Brianna Vanderstelt is a first-year master’s student in the Dual Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Social Psychology program.

  1. Where is your hometown?

I grew up in the small, rural town of Middleville, Michigan (about 20 minutes south of Grand Rapids).

  1. Where did you obtain your bachelor’s, and what was your major(s)?

I obtained my BA in both Psychology and Criminal justice from Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw, Michigan.

  1. What first interested you in psychology?

Initially, I was more on the criminal justice/criminology/law track, which was inspired by my high school Law class. I found learning about why and how crime happens, and all the different factors that can influence someone’s lifestyle and decisions, to be fascinating. During undergrad, I double majored in Psychology and Criminal Justice, and it was throughout the first couple of years that I realized I was less interested in engaging with criminals from a punitive standpoint, but more from a helping standpoint. This led me to lean more heavily into psychology, where I found my passion in therapeutic work.


  1. Why did you choose Ball State?

As a minority, one of my top criteria for deciding where to apply and ultimately attend was if there was an active commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I’ve unfortunately been in environments where DE&I values were advertised but never actively implemented into the space, and I often felt ostracized and less valued in those spaces. At BSU, it seems that many of the faculty are interested in topics related to equality, social justice, racial/ethnic disparities, and similar issues that they pursue in research, and are as equally dedicated to fostering an environment that feels welcoming and nonjudgmental. I also felt that the opportunities at BSU, specifically for training for practice and research, aligned with what I was seeking.

  1. What do you think of your experience at Ball State as an MA student so far?

Overall, it’s been an exciting experience! Before this, I had to take a gap year after not getting into any of the Ph.D. programs I was aiming for, which was an extremely tough pill to swallow. Now that I’m here, I have a lot of moments where it just hits me, like – wow, I’m really here! The class workload has been a slight adjustment from what I’m used to, but to start learning and practicing real counseling skills has been surreal and inspiring. The research project I’m a part of with Dr. Lee and planning the 35th Great Lakes Regional Counseling Psychology Conference with Dr. Bowman has also been such a highlight.

  1. What are your future plans and career goals?

After completing my MA, I will be going on to get my Ph.D. here at BSU as well. From there, my goals are to get licensed, though I’m not entirely sure what setting I would like to work in or if I want to work with a specific population. I’m hoping I’ll figure more out over the years as I gain more experience. I am also interested in teaching as a professor, and I want to continue to pursue research.

  1. What are a few of your favorite hobbies?

I love to go on nature walks, especially with my dog. I enjoy writing creatively, and I hope to publish a book one day. I also like horseback riding, gaming, and coloring.

  1. What food could you not live without?


  1. What’s your favorite TV show currently?

It’s a toss-up between New Girl and Shameless!

  1. What’s something about you that people would be surprised to know?

I have a younger brother who has Down Syndrome.

  1. How do you practice self-care?

For me, practicing self-care requires dedication and discipline. It’s very easy for me to slip into a habit of letting work cut into time that I should otherwise spend on myself. It’s something I have to implement into my schedule and honor as I would any other commitment. Such activities might include exercising or being active in some way, partaking in the above-mentioned hobbies, playing with my cat, or going out with friends. Recently, I’ve been trying to get back into reading for enjoyment and spending less time on my phone.