Parlez-vous français? Laura Haenchen '15 does!

April 17, 2015

Laura Haenchen

Laura studies psychology and French and interns at the Communication Analysis and Design Laboratory at Northeastern.

What are you studying at Simmons?

I'm a double major in psychology and French and I'm a member of the Honors Program.

What drew you to your major?

I've loved learning languages for a long time. I learned French and Spanish in high school and then some Arabic and German in college. Throughout all of my language classes, I noticed that certain teaching techniques that worked well for me did not always work for other students in my class. It made me wonder how people learn languages, and what could make it easier for students who struggle. I took a cognitive psychology class and found that I could objectively answer these questions, and that there is still a lot that remains unknown about how the brain learns and processes language. I decided to complete a double major in psychology and French because I wanted to learn about language and psychology research while continuing to improve my French.

What's your favorite part of your program?

Since psychology is such a vast field, Simmons makes the program very versatile. I'm interested in language research, so I can take courses in perception, developmental, and cognitive psychology that directly connect to my interests while also gaining a broader perspective through courses in personality and social psychology. There are also students in my classes who want to become clinical psychologists, social workers and educators.

What's your favorite class you've taken so far?

My favorite class was an Honors course called Boston’s Past: Introduction to Public History, taught by Professor Stephen Berry. Every Friday we took a class field trip to a different history museum in the city. My favorites were the Gibson House Museum, the Boston Waterworks and the JFK Library. History classes were never my strong point, but this class made me look beyond name and date memorization to a deeper understanding. We learned about how Boston changed over the years, but more importantly we discussed what those changes represented about the city’s social climate and how they impacted the people of Boston. We also learned about how history is presented to the public, and how this presentation can significantly impact our understanding of the past.

Where is your internship?

The Communication Analysis and Design Laboratory (CadLab) at Northeastern University. I am working on research that deals with prosody: the pitch, rhythm and melody of speech. The project I contributed to last semester investigated how children develop perception and expression of prosody. Now I am working on an independent project that looks at how individuals with autism may perceive prosody differently. Working at the CadLab has been a great opportunity for me. It has allowed me to apply my research skills I gained in class and learn more about language and communication.

What's your favorite part of the Honors Program?

I enjoy the community of the Honors Program. My first year at Simmons almost all of the new honors students lived in the same hall, and we took the same first-year seminar courses. I also joined the Honors Liaison, a club that offers special academic and social events for the honors community, and then I served as the liaison’s president during my sophomore and junior years. I felt like I really got to know everyone in the Honors Program.

What advice would you give to a Simmons student considering the Honors Program?

You should absolutely apply! In addition to the great community, there are lots of other benefits. Students can choose to fulfill some of their core requirements with Honors courses and receive a yearly book award. If you do not apply or are not accepted into the Honors Program your first year, you can reapply for sophomore entry. This allows students to get used to life at Simmons before choosing to take on an extra challenge.

What's your Simmons moment?

Every year I attend a conference for high school Girl Scouts in New England. I speak on a panel of college students and answer the girls’ questions about college life. At the end of this year’s panel, a woman came up to me with her daughter and told me that she was a Simmons alumna, and that her daughter was now considering coming to Simmons because of the things I said about it.

What made you choose Simmons?

I chose Simmons for the location and the small school atmosphere. The admissions process was very personal; I was called by students, I received a card from an alumna from my hometown, and my admissions counselor included a handwritten note with my acceptance letter congratulating me for earning my Girl Scout Gold Award. This individual attention continued when I became a student, and my professors have repeatedly gone out of their way to help me find research opportunities, apply to grad school and take the best courses for my interests.