Hispanic Heritage Month #PROFspective: Psychology Major Katarina Carmona on Growing Diversity in Academia

An aerial view of Rowan University's Glassboro campus.

Today, as part of our Hispanic Heritage Month #PROFspective series, we feature senior Katarina Carmona from Fair Lawn, NJ (Bergen County). Katarina is a Psychology major and transfer student from RCSJ involved with Rowan Thrive, Psychology Peer Mentoring, Tutoring, Academic Success Coaching, the Psychology Alliance, and is a research assistant for the ASSeRT Lab.

What is your student experience here at Rowan? Do you feel included? Supported? How so? Could you highlight an example or two?

I would say the best part of my Rowan experience would be split between the connections I have made with professors and then the jobs and clubs I have been able to obtain and join on campus. I feel very seen by my professors, and very supported. I have been blessed with such kind and dedicated professors who really care about their students’ well-being.

Are you involved on campus? How so? 

I am involved in Rowan Thrive, Psychology Peer Mentoring, Academic Success Coaching, Tutoring, the Psychology Alliance, and I am a research assistant for the ASSeRT Lab. 

How would you describe inclusion? Could you highlight a Rowan classroom or campus experience that was inclusive and made an impact on you?

One of the most diverse settings I have been involved with on campus is the ASSeRT Lab. It truly is so refreshing and wonderful to be a part of this group. It feels really special to work alongside some of the most hard-working, intelligent and insightful people I have ever met. The most important thing about this setting is that here, capability and intelligence does not have a gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or race. We are all equally important in our roles.

Katarina Carmona sits next to a dock full of boats while visiting Lake Mackinac.
Katarina Carmona visiting Lake Mackinac in Michigan for the first time.

Do you have a role model or mentor here at Rowan? If so, who are they and how have they supported your growth?

I have a wonderful mentor, Lauren Wallace, who was my professor for a Child and Adolescent Development course my sophomore year. She introduced me to psych-related research and was very enthusiastic and passionate about research. It made me want to get involved, so I joined the ASSeRT lab here at Rowan, where she is now my mentor. She has been a huge supporter in my development as a research assistant, student and person.

Since working with Lauren, I have had so many great opportunities presented to me, and I have learned so much. She is a great person to lean on during stressful situations.

What advice would you give to a Hispanic/Latinx high school student considering your major here at Rowan?

Go for it! It is extremely important that there are Hispanic/Latinx students entering academia to make the field more well-rounded and diverse. They can also serve as such big role models to younger Hispanic demographics who may not be seeing many professors/therapists who look like them or have a deeper understanding of their background. 

For psychology majors who want to enter the field of research, there is room for so many wonderful breakthroughs. We can already see the gap in the literature regarding Hispanic demographics, so I believe it is imperative that academia grows in diversity.

Katarina Carmona visiting Universal Studios in San Ciego, CA.
Katarina Carmona visiting Universal Studios in San Ciego, CA.

What are your professional goals?

My professional goals include pursuing a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology to gain well-rounded training in research as well as clinical work.

If you are open to it, could you share a little about your Hispanic or Latinx heritage?

My dad was born in Medellin, Colombia, which makes me half Colombian. I have always struggled with feeling comfortable identifying as Hispanic because in my culture there are people who will minimize your sense of belonging if you are not fluent, and if you are mixed. Since I am also white, and do not speak Spanish fluently, I have felt in the past like it was wrong of me to identify as Hispanic.

As I have progressed through college and had opportunities to immerse myself in very ethnically and racially diverse settings, I have become more comfortable with my background. These diverse academic settings have taught me that people who identify with a particular group do not need to look the same, speak the same language, or have the same upbringing/life experiences.

Katarina poses outside in a floral dress.

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Story by:
Natalie DePersia, senior public relations major

Edited by:
Joseph Conte, junior music industry major

Photos courtesy of: 
Katarina Carmona

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