Marcela Wilk C’13 studies human development and psychology at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

January 2016 – Marcela Wilk C’13 is pursuing a master’s in human development and psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and her fascination with the human mind started during her years at Drew—an interest that was cultivated by several key professors.

Wilk says Drew professors Jill Cermele and Jessica Lakin gave her the support and encouragement that she needed.
Wilk says Drew professors Jill Cermele and Jessica Lakin gave her the support and encouragement that she needed.
Photo: Harvard Graduate School of Education

“Coming into Drew, I didn’t necessarily have the highest confidence in myself,” said Wilk, who grew up in Sebago, Maine. “The professors noticed that, and took the time to make me a better student. It not only gave me the confidence to believe I could do it, but I was also becoming a better student, a better psychologist.”

Wilk is now halfway through the Harvard program, and on track to graduate in May.

Finding mentors

Wilk credited Professor Jill Cermele with giving her the support system she needed to grow and flourish. Cermele taught the first psychology course she took and later became her academic advisor.

Wilk, who entered Drew without a major, said Cermele would “meet with me about everything—even the littlest questions I had. She was a big reason why I became a psychology major.”

Another big influence was Jessica Lakin, professor of psychology and an associate dean.

“From day one, she held me to a high expectation,” Wilk said. “She believed I could do it, and I got there. She knew how to motivate me, yet she always expected more. I feel prepared for grad school, and a big part of that is the time she spent on my work.”

Beyond teaching Wilk in the classroom, Lakin supervised an independent research project that Wilk conducted as a senior and recommended her for both of her post-Drew pursuits: Teach for America and graduate school.

“Marcela is one of those students who really blossomed while she was at Drew,” Lakin said. “She’s a quiet student, but she warms up quickly. She’s very engaged with the material, and was very empathetic and compassionate.”

Doing research, studying abroad

Wilk’s research project stemmed from the published idea that women who are thought to be more similar to other women are more effective as role models, particularly with regard to the leadership beliefs and career aspirations of those other women. Her hard work paid off: Wilk’s findings were presented last year at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference in Austin, Texas.

Lakin also noted that Wilk grew in maturity and confidence after spending a semester studying in London during her senior year. Wilk agreed, adding that being on her own in a foreign country “was really influential in being ready to graduate from college.”

Wilk graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in women’s and gender studies, and after Drew entered the national Teach for America program. She spent the next two years teaching preschool in Wilmington, Delaware.

With graduate school still on her mind as a career goal, Wilk completed her commitment to Teach for America and applied to four schools, before getting accepted at two: Brown University and Harvard. Harvard was her top choice.

With graduation on the horizon, Wilk is still mulling her next move. She may return to the classroom or work on the administrative side of education. Regardless, she said her undergraduate years shaped her path and made her the adult she is today. As she put it, “Drew gave me the experience to try different things. And to figure out what I want.”