Education Without Boundaries
In April 2011, as tornadoes ripped through her hometown 780 miles away, Abby Litovsky '13 didn't feel alone in her concern about her family and her community. "Sandy [President Sanford J. Ungar] e-mailed all the Alabama people," said Litovsky, whose family emerged from Birmingham unharmed, unlike many in the devastated region.
"It was such a nice gesture making sure our families were OK. To have that acknowledgement, it was incredible ... that meant a lot to me," she said.
That kind of personal attention isn't abnormal at Goucher, according to Litovsky, who initially found out about the college after visiting some family members in the area during her senior year of high school. Though Litovsky was focused on small liberal arts colleges in Boston, her aunt talked her into checking out Goucher during the Thanksgiving break.
Despite the fact that no one was here, Litovsky said wandering the beautiful campus, peeking in buildings, even spotting a Boston Red Sox Banner in a dorm, tugged her toward the college she had seen listed in the book Colleges That Change Lives.
The visit pushed her to apply to Goucher — along with 11 other colleges. She says she didn't know how enamored she was with the college until she realized how important checking the mail each day had become to her. "I really knew Goucher was the one because it was the letter I was most excited about when it was in the mailbox," she said.
When she stepped onto campus that spring to finalize her decision to attend Goucher, she met Assistant Psychology Professor Ann E. McKim. "We ended up talking for about two hours," Litovsky said. "I actually do research with her now ... . I've taken so many classes with her, and she's someone I've gotten close to and really connected with."
One of the research topics Litovsky tackled with McKim is feng shui and the effects of the Chinese system of geomancy believed to use the laws of both heaven and Earth to help people improve their life and mood. She has also done research with Assistant Professor of Psychology Dara Friedman-Wheeler on coping mechanisms.
Litovsky said there was never any doubt for her she would major in psychology, and though she's not completely set on what schooling she'll pursue after Goucher, she said she feels as if she'll be well-prepared academically.
"Goucher has given me a lot of excellent prep for grad school," she said, pointing out that the research component of her experience isn't shared by friends in other schools. In fact, Litovsky sees the ability to mutually invest with professors as a highlight of the community. "When it comes down to letters of recommendation, they really know me, and they're able to reflect on my four years here, how I've grown and how I work," she said.
Psychology classes aren't the only way Litovsky has found to explore her passions and strengths. During her freshman year she became involved with Ready-a-Story, Write-a-Story, a partnership between the college's community-based learning program and Baltimore City's Dallas Nicholas Elementary School.
Each week throughout the semester Litovsky and other volunteers read, share stories, and play with one or two students with whom they've been paired. "It's incredible how the program affects the students," she said. "I absolutely love it; it's nice to get away from campus a little bit, and giving back has always been really important to me." Litovsky started as a volunteer and is now the co-director, gaining leadership experience in the program founded by Goucher students and Dallas Nicholas staff.
She also works with the on-campus population through a peer listening program that was launched her sophomore year. Litovsky joined others in intensive trainings to prepare for the program, in which on-call volunteers lend a listening ear to fellow students. "It's perfect for a psychology major," she said. "So many of us are listeners; it's a natural thing for us to do. "
Litovsky recently participated in her first study-abroad experience, which combined two of her loves at Goucher: psychology and helping others.
During the school's January break, Litovsky worked in a Barbados psychiatric hospital for three weeks, as well as participated in seminars and excursions with her group. She said a longer study-abroad experience wasn't right for her — she didn't want to leave commitments during her fall and spring semester — but this opportunity was exactly what she wanted. "I was so fortunate that there are the other options," she said.