Internship offers an inside look into a psychology lab

Kayla Heideman ’24
Summer experience: Rhode Island Hospital
Supported by: Barbara Bissell ’72 Internship Fund

Kayla Heideman ’24 deepened her knowledge and skills in psychology research through a summer internship at Rhode Island Hospital.

From May to July, Heideman worked remotely for the lab of Lindsay Orchowski, a recent visiting assistant professor at Wheaton who taught the course “Psychology of Women” in spring 2022. Orchowski, whose research focus includes preventing sexual assault, is a clinical psychologist at the hospital.

“I admired how successful she has been in understanding more about sexual violence and making impactful changes for those who have experienced trauma in their lives,” said Heideman, a psychology major, who proactively secured the position through Orchowski.

Heideman assisted with a variety of projects, including designing recruitment ads for college women to participate in studies, conducting literature reviews, and researching sexual violence resources and stakeholders. In addition, she built a measures document—finding relevant techniques in widely used surveys, and citing the original author of a developed measure—as a reference point for developing intervention projects, she said.

“I also worked as a co-author on a paper that explores the relationship between sexual victimization and self-esteem, which I am particularly honored to have been involved with,” she said.

One meaningful moment of the internship was a virtual meeting that Heideman requested with a lab member who is currently in a clinical Ph.D. program at the University of Rhode Island.

“I reached out to her in hopes to learn more about her experiences in academia and professional development since her undergraduate years. We ended up talking for an hour and a half, bouncing back and forth about her story and what she recommended for me as I think about my future,” Heideman said. “I felt so inspired by the things she told me, and how far from linear the career-building process can look, but also the beauty of such ambiguity. It meant so much to talk to her, and I was proud of myself for advocating to have this conversation in the first place and seeing how worthwhile it was to simply reach out.”

The experience fulfilled the experiential requirement for the LEAPS program, an optional component of Wheaton’s Compass curriculum that offers students a pathway that combines classes, experiential learning and mentorship for future career success. Heideman is pursuing a LEAPS in the area of social research.

“With the new Compass curriculum at Wheaton, I told myself that I would take advantage of various professional development opportunities, which is highly encouraged and supported. This is yet another way that I have made fantastic connections with admirable folk in psychology, and every step like this that I take is progress toward exploring my interests and skill building,” she said. “My experience at Wheaton thus far has been so welcoming, and the fact that I was working alongside my professor is just exemplary of the enthusiasm faculty have for the success of their students.”

Kayla Heideman ’24 interned at a group home with adults who face mental health and other challenges in summer 2021. She currently serves as both a writing tutor and peer advisor in advising and is the treasurer of the Ohm Initiative, a theme house organization that mentors and supports underrepresented identities in STEM and financial literacy.

Read about more summer 2022 internships