Graduate Student Spotlight: Julia MacLaren – Master of Arts, Psychology

Julia MacLaren is a second year Master of Arts in Psychology with an emphasis in Psychological Research (MAPR) student. She graduated from UC Davis in 2019 with a BA in Psychology and Cognitive Science with a minor in Education. She is currently the Graduate Assistant for Not Alone @ the Beach, a grant-funded gender violence and sexual assault prevention and education organization at CSULB. She is “passionate about supporting survivors of assault and violence, as well as educating the Long Beach community and how to support a survivor and themselves.” Julia is also working with her mentor, Dr. Courtney Ahrens, on “a systematic scoping review to better understand the literature on how and what undergraduate students disclose to university professors.” Julia plans on graduating with her Master’s in Spring 2022!

We are so proud and grateful to have Julia as a part of our Beach community! Learn more about Julia, how learning during a pandemic affected her studies, and her best advice for future graduate students.


What made you choose CSULB for your Master’s degree?

I grew up in Orange County and always had an interest in CSULB. After receiving my undergraduate degree, I searched for Master’s programs that fit my specific passions and interests. While searching, I found Dr. Ahrens at CSULB. Her research and passions aligned perfectly with mine, and it was then that I knew CSULB was the right program for me. 

What’s your favorite thing about your program?

The best part of the MAPR program is the one-on-one mentorship. I have the ability to work very closely with my faculty mentor, while working hands-on with data and other research assistants. CSULB does a great job of providing support and faculty mentors to its students. 

How has your experience in graduate school changed since moving to remote learning?

I began my Master’s program during the pandemic so I have never taken a class on campus at CSULB! It was my first time experiencing classes online and the professors have been nothing but open and supportive to their students. Remote learning has not been the easiest transition, it often is hard to maintain a work-life balance. After a year, I have a few tips and tricks on how to fight burnout. I only work 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday and try to not work on the weekends. I also try to move my body everyday by going on walks, doing an online workout, getting on a spin bike, or by doing yoga. 

What are your future goals or career plans for life post-grad?

My future goals are to apply for a doctoral degree in counseling psychology and work with survivors of domestic violence. I plan to take a few gap years in between my masters and doctoral degree so that I can travel, volunteer, and do more research on the various types of abuse experienced by survivors. One day I hope to open a survivor focused center with therapists, psychologists, and social workers. 

What’s your best advice for students looking into graduate school?

The best advice I could give students is to do the research on programs, classes offered, faculty at the university, and location of the school. I took months to create spreadsheets full of information on various universities before applying for my Master’s degree. This process takes time, work at least six months in advance doing research on various programs and schools before the applications open. Another piece of advice that I have is, don’t rush! There is no “timeline” to do things in, if you need to take gap years you should take gap years. As a student, I always felt pressured to do education in a linear fashion. But this is not the case, do graduate school on your own timeline and take your time.