Student Profile - Amy Becerra

Psychology major uses faculty inspiration to fuel passion

After Kountze resident Amy Becerra graduated high school, she chose to take a year off to determine which route she wanted to go in life.

“When I graduated, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Becerra said. “However, during my year off I felt like something was missing. I wanted to do something else and that’s when my friend encouraged me to apply to Lamar.”

Amy BecerraA psychology major, Becerra, who graduated with her degree in May, has always been passionate about how people think.

“Growing up, I’ve always been that curious kid wondering how things work,” Becerra said. “I always question how people function as well as why they function in that way, just understanding people in general. From my psychology courses, I’ve learned that one of the most powerful tools we have is our mind. I think it’s interesting that despite all of the technological advances, the mind is still such a mystery.”

When Becerra arrived at Lamar, she became involved in the psychology learning community, a group of approximately 20 freshman students who take two or more courses together.

“Through the learning community, I got to meet other students who had the same interest as me and develop relationships,” Becerra said. “The learning community brings together different professors around campus who tell us about opportunities we might not ordinarily be made aware of.”

With her degree from Lamar, Becerra hopes to continue her education and pursue a Ph.D. in community psychology.

“Community psychology embodies everything I want,” Becerra said. “Basically, community psychology looks at different factors like culture, politics, and the environment to promote mental health and community well-being. It also looks at ways to improve existing programs like the education system. It is very action-oriented and that is one of the things that I love about it.”

Becerra said the encouragement and mentorship demonstrated by her professors has played a significant role in her desire to become a professor.

“Seeing how enthused the teachers in the psychology department are about their work makes me want to be that kind of passionate professor,” Becerra said. “I am so grateful that my professors saw potential in me and helped mold and shape me. In doing research on how to improve the education system and being a professor, I get to inspire other students like my professors have done with me.”

As a first-generation minority, Becerra credits her education for improving her quality of life for herself and her family.

“My parents came to the United States from Mexico, not knowing the language, in hopes of providing a better life for their children,” Becerra said. “Their example in how they were able to succeed and adapt in a new environment was so inspirational for me. No one can ever take away your education or your knowledge.”

As a professor, Becerra said she hopes to do research and be involved in the field of academia with the hopes of being able to change the education system and inspire other students to follow their dreams.

“I have observed that in the lower levels of education that there isn’t a lot catered to help students who are at risk,” Becerra said. “In order to be competitive with countries across the world, we need to teach the students, especially at a young age like early childhood development, tools that allow them to be successful in life and get those motivation levels up.”

In her time at Lamar, Becerra was involved with many student organizations such as the National Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish National Honor Society), Spanish Circle, Psychology Association of Lamar Students, Psychology Learning Community, WINGS Mentoring Program, Friends of India, and Lamar Women’s Club Soccer. Becerra was also a Volunteer Coordinator of the Southeast Asian Sisterhood colony, and was elected president of the Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology.

“Being involved in organizations enhances your college experience,” Becerra said. “It helps you meet new people who have similar interests and allows you to network. It is important to have a balance between academic and social life. Although academics are important, it is also important to develop yourself as a person.”

In her junior year, Becerra applied for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which pairs faculty mentors with students to teach the research process and prepare them for graduate school.

“While I was in the learning community, the professors encouraged me to become a McNair Scholar,” Becerra said. “The McNair Scholars Program was challenging but worth it. It helped me establish discipline and develop both research and communication skills.”

Having never conducted research before, Becerra said her experience as a McNair Scholar was a learning experience.

“I discovered you have to really be persistent with your research and think long-term,” Becerra said. “I had Dr. Jeremy Shelton as my faculty mentor for my McNair Scholar research and I did a cross-cultural comparison between Spain and the United States regarding the decision-making process involved in elder care. There are so many factors you have to think about, especially considering your audience, when researching.”

While a McNair Scholar, Becerra studied abroad in Spain, allowing her to complete half of her research in the summer there.  

“Doing the research in conjunction with studying abroad was really rewarding,” Becerra said. “It’s different reading something versus experiencing it for yourself. The cross-cultural research opened up so many opportunities. I learned how to research and develop connections.”           This past spring break, Becerra presented her research at The 2nd Annual Ivy Plus Symposium hosted by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“When I first found out about the symposium I was really intimidated, but when I got accepted, it really showed me that I could compete at a higher level,” Becerra said. “I got to meet different people who had the same passion as myself and make connections with professors from Harvard and other universities. Hearing the backgrounds of some of those professors, I realized that your background truly doesn’t matter, but what matters is the heart and passion you have.”

Becerra has also presented at the Lamar University 4th Annual Spring Student Research Symposium, the 14th Annual McNair Scholars Research Symposium, and the Lamar University Department of Psychology 11th Annual Fall Student Research Symposium.

“Having the support of my professors who helped cultivate my drive really made a difference, and also plays a huge part in why I want to work in the education system,” Becerra said. “The professors at Lamar have helped me develop my skills and grow as a person. I’m so grateful for their mentorship.”

While involved in campus organizations, Becerra also served as a Lamar University Peer Advisor, a tutor at Lamar University’s Writing Center, an undergraduate teaching assistant for the psychology department, and has worked on campus as a wingman mentor for Student Advisement and Retention Services (STARS).

Becerra said she is grateful for the financial assistance from scholarships such as the Dr. Myrtle L. Bell Award in Psychology, and the Barnes & Noble Bookstore Scholarship.

“If it wasn’t for the scholarships, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to pursue a higher education,” Becerra said. “Since college is so expensive, the scholarships help cover my expenses and help me pursue something I really want, like a career. It means everything to me.”

Currently, Becerra is applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a highly competitive program where selected students become eligible for scholarships to study or conduct research abroad, where she hopes to teach English in a Spanish speaking country.

Attending Lamar has provided Becerra a direction for the future while allowing her to flourish as an individual.

“I have grown from a shy person to someone who is comfortable speaking to people now,” Becerra said. “I’m not afraid to seek out opportunities or ask questions. Also, I’ve been fortunate to create new friendships with people from different backgrounds. I have such a diverse set of friends and they all bring new perspectives and a different set of ideas.”

Becerra said that she feels her time at Lamar has thoroughly prepared her for future pursuits.

“LU offered me the learning community in psychology, the McNair Scholars Program, campus jobs, a challenging curriculum, and professors who genuinely cared about my education,” Becerra said. “If it wasn’t for Lamar giving me the opportunity to conduct my own research, I wouldn’t know anything about research. My education at Lamar has given me the leg-up in developing skills necessary for graduate school.”