College of Arts and Sciences Commencement Keynote Speaker Spotlight

June 4, 2021

By Tom McLaughlin

Angela Wismar
Majors: Psychology and Gender Studies
Residence: Philadelphia

Wismar was selected as a student keynote speaker at the virtual Rutgers–Camden College of Arts and Sciences Commencement ceremony on June 4.

Driven to Understand

My first major is psychology, and I’ve always been interested in this discipline. I knew that I wanted to be a psychologist by the time I was 11 and I’ve always been driven to understand and help others.

My second major is gender studies, which comes more from my passion for advocacy of celebrating our differences. I like to think the two overlap quite frequently.

Accomplished Author

It feels like a great accomplishment that, as an undergraduate, I’ve co-authored two peer-reviewed articles and am currently working on a third. The experience working with [associate professor of psychology] Dr. Courtenay Cavanaugh has really expanded my understanding of research, and I would love to see the findings of our paper together have implications for future research or practice in the field.

Future Clinician

I plan on going to graduate school to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and, although I haven’t decided on a program yet, I’m very drawn to clinical-community hybrid programs that incorporate my interests in advocacy and community-engaged research. I want to be a clinician in the future.

Memorable Experiences

Some of my most memorable experiences at Rutgers–Camden come from my time working in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. I worked there for three of the four years I spent at Rutgers, and had a range of amazing opportunities and experiences, which included drag queen shows and weekly lunch meetings for LGBTQ+ students on campus. There were also multiple annual Youth Empowerment Summits, which involved organizing local high school students to visit our campus for a day of connecting them to LGBTQ+ specific resources, a community of their peers, dozens of educational workshops, and entertainment in the form of a drag show. These events often drew a crowd of nearly 300 students from dozens of South Jersey high schools.

Opportunities to Connect

Through my role as an education, training, and outreach coordinator within the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, I had a lot of opportunities to connect with different clubs, organizations, and other offices on campus. For my contributions to the campus community, I earned the Chancellor’s Award for Student Civic Engagement.

No “Right” Path

The biggest lesson I’ve learned during my time on the Rutgers–Camden campus has been that there is no “right” path that anyone should be taking. There are many different paths to success, and the time it takes to achieve your goals varies. A lot of students suffer from imposter syndrome, which involves a lot of comparisons to other people with whom you think you should be at the same stages, and it’s not fair to compare yourselves when everyone is different in a lot of ways.

Be Patient With Yourself

Especially in the last year and a half, I’ve also learned that we need to be more patient with ourselves. Life is complicated, tricky, full of adversity, and stress weighs heavily on us sometimes. It’s important to be forgiving and understanding of ourselves the way we’d want others to do so.

My Own Inspiration

I’ve been asked who my role model is several times and I’ve never really had a good answer, because I draw a lot of my own inspiration and motivation from within. I have always been naturally ambitious and I have always pushed myself to do the best that I can in all of my endeavors, even through tremendous hardships, on the path to getting where I am today.

Words to Live By

An inspirational quote that I live by is actually one of the first tattoos that I got, which is script that reads, “In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” – Frantz Fanon

My Advice to Others

If I could offer any advice to others considering attending Rutgers–Camden, I would emphasize the appreciation of diversity on our campus. Students come from all walks of life and Rutgers–Camden not only embraces them, but celebrates them. There is a home for everyone on campus and, because of the smaller size of our campus, it starts to feel like somewhat of a family.

Rutgers–Camden also offers a range of academic and professional opportunities that will undoubtedly propel you further in your career and increase your qualifications for whatever field or program you intend on pursuing post-graduation.

Room to Grow

I am most proud of how much I have grown as a person and I owe a lot of that to my time at Rutgers–Camden. I came from a small, close-minded town that didn’t allow much room for growth and, upon moving to Philadelphia and attending college nearby, my worldview was instantly expanded.

I’ve developed ambitious goals in life and have spent the past few years preparing myself to get to where I want to be, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made so far. I also feel grateful for being recognized for my success by receiving the Psychology Department Award for Public Service and the Gender Studies Major Award.

Mixed Feelings

I have mixed feelings about graduating. While I feel accomplished in all that I’ve done as an undergraduate, there are a lot of nerves that come with entering the workforce and moving onto graduate programs. Fortunately, I feel prepared to embark on this next chapter of my life thanks to the opportunities that I have had, such as working in Dr. Cavanaugh’s lab for the last two years of my undergraduate studies.

A Push in the Right Direction

I’m the type of person who has been an overachiever all of their life and takes every possible opportunity that comes their way, but it’s still possible to struggle with self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy. It might surprise people to know that despite my many accomplishments, I don’t always feel as accomplished, which I use to push myself to always do better.

In Ten Years…

… I hope to be a licensed clinician working with a client base that I am truly passionate about serving. Graduate school will take up a majority of my future and I feel well-positioned to achieve this goal. Separate from professional goals, I hope to feel successful and content in my personal life as well, as it is important to prioritize both personal and career goals. It is unattainable to have one without the other.

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