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Hewit '17 receives a post-graduate fellowship to study Monmouth freshmen

Barry McNamara
Alex Hewit ’17 of Mapleton, Ill. (right) will work with Professor Joan Wertz (left) to study how depression and anxiety may be related to success and retention for first year students.
Alex Hewit ’17 of Mapleton, Ill., received his Monmouth College diploma on May 14, but that date won’t mark the last of his studies on campus.

A biopsychology major, Hewit has received a post-baccalaureate fellowship to study an additional semester at Monmouth. Fellows may enroll in up to two courses per semester and have access to research labs and field stations while they work with faculty mentors for up to a year following commencement.

Hewit will work with Psychology Professor Joan Wertz on a project that will not only enhance his research skills, but will benefit the College as well.

“Alex is interested in mental health issues in incoming students, such as depression and anxiety, and how those issues may be related to college success and retention,” said Wertz. “Additionally, he’s interested in determining whether some early interventions during the first semester might help those students navigate the college experience more successfully.”

Hewit said he will focus on students’ freshman year.

“Depression and anxiety are a common occurrence for students when they first get to college,” he said. “The freshman year is by far the most stressful year.”

Among other elements of his research, Hewit will ask members of this fall’s incoming class to complete a questionnaire shortly upon their arrival on campus. The participating freshmen will answer the questions again at the end of the semester.

“The College is doing a lot of reform with how they deal with incoming freshmen,” said Hewit. “I’ll be able to compare the scores on the questionnaire from the beginning to the end. The College will be able to have an idea of what programs are working and what aren’t. At the very least, they’ll get a better handle on how many of the incoming students are dealing with issues such as depression and anxiety.”

Dean of the Faculty David Timmerman said the College’s post-baccalaureate program benefits both faculty and students.

“The post-baccalaureate program is a great example of a win-win for the graduate and the College,” said Timmerman. “I know all the faculty that have had students selected for a post-bac have enjoyed the work with the graduates and the projects are always fascinating. It is wonderful to see students be able to take the next step up right here on our campus.”

Wertz said Hewit developed solid research skills during his senior year through his capstone research project on depression and sleep, as well as assisting her departmental colleague, Aaron Shilling, on a research project.

“Alex’s post-baccalaureate project will help to further develop those skills and strengthen his candidacy for graduate school in psychology, as well as provide for the College a better understanding of the variety of issues which may impact student success,” said Wertz.

Graduate school is in Hewit’s plans, and he is considering pursuing his education all the way up through a Ph.D. In the meantime, he will spend part of his time in the fall applying to master’s degree programs in clinical psychology. But Hewit didn’t come to Monmouth planning to pursue a career in psychology.

“I think early on, I did what some students do, which is take the required classes and not think about the big picture,” he said. “But as I got further along and picked more of my own classes, I got more passionate about my education and really focused on the readings and doing the extra work. I found my niche and really honed in on it. That was a turning point for me. You can really fully mature and figure out who you are.”