Outstanding Graduates Psychology


Ellie Hagemeister

Ellie Hagemeister

Ellie Hagemeister '23 is one of the more thoughtful, compassionate, and insightful students I’ve had. Her kind and calm demeanor, paired with her critical thinking and sophisticated ability to understand complex psychological processes makes her one of a kind. Ellie consistently scores in the top 5% of the classes I’ve had her in, and having worked with her as a summer research student, I can attest to Ellie’s positive, can-do attitude, incredible initiative, motivation, thoroughness, and curiosity.



Michael Kong

Michael Kong '22 is a bright student, a diligent change agent, and a kind human being. One professor stated, “Michael is absolutely one of the brightest students I have ever taught in my career. He balances his great intellect with amazing humility, humor, and compassion for others. I know Michael will go on to great things, and I feel blessed to have known him during his time at Westmont.”

Valerie Swisher

Valerie Swisher '22 has been a joy to experience. One professor stated that she is an amazing student who set the highest standard in their classes. She has an abiding thirst for knowledge and a ceaseless energy as she pursues her studies and research.  Her writing and speaking reveal depth and critical thinking.  Anyone who knows Valerie will be swept up by her competence and effervescence.


Chloe Liebengood

Chloe Liebengood '21 is an outstanding student in the psychology department, graduating with a focus in behavioral neuroscience. Chloe clearly stands out, excelling in both her coursework and as a leader on campus. Inside and outside the classroom, she engages in the deeper levels of seeking knowledge and understanding, whether that focuses on the intricate workings of the human brain, or the complexities of cross cultural communication. Chloe is an accomplished researcher in behavioral neuroscience, completing projects focused on cortisol regulation under different exercise regimens as well as the impact of classical music vs. Lo-fi beats on relaxation and cardiac function. Following Westmont, Chloe plans to pursue a graduate degree in social work. She has an abiding compassion for serving others in the name of Christ and will clearly do so as she follows His path.


Elizabeth Grace Scalise and   Margaret Anne Zielinski

It has been exciting to watch Beth Scalise '20 develop her abilities and skills while at Westmont. In her work, she is untiring, thorough, curious, and creative, four necessary qualities for a good researcher. She consistently goes beyond the basic requirements of assignments: She is witty and creative, synthesizing complex concepts in unique ways. Over her four years at Westmont, her personal integrity and commitment to others are apparent in her excellent work in various support positions in the psychology department and in her applied research interests. She is someone whose performance, academic and otherwise; service in the department; and quality of research have made a significant contribution to the Westmont community.

Margaret (Maggie) Zielinski '20 is a shining star in the psychology program at Westmont and a joy to all in our department. In her courses, she has consistently shown enthusiastic engagement with the material, whether it be class discussion, laboratory sections, or class assignments. Maggie is well known for her fully involved approach to her studies, her research, and an amazing variety of extracurricular activities. This has included serving as president of the Psi Chi Honors Society, working with Potter’s Clay, serving as a research assistant in neuropsychology, and presenting at the International Neuropsychology Association. As a student, clinician, and researcher, Maggie has shown a great degree of determination, independence, and professionalism in her dedication to clinical neuropsychology as a scientist and practitioner. She has perceptive insight, a thoughtful capacity to empathize with others, and an open mind to the complexity of life. Maggie looks forward to pursuing a PhD in neuropsychology after finishing at Westmont.


Connor Gibbs

Connor Gibbs '19, winner of the Willard F. Harley Award, is enrolled in UC Santa Barbara’s social psychology doctoral program. “He is bright and organized, goal-directed, and he works steadily on achieving his goals,” says Ronald See, chair of the psychology department. “Connor approaches research in a manner that allows him to generate novel ideas and carry them out, as seen by his successful presentations at national conferences.”

During summer 2018, he conducted research with Carmel Saad, professor of psychology, about “Combining Bias Interventions: The Effect of Bias Prediction & Self-Affirmation on Reducing Prejudice.”

“The best part of my Westmont experience has been having the opportunity to gain real world, hands on experience as a researcher,” Gibbs says. “I had the opportunity to participate in both in-lab psychology research here on campus and out at UCSB as well as research conducted within the Santa Barbara community.”

Saad says he is resourceful in a highly independent manner. “Given that a great research career requires not only sharpness of mind but organization and persistence, Connor has a bright future ahead,” she says. “Connor has remarkable integrity in all that he does. He is considerate of others and is ready and willing to lend a helping hand. His respectful and loving nature is a reflection of his deep faith in Christ. Connor reflects all of the best attributes of a Westmont student and the department is proud of his achievements.”


Kennedy Mahdavi

Kennedy Mahdavi's ('18) clinical experiences range from serving the psychological needs of children with neurodevelopmental disorders to assisting adults with neurological conditions. Her majors honors project addressed the effect of antidepressants on the cognitive functioning of those with Parkinson’s disease. “It’s something that affects so many of us, directly or indirectly,” she says. “I have had the privilege of working with older adults who have Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative conditions, and I have come to recognize cognition as a key indicator of quality of life. There are so many opportunities, from providing a listening ear to simply offering presence of being, that we all have to love the aging population well.” She made professional presentations to at the American Psychological Association and International Neuropsychology Society. She earned the David K. Winter Servant Leadership Award, studied abroad in Israel and Palestine, and served with residence life and student government. “Studying psychology at Westmont has provided a solid foundation to pursue interests in various areas, including neuropsychology, but I’ve also realized that a passion to serve the aging population could lend well to a career in nursing or occupational therapy,” she says. “For the time being, I’ll pursue local opportunities to gain more experience working and researching and go from there.”


Anna VandeBunte

Anna VandeBunte '17 has a strong intellect and thoughtful curiosity that puts her academic abilities at a graduate level. Clinically, she is perceptive in her diagnostic abilities and skilled in her capacity to synthesize theory with effective intervention. This has been evident in her work at Sanctuary Psychiatric Centers and her practicum at Pacific Neuroscience Medical Group, where she respectively works with adults who have severe mental illness and neurological disorders. Her gifting as a researcher is evident in her professional presentations at the American Psychological Association, Association of Psychological Science, and International Neuropsychology Society, as well as her completion of a Major Honors project focusing on depression in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The field of psychology is better because of Anna’s presence and contribution.


Brooke Phipps

Brooke Phipps '16 is among the finest students with whom our department has been privileged to work. Academically, she shows a strong intellect and a thoughtful curiosity and open-mindedness that are already at a graduate level. Clinically, she is perceptive in her insight and flexibility, and she shows an advanced understanding of the theory and technique of psychotherapy. This has been evident in her work with women and children who have been victims of domestic violence, as well as her service to pediatric patients in the Child Life program at Cottage Hospital. By supervisors, professors and peers alike, Brooke is appreciated for her professionalism, conscientiousness and warm demeanor.

Cally Smith

Cally Smith '16 is a renaissance psychology student. Her gifting as a researcher is evident in the quality of her design and implementation in her senior research project examining the relationship between tactile sensitivity and empathic response. Her clinical acumen is evident in the rapport she builds, the clinical insight she demonstrates, and the effectiveness of the therapeutic interventions she implements at the Friendship Center, where she works with older adults with neurodegenerative conditions. Her writing is prominent for depth and sophistication of thought, and her character shines with humility and integrity. Cally represents the best of integration among the subdisciplines of psychology.


Andrea Sargent

Andrea Sargent '15 distinguishes herself from other students because of her sharp mind, passion for service, and positive outlook. She is a remarkable student, teacher, and researcher, as testified by her GPA and research assistantship with numerous research projects in social psychology. Because of her infectious smile and enthusiasm, as well as her passion about others, people gravitate toward her. She is highly skilled at listening, attending to, and working with others, which results in a transformative influence in all her activities. This includes positions in various clinical organizations, like Cottage Hospital, as well as on-campus offices and student-run organizations. In all things, Andrea demonstrates love, attentiveness, and compassion for others.

Emily Hauck

Emily Hauck '15 is both excellent and conscientious as a student, researcher, and clinician. Her remarkable organization, motivation, and determination led her to thrive in her role as Lab Coordinator. At the same time, her humility, empathy, and graciousness have translated into effective clinical work with children, including those with developmental disabilities. On a personal level, Emily is bright and resourceful, with a keen mind to learn quickly and a compassionate heart for improving the lives of those around her. There is no doubt she will thrive and be among the top clinicians and researchers in her graduate endeavors in clinical psychology.