Psychology inspires grad student

Graduate student Nichole Olson, right, proudly shows the V-DAY hand sign.

PULLMAN – Fascinated by human behavior, graduate student Nichole Olson started reading about psychology in high school.

“I naturally fall into the listening role in many of my interpersonal relationships,” Olson said, adding that this made it easier for her to work at a sexual assault center as a volunteer and intern while she was an undergraduate at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota.

As graduate coordinator of the student organization V-DAY WSU, she helped the group sell out two nights of performances earlier this year and raise $10,101 – the most yet in one year.

“I am very passionate about the issues regarding violence against women and girls,” said Olson, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in counseling psychology at WSU. “It is why I applied for the graduate coordinator position at Health and Wellness Services. V-DAY WSU takes that step to educate the community about the issue and raise money to support local and global organizations that work to end the violence.

“I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to helping individuals use their own strengths to solve their problems and begin the healing process.”

When Olson is not coordinating and scheduling for V-DAY WSU, she conducts research with Laurie D. McCubbin, an assistant professor in counseling psychology.

Olson was admitted to the Ph.D. program less than a year into her WSU graduate education.

“Nichole is smart and very intuitive on gender issues,” McCubbin said. “She has such a professional demeanor and is a very mature woman. She is going to make a great psychologist.”

“I am learning so much about research,” Olson said. “The study is still in the planning process, but through our research I am learning a lot about health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities, the effects of discrimination on physical and psychological health, and ways in which individuals positively adapt to stressors in their lives.

 “I am also learning more about the research process and about how researchers need to be flexible, foresee future problems, be prepared to make adjustments, and have backup plans if things don’t go as expected – and they rarely do,” Olson joked. 

“I will be able to use this knowledge as I begin to plan my dissertation research next year. I enjoy that this experience will help me focus my education and is something I can relate not only to my schoolwork, but also to my work as a graduate coordinator.”

 “Nichole has a way of working with people that is open and yet professional,” said Cathy Bergley, program manager for Health and Wellness Services. “She creates an atmosphere of respect, honesty and is willing to share her experiences to educate others.”

With an interest in adolescents and college students, Olson would like to work at a university or community counseling center or start a practice of her own. She also plans to continue doing research.
“Not many people get to work on projects or with groups that have such great meaning to them,” Olson said. “Everything that I get to do here at WSU is helping me become a better student and person, and for that I am very fortunate.”