Psychology Dean’s Medalist has a passion for serving others

By

Robert Ewing

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Karishma Singh is a graduating senior and Dean's Medalist who is double majoring in psychology and family and human development. She has served as a coach in the First-Year Success Center and also as a research assistant in the Evolution, Ecology, and Social Behavior Lab, conducting research on stereotyping, prejudice and intergroup conflict. Additionally, she established her own internship with a clinical psychologist in India while living abroad.

Her experience since March has been different than most other students, however. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she moved back to Singapore to be with her family. This move required a 14-day quarantine period in a hotel, isolated from everyone.

Although Singapore is 15 hours ahead in time from Arizona, she resolved to not let anything change and to continue in her studies. Singh retained her students that she was mentoring and she continued in her senior-level course on Stereotypes, Prejudice, and Discrimination with Professor Steven Neuberg.

This required staying up past midnight for student meetings and seminar discussions and eating cold food from a lack of cooking devices in the quarantined hotel room.

“My passion for my work and the class kept me up at night, even when it was difficult to stay awake. I also didn’t want to leave my students halfway through. They trusted me and that bond really mattered to me,” Singh said. She is also an avid dancer, having danced at Gammage as part of ASU’s Indian Student’s Association Jhaankar Dance in 2019 and used dance as a stress reliever during those long, isolated days.

Currently, she is applying to master’s degree programs in clinical and mental health counseling. Early on in her academic career, she had planned to pursue a PhD in research, but she found out that one of her greatest joys was helping make a difference in the lives of people in need.

“That job really taught me how to interact with people — everyone comes in with a different story and from a different background. Even if the students came in with the same exact problem of time management, their reasons could be entirely different and learning how to connect with them was exciting.” Singh said. “I learned my strengths and weaknesses through this role because I used to get really sad when students shared emotional moments, but I had to come back to the present for my next appointment.”

Learning the power of listening

One of the most important skills to be a successful coach is active listening and active “hearing” — to actually hear and understand what people are saying. Frequently, people will listen in a conversation for the cues to plan their next response but aren’t actually listening.

“It’s not until you actually hear what they say that you can understand and be empathetic,” said Singh.

Her time as a coach solidified that this was exactly what she was meant to do. At the end of the year, Singh mentioned how important and special it was to see the tangible difference she made in the lives of her students.

“The impact I had, even in one year, to see them grow and progress, it just made me so excited for my future career,” said Singh, “Together, we were able to adjust sleep and studying habits and really alter how my students worked through their own issues.”

Not only has Singh had an impact on her classmates, but she struck a chord with her faculty mentors as well.

“Since her first year at ASU, I've been struck by how genuinely curious Karishma is. She used to stay after class to ask questions about material that reflected her earnest desire to really understand psychology and how it relates to everyday life. She has continued to do this throughout her time at ASU, whether it was stopping into my office or via a Zoom meeting. She is continually looking for ways to learn--whether it is from her own experiences or others--and she wants to use that knowledge to help others. She epitomizes what we want in our students--someone who is passionate in using the knowledge and the skills she learned in her education to make a difference in people's lives. She has been an absolute delight to work with and I know she will do more great things,” said Carolyn Cavanaugh-Toft, a principal lecturer and Singh’s favorite professor.

Neuberg, her lab mentor and chair of the ASU Department of Psychology, shared that not only was she one of the most insightful students in his class, but that she also stands out for her level of caring.

“Karishma has great empathy for others’ challenges and an ability to take others’ perspectives, and views a career in counseling as a way to leverage her strengths and “work her passion.”  She truly is a person who cares, a fact that just leaps off her resume — whether it be the mentoring of fellow students to facilitate their first-year success (including first-year international students taking classes this semester from afar), her tutoring of ASU students in math, her internship with a clinical psychologist in Hyderabad, India, or her engagement with elementary school children in Singapore. Even her leadership work with Phi Sigma Pi has focused on philanthropy,” said Neuberg.