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W&L Outcomes: Caroline Christianson ’24 Christianson will be working as a research coordinator studying autism in infants and young children.

Caroline-Christianson-scaled-600x400 W&L Outcomes: Caroline Christianson '24

Caroline Christianson ’24
Major: Cognitive and Behavioral Science
Hometown: Annandale, Virginia 

What will you be doing after graduation?

I will be working as a research coordinator with the University of South Carolina’s Early Special Development Lab. Here I’ll be doing autism research looking at infants and young children. From here I will eventually be looking to apply to grad schools for a clinical psychology PhD.

How did your career plans evolve over the course of your time at W&L?

I came into W&L with absolutely zero idea what I wanted to do. I had maybe thought about majoring in business or biology, but then I took classes for both and neither felt like a fit for me. I didn’t take my first cognitive and behavioral science (CBSC) class until Fall Term my sophomore year, and loved it so much that I decided to declare it my major on a whim that following February! I had taken a million different types of classes leading up to this, so once I found something I was excited about I kept with it.

What internships or other summer experiences did you partake in, and how did those experiences shape you and your career plans?

I got a summer internship at UNC-Chapel Hill through the CBSC department doing autism research, and that’s what really solidified my interest in clinical psychology. I also worked in Dr. Megan Fulcher’s Child & Gender Development Lab, and that really showed me how much I love working with children and how I definitely want to work with them as a career.

How did the Office of Career and Professional Development support you, and which resources did you find most helpful?

I scheduled several meetings with the CPD Office throughout my time at W&L to talk about how to find internships and to take a career interest quiz that helped me see how my various interests could become different career paths.

What did you study at W&L, and what are some skills or learnings you will take from your academic experience into the professional world?

I majored in CBSC with a data science minor. These taught me a lot about the importance of attention to detail, patience and data ethics. Not only are the various software used in data science needed for the field of research in general, but these soft skills are also crucial for the professional world. Since I will be running autism diagnostic tests on children and babies, patience is so important and will be needed since they can be unpredictable. Research also requires handling the confidential data of many people, and this needs to be done carefully and ethically to protect the people entrusting you with their information.

What clubs, organizations, athletic teams or other extracurriculars were you involved in that had an impact on you?

I was a member of the women’s soccer team all four years at W&L. Having played soccer all my life, it has taught me so much about teamwork and time management, both of which are such important life skills.

Who or what has inspired you along the way?

Simply seeing my friends around me pursue careers and majors solely because they were just so passionate about the subject material has been my biggest inspiration. Coming into college and having no idea what I wanted to do made me nervous (this is the beauty of a liberal arts college — take as many different classes as you can!), so once I finally found a subject that I was fascinated with and passionate about I stuck with it. The passionate, driven people who surround me inspire me every day!

Did you connect with alumni during your career development process?

Yes, I reached out to an alumna to ask about her career path in my CBSC-299 class for my major. I also did a lot of talking with my good friend Annie Martin who was the grade above me and also on the soccer team. She has worked in a psychology research lab in Florida for the past year, so I texted her a lot to ask questions and get help during my job search.

What career-related advice would you give to next year’s graduating class?

Definitely use the resources that you have around you for help; you do not have to figure it out alone! My advisers and the people within my major department were the most helpful to me personally, and I genuinely would not have had the opportunities that I did or know anything about my next steps without them. There are people that want to help you and see you succeed all around you — you just have to ask them!