Leondra '24

Leondra '24 photo

College of Professional Studies

Major/Minor: Psychology BA and Neuroscience ILM

Describe your Syracuse experience in a couple of sentences.
It was a challenge, at first. As a non-traditional student, I found it hard to connect with other students on a personal level when I first arrived because I am much older than most of my classmates. As a part-time student, I expected that to get worse as I continued in my degree, I would get older as the students I'd be around would always be anywhere from 6-10 years younger than me. It was hard to make friends, so I threw myself into work, to stay busy. The support of Hendricks Chapel gave me the opportunity to not need to juggle three jobs to support myself. I made a lot of friends through the work I do at the food pantry on campus. I believe these connections I made also heavily impacted how the students felt comfortable with using the pantry. Now almost three years after I started working at the food pantry at Hendricks Chapel my Syracuse experience has changed, not only am I still successful academically but I feel I have placed strong roots in the Orange community.

How is your school/college preparing you for your future career?
This past school year I have been involved in numerous research opportunities including the PRIDE program run by the Syracuse University Psychology department, a research initiative for underrepresented minorities in psychology research. During my two months summer 2022 experience in PRIDE I experienced what it was like to start from the ground up conducting research, I also received personal one-on-one mentorship, and during leadership meetings, I learned more about the graduate application process, what to expect in graduate school in general but also from the perspective of other minorities including Black women like me (Dr. Cornwall). I completed this program knowing that I wanted to go to graduate school and have a career involved in psychology research. In Fall 2023, I continued working with my PRIDE mentor as a research assistant in her lab. Spring 2023 I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Seoul, South Korea. Though what I learned there isn’t directly aligned with my major at Syracuse University I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a new language and culture and learn about the history of South Korea. This spring semester I got accepted into the Robert E. McNair Scholar program, where starting Summer 2023 I will be able to continue working on my research with Dr. Burke and advisors from the McNair program. This Fall semester I look forward to being able to present my research at conferences.

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I plan to take a gap year and continue working at the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry—full time. I plan to apply to graduate schools and hope to obtain an internship or shadowship at SUNY Upstate Medical School.

How has your involvement with Hendricks impacted you?
Working at Hendricks Chapel was the renaissance of my Syracuse University experience. Everything suddenly started to change, not only was I put in a position where I could see firsthand how my impact could change the lives of others in the Orange community, but I was surrounded by people who have done nothing but support and encourage me. One thing I didn’t expect to get from working at Hendricks Chapel was to improve my speaking skills, I’ve been able to talk about food insecurity with many students across campus including freshmen and underrepresented middle and high school students in Syracuse, Harlem and other parts of the country.

Are you the recipient of any scholarships?
I am a recipient of the College of Professional Studies scholarship through the Our Time Has Come Scholarship program. I also received a scholarship through Study Abroad. The Forever Orange Campaign and Boost the 'Cuse donations help support the food pantry which I use and benefit from as well.

Tell me about your experience studying abroad.
I majored in Korean Literature and Language at Yonsei University (The #2 school in South Korea) I took three classes about different aspects of Korean culture. “Understanding Kpop"- I’m not the biggest fan of K-pop but I have been able to apply psychology to this class and write a small research paper on parasocial relationships. It is also interesting to see how much K-pop has impacted South Korea financially and culturally.

The second class I took was the most interesting to me, “History of Korean Cinema” This class allowed me to improve my analytic and critical thinking skills as we analyzed popular movies produced in South Korea during historical time periods like movies made during colonization, while the USSR and United States military occupied South Korea, the Korean War and more. We discuss propaganda within an array of films and the allegories of cultural context that Western audiences may not understand if they don’t know anything about Korean history.

The third class I took was “Society and Human Behavior” which is an introductory sociology class focused on social problems in South Korea. I learned a lot about gender-related issues, family, music, and education all from a different cultural perspective.

I took a fourth course as well “Brain, Cognition and Daily Life” This is a cognitive neuropsychology class. I took this as it goes over a lot of stuff I've learned in courses taken at Syracuse University. I am interested in behavior and social psychology, so these courses allowed me to engage with psychology and Korean culture.

What has been your favorite Syracuse experience so far?
I really enjoy the outdoor activities offered through the Barnes Center. They offer opportunities for students to go hiking around Upstate New York. I love being able to hike but I do not have a car so it's not always accessible to me. For a very affordable price, The Barnes Center brings students to various locations like Watkins Glen, Green Lakes, Pratts Falls and more. I take this time to study, take photos, and relax. It's one of the many great activities this university offers. I also loved being able to see B.o.B live at Juice Jam, seeing Tiffany Haddish perform in Schine Goldstein Auditorium, and all the many social events SU provides that I wouldn’t have attended otherwise. Seeing Trevor Noah speak at the MLK event was another highlight.

How has donor generosity impacted your time at Syracuse?
Without the financial support of the Our Time Has Come Program and student opportunity grants given through Hendricks Chapel I would not be able to afford to study abroad.

Why do you think giving is important?
It is important to pay it forward when you can because planting seeds allows the world to flourish. When I graduate and make enough money, I plan to pay it forward and want to support the scholarship funds that supported me. I hope that students with ambition just like me won't have to worry about the financial burdens of being a college student and can flourish like I am now. Without financial support through scholarships, many other students would not be able to do their best at one of the most prestigious universities in the country.

What does it mean to you to be Orange?
Syracuse University was the only school I applied to. Growing up in Upstate New York I had always dreamed of attending one of the most prestigious universities in the country. For me being Orange is knowing what I want and trusting that Syracuse University would take me down the path I needed to get there. I do not believe that I would be where I am today if I had attended another university. I would not have had all the amazing experiences and genuine connections with people who believe in me.

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