Chelsea Olson, Educational Psychology

On Dec. 19, UW–Madison will celebrate its Winter 2021 Commencement. We reached out to a few of our students who are graduating from programs in the School of Education to learn about their favorite UW–Madison memories and future plans. Following is a Q&A with Chelsea Olson, who is graduating with a PhD in educational psychology.

Photo of Chelsea OlsonWhat brought you to UW–Madison?

Although I grew up in Michigan, my family is from Wisconsin and raised me as a die-hard Wisconsin Badger. I moved to Madison to attend college at UW, and I consider Wisconsin my home after 10-plus years of living here. Continuing my education at UW was a no-brainer, as I love the university and the amazing opportunities it has provided me.   

Why did you decide to pursue graduate study?

I recognized early on in my undergraduate career that a major in psychology would likely mean I needed to pursue graduate school to advance my training in some domain, which worked out nicely as I have a love for learning. As an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Educational Psychology, I developed a passion for research and topics related to development. A goal of mine was to find a way to help others, and research turned out to be the way to do this. Pursuing a PhD in educational psychology allowed me to grow as a scholar, find my niche, and contribute to important work that could benefit others. 

Tell us about your research.

My research has focused on the social, emotional, and cognitive development of adolescents. I have studied the intersection of two important contexts in adolescents’ lives: peer relationships and social media, and how negative experiences in those contexts, such as cyberbullying or cyberstalking, affect their mental health and well-being.  

What was your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison?

I was fortunate to be involved in an interdisciplinary training grant fellowship that brought together faculty and graduate students from several UW departments to collaborate on projects related to youth, social media, and well-being. This experience was meaningful because I was able to form collaborative partnerships and work on research projects that were interesting and important to me.   

"Pursuing a PhD in educational psychology allowed me to grow as a scholar, find my niche, and contribute to important work that could benefit others."

What was your favorite class or professor, and why?

Although every professor I worked with on a project or learned from in a course was brilliant and kind, I have to recognize my adviser, Amy Bellmore, who was incredibly supportive, encouraging, and wonderful throughout my career. 

Any advice for incoming students? What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started at UW?

Find your people. Create connections with faculty members, students in cohorts above you and below you, people in your department and outside of your department. These will be the people who can provide you with advice, support, guidance, and feedback. They will be your study buddies, your collaborators, your mentors. Graduate school is a long process. People make it better. 

What are your plans for the future?

I will be working as a research scientist on the SMAHRTeam in the Department of Pediatrics at UW–Madison. Three degrees later and UW still can’t get rid of me.  

What is a “hidden gem” on campus, or in Madison? 

The 13th floor of the Educational Sciences building is a comfy, quiet space to study, and has incredible views of campus. Madison also has a lot of great places to explore outside of campus, such as Olbrich Botanical Gardens or House on the Rock.

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