Passion to help others led WKU senior to clinical psychology
- WKU News
- Tuesday, April 27th, 2021
A passion for helping people was instrumental in changing the course of Reese Polen’s WKU journey.
“I started here because of the music education program. It was the best option for percussion,” he said. “Then around the fall semester of my sophomore year I wanted to change, but I realized I had six hours left in the music major so I decided to finish it out.”
Polen, a senior from Bowling Green, graduates this week with dual degrees in music and psychological sciences with concentrations in social and clinical psychology.
“Music has taught me to pursue my passions and what I want to do with my free time,” Polen said. “Psychology is what taught me what I want to accomplish professionally. One of my other passions is helping people and I’ve learned a lot in psychology where people have come to me for advice and I’ve been able to tell them scientifically what can help them.”
Polen said the best part of his WKU experience is “definitely the connections. I’ve made ties with professors who will help me get into graduate school but also lifetime friends.”
One of those mentors is Dr. Aaron Wichman, associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences.
“Reese is looking forward to a career as a clinical psychologist, and ideally one where he will be able to use his background in music to support his goals,” Dr. Wichman said. “Music therapy comes to mind, but auditory signal processing and neuroscience do as well. He has a lot of opportunities with the experience and education he has developed so far. I look forward to seeing how he chooses to go forward.”
For the past two years, Polen worked with Dr. Wichman on a project with the Center for Open Science, known as SCORE--Systematizing Confidence in Open Research and Evidence. “The project examines the replicability and generalizability of research and seeks to find ways of identifying replicable research even in the absence of additional data collection,” Dr. Wichman said. “Reese helped with a project that requires individually meeting with hundreds of participants (over Zoom, thanks to the pandemic) and helping them through a study focused on the replicability of some findings having to do with participants' perceptions of their eating behavior. He's maintained a high degree of professionalism and engagement through a difficult time.”
Research projects helped prepare Polen for graduate school.
“Graduate schools definitely look at how much research you’ve done,” Polen said. “The more you can present yourself as a researcher the more marketable you are.”
Polen also joined a group hosted by Dr. Wichman that met weekly to discuss findings and studies in psychological sciences. “This semester, we read a nearly 500-page book on research covering intergroup relations and hatred, and while some students did not attend all our meetings or do all the readings Reese was always prepared and had excellent contributions,” Dr. Wichman said.
Polen said discussing the research articles and learning the philosophy behind them “helps you be more mindful as a person rather than just a better experimenter.”
During his years at WKU, Polen has been a member of the Big Red Marching Band, Delta Omicron professional music fraternity and the social psychology lab. He also participated in study abroad trips through the Department of Music.
Like other students, Polen’s final year at WKU was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Polen said, however, the year hasn’t been more stressful, but “it’s just extremely different.”
And it altered his plans. “All throughout college I’ve been sure I’m going right into grad school right after I graduate, but then this past year I realized I need a gap year with a break from school for more than a month or two,” he said. “I plan on moving to Austin, Texas, because my friend that I write music with is moving there too. Austin is also a bigger city for music than Bowling Green. It will also be helpful to move away from a lot of distractions so I can focus on finding the right graduate school and studying for the GRE.”
#WKUGrad series: As part of our #WKUGrad series, articles on graduating students are shared in the weeks leading up to Commencement. See all of their stories at https://www.wku.edu/news/articles/index.php?view=default&categoryid=799&multinewsid=187