Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Tradition of Community Engagement Continues for Psychology Undergrad

Kaylee Shirrell | Undergraduate, Psychology

Some IUPUI students find the downtown campus to be the perfect place to discover the impact they can have on their community. Others arrive as freshman well aware of the difference one person can make.

Psychology major Kaylee Shirrell learned as a high school student the many benefits of helping others. A degree from the School of Science will be the first step for her to translate that into a career.

Watch video about Kaylee Shirrell and Hats of Hope

While in high school, she set out to support her grandmother as she battled cancer by designing a hat for her to wear. The effort quickly blossomed into Hats of Hope, a volunteer effort that has since made 10,000 hats for patients across the Midwest. She later was selected to the PARADE Magazine All-American High School Service Team and was invited to introduce Vice President Joe Biden at a celebration in Washington D.C.

“I have had many opportunities I would not have otherwise had without Hats of Hope,” said Shirrell, who will graduate in 2014 with a B.S. in psychology. She hopes to pursue a career as a school psychologist or counselor.

Since the success of Hats of Hope, she has planned her education and career as a way to continue to give back to the community through volunteerism and support. It’s the only way she knows. 

“I realized after my freshman year that I didn’t want to work in a lab for the rest of my life. I wanted to work with people,” Shirrell said. “Psychology was a great option, because it allows me to have many routes after my undergraduate career.”

She volunteered in a lab at a local life sciences company as a high school senior. The experience proved valuable by helping her realize she wanted a career dealing directly with people in need.

Kaylee ShirrellShirrell changed her major to psychology with the help she received from Department of Psychology faculty and staff, whom she described as “great resources to help me plan my undergraduate years and a possible post-graduate career.”

“I’ve been able to improve my professional skills, my education and my interpersonal skills,” she added.

An undergraduate psychology degree offers a great deal of diversity when exploring future careers. Shirrell, however, plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career working with children with behavioral, social or learning disabilities.

“Psychology is a wonderful degree to pursue. Psychology majors have many opportunities, both in the field and outside,” Shirrell said.

Shirrell is a Bepko Scholar and a member of the IUPUI Honors College. She also serves on the executive committee of the IUPUI Panhellenic Council.