Graduating senior embraces Baker experience
Baldwin City, Kan. — With both of her parents and a grandmother graduates of Baker University, Lauren Breithaupt was well versed on what the liberal arts university had to offer by the time she arrived on the Baldwin City campus in August 2009.
"My family always talked about their Baker experiences, and once I got to campus I started to experience the same things they did," said Breithaupt, who will graduate with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology on Sunday at the Collins Center. "I knew I really wanted to be involved on campus, and I knew I wanted to get to know different groups on campus and make the most of being at a small school. I had no idea how rewarding the experience would be."
Breithaupt will be joined at the commencement ceremonies by her family this weekend, including her parents, Spencer Breithaupt, Class of 1983, and Joann (Huyett) Breithaupt, Class of 1986. Her grandparents, J.C. and Carolyn Breithaupt, live in Baldwin City, and Carolyn is a 1957 Baker graduate.
Early in her collegiate career, Breithaupt majored in journalism before shifting her attention toward psychology, now a passion of hers.
"I thought I wanted to tell people's stories and that's why I originally concentrated on journalism," she recalled. "Once I realized my end goal was to help people, and after I took psychology classes, I knew that was the direction I wanted to take. I took a research methods class, which quickly became my favorite class, and realized the potential research had to affect a large group of people rather than one individual person. Research is exciting and invigorating."
Breithaupt embraced several opportunities at Baker, including being active in Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. She also served as a parMentor, vice president for the Psychology Club, Student Senate representative, secretary of the student diversity group Mungano, coordinator of the Emerging Leaders Summit and as an orientation leader. The graduate of Blue Valley Northwest High School was recognized by several honor societies, including Order of Omega, Gamma Sigma Alpha, National Greek Honor Society, Phi Eta Sigma Freshman Honor Society, Cardinal Key Honor Society and the Distinguished Honors Program.
She will also compete next week in the 5,000-meter race-walk at the NAIA track and field outdoor championships. In the January NAIA indoor track championship, she placed ninth at the 3,000-meter race-walk.
"I was told during my campus visit the benefits of going to a small school and how you could start holding leadership roles right away and didn't have to wait," said Breithaupt, who took the advice to heart.
Of all of her campus activities, Breithaupt said her time as a parMentor ranked among her favorite experiences.
"I loved being a part of parMentors and serving on the board," she said of the group that assists in hosting university guests and representing Baker. "As a parMentor you start to realize the importance of Baker to the alumni. You really take ownership of the school and represent the university."
Breithaupt's love of research helped in her being selected as an honorary research fellow at Huntercombe Hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland, for the 2011-12 academic year. During the summer of 2012, she was one of 12 college students chosen for the American Psychological Association's Summer Science Fellowship at George Mason.
In August she will return to George Mason in Fairfax, Va., where she will begin a seven-year program to earn a doctorate in psychology with a focus on neurological science.
"I didn't want to limit what I could do," Breithaupt said. "George Mason provides me the opportunity to focus on research and get clinical experience."
At George Mason, she will study eating disorders and better ways to promote a positive body image. Breithaupt started researching the subject in high school, where she helped develop REbeL, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the health of students. She was involved in training educators and writing grants to fund the research for the program.
"I'm definitely excited because I know this is what I want to do," Breithaupt said of starting her post-graduate work. "Baker has prepared me well."