Inspiring Graduate: Casey Holmes (‘22)
- Hometown: Hudson
- Degree: M.S. Applied Psychology
- Emphases: evaluation; health promotion and disease prevention; and I/O psychology
With several hands-on experiences researching for and working with real world clients, Casey Holmes accepted a job offer before graduation as a data analyst with Des Moines Valley Health and Human Services in southern Minnesota.
Her campus employment at Catalyst in UW-Stout’s Applied Research Center, group projects in the MSAP program and working as a teaching assistant for two statistics courses prepared her for the workforce.
“I appreciate the hands-on, polytechnic focus at Stout,” Holmes said. “Client projects shift the focus of education from completing assignments to get a grade, to learning and developing your skills, which is what school should be about.”
Holmes earned her master’s in applied psychology on Dec. 17, graduating early in a year and a half. Even as a commuter student, she felt a “tremendous sense of belonging here. Stout has been my home, and I will always cherish the memories that I made here.
“Someone once told me that graduate school is not about how intelligent you are but rather how hard you work. I have found that to be true,” she added.
“If anyone is considering attending graduate school, I would wholeheartedly encourage them to apply. Graduate school is challenging but equally rewarding. We are all equals here, and Stout fosters collaboration rather than competition between students. It is an incredibly uplifting space where we can all succeed, and my success does not dampen another's.”
How has your Stout education and experience changed you?
Stout has helped me to become more confident and resilient. It has provided many resources and opportunities for me to grow professionally, through seminar classes and Career Services. It has also better equipped me to relate and work with others effectively and strengthened my interpersonal skills. My Stout experience has taught me that I deserve to be here and that no dream is too big. My teachers and peers have instilled in me the belief that any goal is within reach, a mindset that I hope will take me far in life.
How did you overcome the challenges you faced in earning your degree?
During my time at Stout, I navigated challenges of the pandemic, balancing school and multiple jobs, and working with others on group projects. Dr. Dana Wanzer helped me create a plan to maximize my efficiency and help me manage my time more effectively, contributing to better time management skills.
In the evaluation group project, our group was tasked with many challenges, including people being sick with COVID, missing client interviews due to inclement weather and dealing with changing methodologies midway through the semester. We handled what was thrown at us with grace and took the necessary time to craft a quality product for our client.
How has Stout prepared you to work in your field?
The applied focus at Stout and in my program of study has contributed to an increased sense of preparedness as I enter the workforce.
Projects in my courses involved conducting research and evaluations with real world clients, an experience which has been both more exciting and more applicable than theoretical classroom lessons.
My work at Catalyst in the Applied Research Center has further solidified my understanding of research standards and best practices. I was a part of numerous research and evaluation projects in various stages.
My work supplemented what I learned in the classroom and provided me with ample opportunities to advance my proficiency in research and analysis.
What stands out about your Stout experience?
The thing that stands out the most to me about my Stout experience is the helpful nature of the Stout community. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful mentor in Dr. Wanzer, whom I could message on Teams anytime to talk about school and work, as well as send research memes. Dr. Wanzer is so committed to the program and her students, and her positive outlook on life helped me get through the toughest of days. She was always more than willing to give me advice or lend a listening ear.
My bosses at Catalyst, Justin Sullivan and Cori Beskow, who are alumni of the program, also stand out as wonderful mentors. They helped me build up my data analysis skills, confidence and professional communication. They challenged me to go outside of my comfort zone in multiple ways, including presenting findings in a client meeting. One of the most incredible things my bosses did for me was that they believed in me. They gave me a lot of independence and autonomy in my work and trusted me to handle large datasets. When I made mistakes, they were understanding and helped me learn from them.
I have done a lot of networking with alumni on LinkedIn, and I have been blown away by the amount of support they are willing to provide to a current Stout student.
I feel grateful to enter the community of alumni who have given me so much, and I am committed to passing on the support that I received to future MSAP students.
How has your networking with alumni impacted your experience?
I joined a networking group in the Twin Cities, founded by MSAP alumni. The group is geared toward women in data fields and has been a wonderful way to network and learn from the experiences of strong, intelligent women in my field.
I also recently joined the Minnesota Evaluation Association, and I look forward to learning more from the professionals there.
What are you most proud of as you finish your degree?
I am proud of myself for taking the initiative to further my education and pursue a graduate degree. I chose to attend graduate school to foster my love of learning and to gain experience that will be advantageous to my future career. I am extremely proud of myself for putting in the hard work and graduating early, despite challenges along the way. I graduated with a master’s degree at the age of 23, and I am excited to move toward accomplishing my next goal.
I owe an enormous thank you to all those who have believed in me and encouraged me along the way. I would not be here today without my tremendous support systems both in and outside of Stout. My classmates, professors, family, boyfriend, friends and bosses have all contributed to my success in graduate school. I feel so grateful for this opportunity.