Feature Stories 2022: Kiki Bekkum '22: Helping others

Kiki Bekkum '22, Psychology major from Hana, Hawaii
Kiki Bekkum is a senior psychology and health and society dual-major and aging and health minor with a concentration in counseling sequence.
Feature Stories 2022: Kiki Bekkum '22: Helping others
Kiki Bekkum '22: Helping others

Senior psychology and health and society dual-major and aging and health minor from Hana, Hawaii

Describe UMass Dartmouth in one word.

“Bold.” From the actions it takes to the architecture surrounding us, our university has never done something half-heartedly or quietly.

When did you know UMassD was the right choice for you?

Once I stepped foot on campus after my long flight from Hawai’i, I knew UMass Dartmouth was going to be my home for the next 4 years. I got settled in Elmwood (one of the old freshman dorms) and started making friends immediately with my RAs, so I knew I was going to be alright.

What drew you to your majors and minor?

I was drawn to psychology because I wanted to help people, while also alleviating health disparities in minority communities. As someone who is mixed, I have seen both sides of privilege and disadvantages, and want to be able to give equitable treatment regardless of patient background. My additional degree in Health and Society and minor in Aging and Health have only enhanced this desire, and I enjoyed learning within the construct of my degrees.

How has UMass Dartmouth prepared you for life after graduation?

UMass Dartmouth has helped me mature and given me counseling skills that are applicable for my main major in psychology. I have learned how to communicate better, grow my cultural competence, build my leadership and teamwork skills, and network with people from all walks of life.

What are your favorite things about UMass Dartmouth?

My favorite thing about UMass Dartmouth is the community I was able to be a part of. From becoming friends with students and faculty, it warms my heart to see the smiles on faces everywhere I go. One of my most favorite places at UMass Dartmouth is the Psychology Department on LARTS’ third floor, as it is quiet enough to study while also seeing friends.

Who was your favorite professor at UMassD?

I would like to credit Professors Andrea Klimt and Elizabeth Richardson for getting me to where I am today, they have been rockstar advisors and given me access to information that have helped me further my education. I have many favorite professors, and my most favorite class would have to be Introduction to Sociology (SOA 101), as it made me aware of the human institutions that have created many of our current social problems.

What advice would you give to younger UMassD students?

Some advice I would give younger UMassD students is to keep on trying. We will all experience hard times, but remember to rely on one another as you cannot navigate life alone. Second, if you have not volunteered yet, please do so immediately! Volunteering is one of the most crucial things for your own sense of purpose, community, and mental health. The Leduc Center helped me with accessing different volunteering events that interested me, and I met a whole bunch of people who eventually became my friends.

Real-world experience

Can you describe one of your internships?

I currently intern at the Justice Resource Institute - Total Achievement Program (JRI-TAP), a therapeutic after school program for kids ages 6-12. I applied the knowledge I learned from the University’s counseling sequence, and learned additional skills from my internship. Being exposed to different cultures and personalities both inside and outside the classroom has helped me with addressing the various, unique needs each individual presents. My internship helped me gain confidence that this was truly what I wanted to do/my calling.

What leadership lessons have you gained at UMassD?

Through many different leadership experiences at UMassD, I will say they all mainly boil down to portraying confidence and communicating with others. No one will follow an unsure individual, or someone who they don’t feel that listens to them. If you feel uncertain, just fake your confidence until you make it! My leadership experiences have prepared me for life after graduation by becoming a better listener to others, succinctly expressing my desires for action, and planning how tasks need to get done.

Have you done any research at UMassD?

I was lucky enough to research under the guidance of Professor Elizabeth Richardson and graduate student Morgan Browning, joining their team on investigating mental health stigma and various intervention methods. Morgan and Professor Richardson set up flexible deadlines for me to hit on applying for grant funding, helping with the Institutional Review Board (IRB), setting up the Qualtrics, and now analyzing the data. This research has helped me prepare for publishing findings in the future, applying for grants, and gaining more confidence through experience.

Staff Reference

"As a peer mentor and researcher, Kiki effectively advises and counsels our students and communicates with faculty and staff. But it’s her truly exceptional work ethic, strength of her interpersonal relationships and sense of humor which will help her excel in counseling," said Deirdre Healy, Director of the Office of Community Service and Partnerships. "She has endless energy and passion for helping others, while using humor and a smile to keep herself and others on track. Due to this emotional maturity, she’s distinguished herself as one of the top leaders in her class, while maintaining a high GPA and the intensive service and leadership requirements needed to retain the Endeavor Scholarship. During her college career, Kiki has also demonstrated a distinct passion for improving our society. As the President of Active Minds and Model U.N., Vote Captain during the 2020 general election and an active member of MassPirg, I remain impressed by her singular ability to provide service, but stay connected to the policy and political issues that impact the world she encounters."

To read about other graduating Corsairs' stories, visit umassd.edu/commencement/spotlights. For all things Commencement, visit umassd.edu/commencement.