By Briana Wheeler, Staff Writer
Comfortably reclined in a rocking chair at the McGriff Alumni House, Madison Bunderson (C’18) soaked in some much-needed sun as she reminisced on her Sewanee career. An integral member of the Sewanee community, Bunderson participates in numerous groups and fills several important roles on campus, including her positions as a lead proctor, writing tutor, research assistant, Stirling’s employee, and Sewanee Angel.
After passing her comprehensive exam with distinction, Bunderson will graduate in May with a psychology degree, a neuroscience minor, and a creative writing certificate.
Her interest in psychology was sparked fairly early for Bunderson. “When I was in high school, I took IB psychology with an awesome teacher. He made it really interesting and seem like something I could enjoy,” she explained.
As for why she decided to pursue a University degree in the field, she claimed, “Psychology is in everything we do; it’s unavoidable in every subject. I decided to study it not only for the discipline itself, but because it also encompasses my other passions.”
Although Bunderson knew the general direction she wished to travel in regards to academics, her choice to attend Sewanee did not concern the reputation of the program. “I actually picked Sewanee to play soccer. I knew that I wanted the liberal arts education, I wanted a D-3 school, I wanted the small population. Sewanee fit all of the other criteria, and I figured, ‘How bad could the department be if all of these other things are so great?’” she admitted.
Once she arrived in Sewanee, Bunderson realized that she could rely on her professors to help her achieve her goals, particularly her advisor. “I’m definitely closest with Dr. Tiernan. I have worked with her since her first semester at Sewanee; I was actually a part of her hiring process my freshman year. During her first year, she asked me if I wanted to work in her research lab, and I’ve worked with her ever since.”
She described, “I always knew that I could talk to her about anything. I could go to her when I was disappointed about a job I didn’t get or when I was excited about an opportunity that was on the table. She encouraged me to study abroad in Oxford, she encouraged me to apply for the summer research job at Yale I did after my sophomore year, and she has written a letter of recommendation for me every time I’ve needed one.”
As a graduating senior who will soon say farewell to Sewanee for a time, Bunderson imparted a piece of wisdom for those who follow: “My biggest advice would have to be that if there’s something you want to do, just do it.”
According to Bunderson, “My biggest Sewanee regrets are the things I didn’t do because I thought I couldn’t make time for them when I definitely could have. I never did PMo because I was scared I wouldn’t do well, and I never took a second foreign language because I was afraid of getting a bad grade. I would have loved to take Mandarin,” she continued.
Bunderson finished by praising the efforts of the student body and the psychology department in response to recent controversies. “I think that we can love something but still acknowledge its faults. Sometimes our love for something can blind us from what needs to change about. Change is hard because people can love this place for how it is or how it used to be, but I think it’s important to always strive for improvement.”