Meet a Psychology Student: Isabelle McKinney

October 17, 2022 - Shelly DeJong, Anna Lionas

Isabelle McKinney smiles at the camera with her arms crossed.Isabelle McKinney, originally from Byron Center, Michigan, is double majoring in Psychology and Human Capital and Society with a minor in Leadership of Organizations with a graduation date of May 2023. She is also dual enrolled in the master's program for Human Resources and Labor Relations with the hope of graduating in 2024. We sat down with her to talk about how she ended up on the path that she is on, what she loves about it, and what her advice is for new students. 


Talk me through how you decided on your majors. 
Before I even came to MSU, I was very set on human biology. After some personal reflection, though, I realized that human biology was not for me. I started looking into my other interests and I remembered how much I loved my AP Psychology class in high school. I had it at 7:45 AM my senior year and I still loved it. So, I decided to switch my major, which was very scary because my personality is not “Let's change things.”  

Two years ago, I took an Organizational Psychology class and fell in love with that side of things. I then learned about the Human Capital and Society major and realized that it was the right direction for me to head in because I could explore Human Resources without changing my major. The two majors together really complement each other well.  
What drew you to psychology and what has kind of kept you here? 
I love people. I love learning about people, I love talking to people, and I love hearing people's stories. Everyone has a story, and everyone has been through something good and bad. I just love to be an advocate for people. Psychology is one of the very few disciplines that you see in your everyday life. I can apply what I learned from my classes in the workplace, in my internship this summer, and even when I talk to my roommate. It's so versatile, I just love it. 
What are you hoping for yourself after you graduate in 2024? 
My hope is that I will be able to work for a Fortune 500 company in their HR department as either an HR business partner or a manager in a specific area.  I’m not exactly sure what area I want to work in, since HR has many areas. This past summer I worked in Learning and Development, and I really liked that area of HR. 
Do you have any advice for incoming students in psychology? 
My biggest piece of advice for incoming students is to be open to new things. Psychology is very broad, but that allows you to try new things and figure out what works for you. I had a wonderful research experience as an undergrad, but I realized throughout that experience that I didn't want to do research for so many years and get my Ph.D. I want to go the HR professional route. I never would have known had I never had the research experience. If incoming students were to ask me directly, I'd tell them be open to new opportunities. Be open to recognizing what you do or don't like. You don't know if you don't ask or try. 
Can you tell me about the research experience that you had? 

As an honors student, I was given funding to create my own research experiment with a mentor. My research project was called Social Media as a Soapbox: Arguments by Performative Allyship Online. I actually presented at UURAF, MSU’s University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum, which was exciting. We took a survey of undergrads and asked them to tell us about a time when they felt like someone was being performative on social media, regarding supporting another group. We had the most responses regarding Black Lives Matter and race. And then second, it was the LGBTQ community and supporting movements in a way that is seen as fake.  

I am also an Undergraduate Research Ambassador so I love talking with students about finding their undergraduate research. I believe that research is a huge opportunity to figure out if you like it. It's okay if you don't, but you don't know if you don't try. 
Psychology is a big major, how did you find your place in it?  
Putting myself out there talking to professors. That's another piece of advice I would give. They're not as scary as they seem. They're nice. They're just people and they are a wealth of knowledge. Richard DeShon taught my industrial organizational psych class and getting connected to him was important to me. I went to his office hours, and I talked with him. He wrote me a letter of recommendation when I applied to the honors program to do research.  Networking is important and how people talk about you when you're not in the room is really important. Sometimes the only way you can be seen in these big classes is by talking to other people, your professors, and your TAs. Also getting help if you need help. Just introducing yourself is the first step.