Name and year in school?
Alexandra Finley. I am a junior majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Technical Writing and Communication.
Rock Hill, South Carolina
What is your major? What led you to choose this major?
I am majoring in Biochemistry because I have always been drawn to the complex interplay between chemistry and biology within different organisms - even in seemingly simplistic day-to-day bodily processes. In high school, Biology and Chemistry were my favorite subjects and Biochemistry seemed like the perfect major to combine my passions and provide a solid foundation for any career that I could wish to pursue.
What do you hope to do after finishing your undergraduate degree?
I hope to become a Genetic Counselor, an individual who provides guidance and resources for people affected by inherited conditions. Essentially, genetic counselors are translators of scientific information, breaking down complex inheritance patterns into language or images that are easy to understand. Genetic counselors then advise clients on how to proceed with a genetic disorder in life from having kids to connecting with others with the same condition. I love that the career not only combines my love for science and communication, but it would also allow me to connect with others on a very human level in both molecular and emotional spheres.
As a member of CBS Student Board, you've been active in promoting mental health initiatives. Can you talk a little bit about what the board has been working on and why it is so important to you?
The CBS Student Board has been working very hard on many different initiatives this year: mental health, diversity and inclusion, and gender expression. Specifically, our mental health initiative has manifested online through Humans of CBS and through many of the events that we have put on this semester. Humans of CBS is a series on Instagram that allows students in CBS to anonymously share their thoughts, experiences, and advice involving mental health in CBS. In CBS we work very hard to achieve optimal success at a very high cost. We compare ourselves to others, not realizing that we all have different experiences and knowledge. We don't sleep or eat enough to finish an assignment or study into the early morning hours. We don't acknowledge our struggles with mental health or academics because they are seen as weaknesses or a lack of intelligence. This series hopes to give visibility to this issues, let students know they are not alone, and provide mental health resources for students on campus.
As someone who has struggled with a mental illness, I wanted to personally make sure to the best of my ability that there was a safe space where students could talk about mental health without the stigma surrounding it. As for events, we have hosted a Town Hall this semester on mental health, inviting students to speak to peers in CBS and faculty (Dean Valery Forbes, John Ward, Abby Conover, and Let's Talk counselors) about mental health. Additionally, we have worked with other student boards across campus to host a Wellness Week - a week long event with de-stress activities and positive mental health.
What advice do you have for peers who may be struggling with their mental health?
Don't be afraid to take that initial step of reaching out to a resource on campus. The hardest part is starting, but know that there is an abundance of resources and people here at the U who would love to help and talk to you about any struggles that you may be facing. And you don't have to be facing a serious mental illness to reach out to someone. Everyone is on the mental health continuum and could use the benefits of therapy. If you're not sure if therapy is the right path for you, you can always talk to a counselor at Let's Talk which can guide you about different resources on campus. Another tip: don't be afraid to advocate for yourself. It's more than okay to say no to things to benefit your state of mind.
Are you a part of any other organizations or activities on campus?
I run a CBS Circle called "De-stigmatizing Disabilities and Mental Health." The group meets once a week during the Fall 2018 semester and we talk about all things mental health from social media to faculty interactions, different mental disabilities, medication, and culture in CBS. I also volunteer at Hammer Residences and SVC, which have been major eye-openers about the human experience in general even though they both have specific focuses (intellectual disabilities and sexual violence).
What is your go-to coffee order to fuel a long day of studying?
I'm actually more of a tea drinker. I've been loving this one brand called Zest Tea which is highly caffeinated. But I try to alternate between caffeinated and non-caffeinated teas when I can.