They’re the type of friends I know I’ll keep for the rest of my life.”

Hoegler says she majored in psychology because she was interested in entering a career in applied clinical research. “In high school, it was actually classic literature that got me interested in psychology in general,” she says. “I’ve always been a really big book nerd, I love the classics. A lot of the books I loved the most were about people who’d seen tragedy, but had been resilient and were able to keep a sense of hope to continually strive toward healing. I realized that I liked the psychological part of these books more than the literary structure. And that led me to clinical psychology, because it has a lot to do with helping people heal and become resilient in the face of hardship. So, I decided I wanted that to be my career. Once I started studying psychology here at Western, I came to also love the research side of psychology— that’s why I want to go into applied clinical research.”

Hoegler says she’s been lucky to have so many people at WCSU who have been wonderful friends and mentors to her. “I’ve met so many people here at WestConn to whom I’ve said, ‘I want to be like you when I grow up!’ But, Dr. Nelson is a professor who has certainly been a mentor to me. I’ve worked with Dr. Nelson for almost three years, and she’s really pushed and challenged me to become the best that I can as a student in general, but specifically as a researcher. I have come to love the research process: reviewing the literature, designing studies, collecting data and having the opportunity to present and publish work. It’s been very rewarding and fun. She’s helped me hold myself to high standards, but simultaneously has been so supportive and encouraging. She’s given me so much invaluable advice, support and encouragement. She’s come to be a dear friend and mentor to me.”

Asked what she will remember most about her WestConn experience, Hoegler says, “I think the most memorable experience I’ve had here was meeting my best friend, Rachel. We met during my sophomore year through the Newman Club, and we’ve been friends ever since. She’s one of the most amazing and inspiring people I’ve met. She’s encouraged me whenever things have gotten challenging, and she’s helped me to always try to be the best person I can be.”

After graduation, Hoegler says, “I would like continue my studies in graduate school, and I hope to eventually obtain a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I am particularly interested in pursuing a career in applied clinical research.”

Her advice to new students entering WCSU is: “My advice for freshmen would be to not be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are a very, very important part of learning. If you ever find yourself in a place where you didn’t do as well on an assignment or an exam as you hoped, don’t let that discourage you. Use your mistakes as feedback — use them to help you figure out what you have to change about how you studied, or to correct any misconceptions you had about the class material. Just don’t let a setback keep you down — get right back up and figure out how to make it into a learning experience.”