Graduation year: 2015
Majors: Neuroscience, philosophy
Activities: Phi Beta Kappa, Augustana Choir, Sigma Alpha Iota, Psychology Club, Psi Chi, and Omicron Delta Kappa
Post-grad plans: I will be starting the Ph.D. program in neuroscience at the University of California, Davis.
Why did you choose Augustana?
I initially considered going to Augie because of the opportunities that were available in my areas of interest. I chose to go to Augie because the people I interacted with during my Visit Day were always smiling and very nice. The beauty of the campus and a music scholarship helped to seal the deal.
Are you where you thought you'd be four years ago?
If someone told me in high school that I should consider pursuing a career in research, I would have probably thought they were crazy. It took honest words of encouragement from professors in the psychology department to convince me that it was worth looking into. After two internships, several conference presentations and multiple acceptance letters, I am so thankful that there were people around who wanted me to succeed!
Who helped you get to where you are now?
Countless people! To start off with, everyone in the psych department has helped me at one point to figure out exactly what I want to pursue. Also, Laura Mahn in the Center for Vocational Reflection helped to guide me in the direction toward the psych department when it wasn’t even on my radar freshman year. And of course, my family (especially my husband) has been really supportive of my numerous endeavors.
A peak experience?
I don't think I could identify one single experience. I have enjoyed making beautiful, and sometimes even breathtaking, music with Augie Choir. I also really enjoyed putting on a lab coat for the first time at the University of Iowa. Oh, and there are multiple times from walking along the quad on a beautiful day. However, I think that my most significant experience is actually a collection of experiences over the years that have exposed me to different ways of thinking and have made me a better person as a result.
What did you learn about yourself in these past four years that surprised you?
I have learned that I am the happiest when I do things that will make my life the most meaningful rather than when I do things because I think I am expected to do them. It's hard to think that way when schools want you to have taken certain classes or jobs want you to have certain kinds of experience, but I think that if your heart is in what you are doing, then you are less likely to have any regrets. Besides, your alternative path could still lead you to where you want to go (like my alternative path did for me).
How did you use your Augie Choice?
I plan to use my Augie Choice money this summer when I travel to Germany, Denmark and Sweden with the Augustana Choir.
What will you miss the most?
I will miss the friends and faculty I have met at Augie.
Advice for the Class of 2019?
Keep an open mind with everything you experience at Augie. One, because a liberal arts college is a beautiful thing, and two, because it will help you grow in more ways than one.
“It is so fun to talk to Ayanna about her senior research. She can effortlessly delve into the neuroscience, psychology and philosophy behind her hypotheses, and even the complex statistical analysis she applied to her experiments. All the while she will have this big grin on her face as if it were just a day in the park. Ayanna’s enthusiasm and drive have already allowed her to interact with the top experts in her field. It’s just a matter of time before she joins them.”