Q&A with Outstanding Senior Elin Nordegren ’14

Outstanding Graduating Senior Elin Nordegren ’14 discusses her passion for psychology, her love of traveling, and her favorite classes at Rollins.

(Photo by Scott Cook) (Photo by Scott Cook)

Elin Nordegren ’14 is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Graduating Senior Award from the Hamilton Holt School.

The Award is the evening degree program’s equivalent to being named a valedictorian. To be qualified, students must have a 3.9 GPA or higher and have earned 70 hours or more in academic credit. Decisions are made based upon GPA, service to the institution and/or the community, and a student’s ability to best represent his or her graduating class at Commencement. A subcommittee of faculty directors and department chairs then reviews the applications and recommends a candidate. 

Nordegren was one of 15 students selected to apply for the Award, and the sole recipient. She will graduate on Saturday, May 10, with a bachelor's degree in psychology and 3.96 GPA.

“Elin’s application spoke to the determination of a single mom to complete her degree,” says Sharon Lusk, assistant dean of the Rollins Hamilton Holt School. “Faculty members spoke of her academic curiosity, personal drive, and classroom engagement in their recommendations. She is also very active in outside service initiatives that benefit children in the foster care system.”

Laura Cole: Why did you choose Rollins?

Elin Nordegren: In 2005, I lived in Windermere, and I had heard excellent things about Rollins College. I applied to the Hamilton Holt School because they offered evening classes that fit into my schedule.

LC: I’ve read that becoming a child psychologist is your childhood dream. Is that true? If so, what made you interested in it?

EN: I have always been fascinated by human behavior. When I was growing up in Sweden, my mother, sister, and I often talked about why people behave the way they do, as well as what influences our behavior. I loved our discussions. I became even more intrigued when I took my first psychology course in high school because psychology gave me a framework for understanding myself and the world around me.

I also love learning how our different family and cultural backgrounds affect our behavior and values. My family traveled a lot as my parents wanted their children to experience different life styles. Wherever we traveled, I embraced learning about the people, the similarities and differences between cultures, and at some level, how we are far more alike than I ever imagined.

My twin sister and I have chosen to pursue different paths—she studied law while I began to study psychology. Among the many things we have in common is our passion to learn, to understand people, and to share what we have learned.

LC: What was your most interesting discovery about psychology—was there a book, person, or particular lesson that really stuck with you?

EN: While studying psychology, many new doors opened for me—I discovered how much I didn’t know. There are so many different ways to interpret our experiences in life, and I appreciate being exposed to a broad-range of ideas and theories.

My mom and dad have definitely been my greatest inspiration because they are also curious about the world and also want all of us to reach our full human potential.

LC: You grew up in Sweden, and English is not your first language. What were some of the challenges of trying to communicate—especially in research papers—what you were learning? What were some of the advantages? Do you have any advice for other non-native speakers?

EN: Initially, being bi-lingual was a challenge; however, in Sweden we start learning English in school at a very young age. We also learn English by watching subtitled American movies and television shows.

The key for me was to admit that I needed help. The professors at Rollins College were very helpful, and I was also grateful to have many friends who read through my essays and helped me with any language and grammar differences. I consider it an enormous blessing to have lived half of my life in Europe and, now, almost half of my life in America. Blending the two different cultures has widened my perspective on many aspects of life and offered learning experiences that have broadened my point of view on many subjects.

I am also grateful to Rollins College Writing Center. The senior student there offered me enormous help with English structure, grammar, and vocabulary. By the way, it is WAY harder, I believe, to write structured essays and research papers in English!

LC: Was there a professor or staff member who impacted you more than others? If so, who was that person and why?

EN: I found all of the professors at Rollins to be exceptional, each with their own unique teaching style. There are three teachers who especially stood out for me: Dr. Jim Eck’s clear teaching methods in my Research Methods class made it fun. Dr. Rick Bommelje’s Listening class was invaluable, as the course material opened me to new ways of paying attention and listening. I am also grateful to have taken classes from Dr. Michelle Stecker, whose discussions about women’s studies and U.S. history were so inspiring. These three instructors are among many passionate teachers at Rollins College.

LC: What is one of your favorite memories from your time here?

EN: Some of my happiest memories have been the class discussions. I love hearing different points of views and, of course, learning how we each have come to these differing views. I am really passionate about engaging in conversations which require critical thinking and an open mind.

LC: What is one thing you would have done differently?

EN: Sometimes I think I could have completed my Rollins course work a little faster. But I am also grateful that I studied part-time and could spend all my other time with my young children.

LC: What are your plans for the future?

EN: Now having my bachelor’s degree, my interests have expanded. I am still interested in developmental psychology, but my other psychology classes here at Rollins have also broadened my passions.

LC: What’s your advice for the Class of 2014?

EN: Make your words meaningful by taking action! Follow your dreams and don’t be discouraged if it is going to take you a long time to get there. Better late than never.