Amber Monson; alumna reflections

“My time at UW Tacoma taught me humility, strength, resilience, compassion, and determination. It was quite the experience.”

Amber Monson PhotoAmber Monson recently graduated from UW Tacoma as a double major in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She was accepted to UW Bothell to earn her Masters in Policy Studies. Before becoming a research assistant for Dr. Stephen Ross, Monson decided to get off disability and take her life back by returning to school.

“I was a single mother with three kids, enrolled in school full-time, worked full-time, cared for my ailing grandfather who was on 24-hour bed care, and was Ross’s research assistant. It’s been a long, hard struggle.”

When Monson was working towards her AA at Tacoma Community College (TCC), she told one of her advisors that she was interested in Forensic Psychology and wanted to work with sex-crime victims. She recalled, “I was on disability for seven years because of my own personal victimization when I was younger. I wanted to give back.” At TCC, Monson had an instructor who recommended getting in touch with Dr. Ross, a forensic psychologist, to help her along her way. When she arrived here, that’s exactly what she did. He had openings for a few research assistants, she applied, and said, “the rest is kind of history.”

Her advice to those wanting to work with a professor on campus, “Make sure the type of research assistant you are trying to become is of interest to you—the topic and what that instructor or professor is researching. I think that in order to be effective, you have to understand [the research], understand its importance, and be interested in it because it makes you better at what you’re doing, and it makes it a lot easier to stand behind and rally others to participate. ”

“Being a research assistant made a huge difference on my resume for graduate school,” says Monson.

Monson served as a research participant in a few research studies for Psychology professors Dr. Ross and Dr. Lee before becoming a research assistant herself. She recalled, “They were interesting, fairly short, and easy. I remember after doing one about three years ago, thinking, ‘I’m really curious as to what this research is about.’ There was a debriefing–what the study was about after the research was conducted, but nothing explicit. There was also an opportunity to be notified of the group’s results.” Other than that, participants were completely unaware of what the researchers were expecting to find. Students are often hesitant to participate in research studies because they’re so busy and aren’t sure how being in the study might benefit them. Participating in a research study can help students understand better how research is conducted and find out if they are interested in pursuing research internships and/or graduate work on research.