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Peer educator Callie Whitesell talks to the student workers about self care.
March 12, 2020

A psychology major finds a career path to public health

Callie Whitesell ’20 took her first Berry tour when she was only in the seventh grade. Actually tagging along on her older sister’s tour, she still took careful notes. Over the next few years, Callie watched her sister develop close friendships and community—experiences she came to value while making her own college decision. “I wanted a school that was about more than earning a degree, and I found that at Berry,” she says.

Upon her arrival at Berry, Callie quickly discovered an interest in psychology and a passion for health education and improvement. She began working as a peer educator with Berry’s Counseling Center, promoting responsible attitudes and behavior through prevention programs, events and health education. This past fall, Callie became the peer education coordinator, leading the Peer Educators team. She says, “I am grateful to have a job that has allowed me to explore my interests and work alongside a great team of people who want to improve the well-being of students on our campus.”

Callie also interned with Mercy Care and Fifth Avenue Health Care, which offer advocacy, care and services for seniors. She observed and assisted occupational therapists and speech pathologists, which directed her career toward occupational therapy. The next year, however, her career path changed.

The fall semester of her junior year, Callie studied abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, where her interest in health psychology and public health deepened. “Being able to take a step back from the whirlwind of studies, work and my usual experiences allowed me to examine what I really wanted to do,” she says.

With increased enthusiasm for public health. Callie helped lead the effort to bring the Peer Body Project on campus. Through this program, women meet in small groups over four sessions to examine the societal messages that they hear about their bodies. “It’s clinically proven to reduce body image problems and prevent eating disorders,” Callie explains. “Being able to lead the Peer Body Project groups on campus has allowed me to meet so many amazing women and share in the journey of improving the relationships we have with our bodies.” 

Associate Professor of Psychology Casey Dexter guided Callie through her internships and career path switch. Currently, he is directing her honors thesis, which examines the interrelationships of body image factors and exercise behaviors. “Callie has a set of values that directs everything that she does,” Dr. Dexter says. “Whether that influences her work as a peer educator, or directs her scholarly work, it is centered around her having a firm grasp on what matters in life.”

Callie views her Berry experiences as vital and valuable to her preparation for the future. Callie has been accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she will earn her master’s degree in public health with a concentration in health behaviors.

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Written by junior Hannah-Grace Mann

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