Recent EKU graduate Skylar Barger received an outstanding senior award from the faculty in the Department of Psychology. She adds that distinction to a long list of accomplishments, including graduating Summa Cum Laude and earning the Dean’s Award, the Presidential Scholarship, the Laura D. Kennamer Scholarship for the Social and Behavioral Sciences, the EKU Education Abroad Scholarship and the Layne Wood Endowed Scholarship.
The Madison County native was inspired by personal tragedy to build a career on helping others. When Barger was 15, her father died due to complications from Crohn’s disease. During this difficult time, she asked her mother if she could see a therapist. Unfortunately, it was not a positive experience. “Having this negative introduction to therapy actually aided in my decision to pursue psychology,” she said. “I decided I wanted to be a good psychologist, to help other people avoid having the experience I had.” After graduating from Model Lab School, and with the help of her mother, Barger began her studies at EKU.
Barger credits her mentors Dr. Theresa Botts and Dr. Dustin Wygant with solidifying her interest in forensic psychology and art therapy. “Art therapy is the intersection of psychology and the desire to create,” she explained. She is interested in using art therapy in conjunction with suicide prevention, treating eating disorders and in forensic psychology settings.
“Skylar has been an absolute joy to teach and mentor,” said Dr. Theresa Botts. “She has performed with high distinction throughout her academic career at EKU. In reviewing her strong work ethic and dedication to excellence, both in and out of the classroom, one could not ask for a more conscientious and committed student. She is a natural leader.”
Her professors have helped her bring about many meaningful experiences that will stand her in good stead as she moves to the next phase of her education. She worked alongside Dr. Melinda Moore on the EKU suicide awareness grant and volunteered with ArtVention, educating community members about the prevention of suicide.
For her internship, Barger went through 40 hours of intensive training at Ampersand Sexual Violence Resource Center of the Bluegrass to work as a crisis counselor intern and advocate. She responded to medical advocacy (MA) calls, often being the first person to arrive at the bedside of a victim. “MA was often heart-wrenching,” she recalled, “but it was fulfilling to know I had the skills needed to comfort someone who had just been through one of the most traumatic experiences of their life.”
Perhaps the most life-changing impact the faculty had on Barger was the encouragement from Dr. Myra-Beth Bundy and Dr. Robert Brubaker to study abroad. She spent five weeks in Austria and five weeks in Paris. “If I could give one piece of advice to any college student, it would be to study abroad at least once. I thought I would not be able to afford it,” Barger explained, “but the financial aid and scholarship opportunities enabled me to make it happen. Without the support of my professors, I would never have had these opportunities.”
Luckily, Barger’s journey as a Colonel is not over yet. She has been accepted into the doctoral program in clinical psychology at EKU. “I am so excited to continue my education here at Eastern. One of my career goals is to work in rural mental health. Many people I grew up around voiced that they needed to get out of Kentucky in order to be accomplished. I always wanted to become an expert in my field and stay in Kentucky to help those in need in my home state. There are so many Kentuckians in rural, underserved areas who could benefit from having access to a psychologist.”