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Allen’s positive mindset shaped by coaches, psychology faculty

Barry McNamara
04/22/2020
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Last spring, Caitlyn Allen put off the opportunity to walk across the platform at Monmouth College’s Commencement until she’d officially met graduation requirements.

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed that moment again, but Allen is maintaining a positive mindset: she plans to return to campus this fall to officially receive her diploma on Sept. 19, along with scores of other new alums.

Allen, who completed her Monmouth coursework in December, will make the trip from Springfield, Mo., where she’ll study for her master’s degree in clinical psychology at Missouri State University.

“They gave me the option to walk last May, but I didn’t want to walk until I felt I’d earned it,” said Allen, who enrolled at Monmouth as a freshman in fall 2015.

Allen said she was drawn to the College because of its mix of strong academic and athletic programs and because of the feeling she got on her visit day.

“I definitely wanted a school that was heavy on academics,” said Allen, who is from Marengo, Ill., and graduated from Marengo High School. “But I almost didn’t go on my school visit to Monmouth because my mom got sick. I’m really glad that didn’t happen, because the moment I stepped on campus, I knew Monmouth was where I wanted to go.”

Keep on running

A talented distance runner, Allen wanted to keep competing in cross country and track in college. She did so in style for the Fighting Scots, earning All-Midwest Conference honors in cross country at the 2015, 2017 and 2019 conference meets and breaking the school’s 10-kilometer record in track when she crossed the finish line in 38:05 at a 2018 meet.

“There were some bumps in the road in my running career, especially injuries with my knee,” said Allen. “But I remember fitting in pretty easily with the girls on the team my freshman year and also being able to compete and hold my own against the other girls in the conference. To break the 10K record was really gratifying. It really made me feel that I left my stamp at the school.”

Monmouth cross country coach Jon Welty said Allen “was always enjoyable to coach.”

“I knew that every time she put her shoes on that she was going to give 100 percent,” he said. “I knew I never had to worry about her. I could give her instruction for a race or practice and she would execute it perfectly.”

Over her time at Monmouth, Allen’s role within the team changed.

“Caitlyn grew and became more comfortable with herself, and that helped her to be the leader our team needed,” said Welty. “If you ever came to a cross country practice or meet, you could see that the girls on the team looked up to her for leadership and guidance. Caitlyn was a great leader because she could understand everyone and sympathize with different personalities, but she was never afraid to take charge. She is a great person and I’m excited to see what she does with her future.”

Welty and the rest of the Fighting Scots coaching staff left an impression on Allen, too.

“Coach Welty is absolutely incredible,” she said. “He became one of my favorite people at Monmouth. The whole program is amazing. All the coaches – Coach (Roger) Haynes, Coach (Brian) Woodard – they are all so knowledgeable. Mindset is something I can struggle with, and all the coaches really helped me with that.”

The influence of psychology

Mindset was also an area of concern when it came to Allen’s post-Monmouth academic plans. She said that’s where the College’s psychology faculty shined.

“They helped me gain the confidence to pursue going to graduate school,” said Allen, who plans to work toward a doctorate in clinical psychology after earning her master’s degree. “I don’t think the psychology faculty get enough credit for how absolutely amazing they are.”

In particular, Allen cited Tara McCoy for the influence she had on her education.

“Professor McCoy really helped me begin my research in the department,” she said. “I didn’t know that much about the research end of things, but she opened the doors for me, and I found I enjoyed it a lot.”

Allen’s capstone research experience, which she presented last December, involved narrative identity in relation to non-suicidal self-injury.

“Caitlyn is very bright and has a great work ethic,” said psychology professor Joan Wertz. “She’s driven, and once she sets her sights on a goal, she works toward it persistently. She is also just really pleasant and nice to work with, and I believe she’ll make a great clinical psychologist.”

Allen recalls not being “entirely sure” which area of psychology to pursue in her early days of studying the discipline.

“Then I took a class in abnormal psychology, and I knew that’s the direction I wanted to head,” she said. “I knew I wanted to have a clinical psychology role. I knew I wanted to do something with mental health.”

Allen hopes her graduate studies lead her to working at a “research-oriented institution, where I can find a balance between teaching and research.”

As she moves forward in her academic work, Allen said Monmouth will always hold a special place in her heart.

“I grew as a person at Monmouth, more than I ever anticipated,” she said. “The support system I had at Monmouth was so special. Monmouth College is one of a kind, I can tell you that much.”