Student Success Story: Olivia Silke

Student Success in Psychological Research
By Caroline Serrano

What is student success?

Is it defined by your GPA? No.
The amount of years it took to obtain your degree? No.
The number of chords and medallions you get to wear at graduation? No – no longer will student success be defined in these limited, outdated terms.

Student success: (n) resilience; one’s ability to keep going even when there are barriers and let downs along the way – at least that is how Olivia Silke defines it.

Olivia SilkeOlivia Silke has much to be proud of as a 2019 graduate with a Master of Arts in Psychological Research (MAPR). During her time at CSULB, Olivia has further strengthened her passion for research in the field of maternal and infant health among disadvantaged populations. She hopes to study “how maternal experiences (e.g., stress) during pregnancy contribute to disease risk and resilience and cellular aging in infants.”

While at CSULB, Olivia has been a recipient of the Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar Award, the Graduate Research Fellows Award, and the University Achievement Award for Outstanding Graduate Research Student. In addition to these accolades, Olivia recently earned the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. This award totals $138,000 and will help supplement her income as she focuses on her research for the next three years.

Olivia attributes many factors to her success as a student. “First, my passion for the work I am doing allowed me to push through, even when times were stressful or difficult,” Olivia exclaims. Here, she notes how her passion positively influenced her ability to be resilient throughout her journey as a student. 

Olivia was also proactive in her approach to learning and sought out ways to foster growth in her areas of interest. As noted by Olivia, “I wanted to learn more about mindfulness-based interventions, so, I emailed a top researcher nearby and asked if I could volunteer to work in his lab. This allowed me to expand upon my scientific proficiencies and form a network of professionals who could mentor me.”

Olivia also gives credit to CSULB in her development as a successful student. She specifically points to the MAPR program, which provided her with opportunities to present her research beside top researchers in her field. Professors within the MAPR also significantly influenced her experience as a graduate student. Olivia states, “My mentor Dr. Urizar allowed me to pursue research topics that were of interest to me and met with me regularly to develop my ideas. Dr. Cho and Dr. Pedersen in the psychology department were also a great resource for learning graduate level statistics.”

While a huge contributor, the MAPR program was not the only resource CSULB was able to offer. Olivia notes, “Outside of the department, I took advantage of opportunities at the Graduate Resource Center, such as writing help, CV development, and workshops for professional development. Altogether, the opportunities at CSULB were crucial in developing my skills as a student researcher.”

Moving forward, Olivia hopes to apply everything she has learned to her future endeavors. As for her ultimate career goal, Olivia looks forward to earning her PhD and securing a career as a faculty researcher at an R1 university. She asserts, “I hope my research will contribute to the development of tailored and feasible prenatal stress management interventions for low-income women and inform the scientific community of the biological implications of mindfulness-based constructs during pregnancy.”

We are all resilient in one way or another. Now, we must ask ourselves – how do I promote resiliency in my daily life? How does this contribute to my success? Moving forward, remember to be flexible while standing firm in your passions – resilience is key to triumph.