Senior Spotlight: Grace Vasta, BA Psychology
Leah Schmerl
Grace Vasta

Grace Vasta's St. Francis College career is defined by her two passions: psychology and teaching.

An academic stand-out graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, Grace earned her degree with accolades that reflect her love of the field she chose as her major. Among her achievements: membership in the Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology, selection for the Uwe P. Gielen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research, and the Doctor Louis H. Primavera Medal in Psychology. She was among the finalists for the Class of 2020 Valedictorian honors.

In addition to committing herself to her coursework, Grace used her four years at St. Francis College to pursue her goal of a teaching career, too. She observed elementary classrooms during her senior year, cementing her desire to attend graduate school in the fall to earn a master's in childhood and special education.

A native of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn and graduate of New Utrecht High School, Grace reflected on St. Francis College and what is next for her.

How did you decide to attend St. Francis College?

I had a few relatives that attended St. Francis College - they really enjoyed the school because it's small and the professors are very attentive.

I also applied to the CUNY schools, but they did not appeal to me because of their big environment. Therefore, I gravitated towards SFC because I knew that I would be able to openly ask questions, contribute to discussions, and interact with professors and classmates.

What professors impacted you the most?

Dr. Renée Goodstein [Professor of Psychology] and Dr. Derek Glaaser [Assistant Professor of Education].

They have made a substantial impact on my growth and development. I felt comfortable participating in their classes because they continuously provided meaningful feedback. Their classes have allowed me to develop a greater understanding of our ever-changing world.

Likewise, they are trustworthy, honest, and easy to talk to. If I needed assistance, they welcomed me with open arms. Needless to say, their positive influences, ongoing guidance, and everlasting support have assured me that I will succeed in the future.

Why did you decide to major in psychology?

I took AP psychology in high school and immediately became interested in the field. My first career goal was to be a guidance counselor, so that also influenced me to major in psychology.

While I was working at an afterschool program, I realized that I maintained a passion for teaching. However, I didn't want to change my major because I enjoyed psychology - I also knew that it would be a good foundation for when I do become a teacher.

My research experiences, along with the guidance of faculty members, have broadened my knowledge base in psychology.

Why is teaching appealing to you?

I thoroughly enjoy working with children. There is no better feeling than seeing the sparkle in a child's eyes after helping him/her. Knowing that your students look up to you for guidance and support is such a gratifying feeling for me.

As an aspiring teacher, I am determined to create a classroom environment that meets the needs of all my students. My ultimate goal is to help children reach their full potential.

How was it for you to complete your St. Francis College career remotely?

I initially thought that remote learning would be difficult, but my professors were very understanding and helpful - they created a strategic plan for the remainder of the semester.

Because I was a senior, I was slightly upset that I was unable to experience my last semester here at SFC. However, I adjusted quickly to this change. I remained in contact with my professors - they created assignments and provided feedback in a timely manner. Overall, I maintained a positive mindset and was determined to finish this semester strong.

What is next for you?

I am attending graduate school in the fall for two years. I will pursue a Master's Degree in Childhood and Special Education (grades 1-6).

Because St. Francis College has made a significant impact on my life, I would consider coming back to be an adjunct professor for a few psychology and/or education classes.