Thursday, May 23, 2024

Psychology graduate Ariana Sabal finds her service calling through her UTSA connections

Psychology graduate Ariana Sabal finds her service calling through her UTSA connections

MAY 14, 2024 — Senior Ariana Sabal can hardly believe her time at UTSA is coming to a close. She spent the last three years filling every moment with academics, research, service learning and networking.

Call it making up for lost time.

Like many of this year’s graduating seniors, Sabal’s high school experience was drastically altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With all her classes taking place online and all communication coming in via her computer screen, Sabal felt that she was unable to really explore her sense of identity and self.

That changed when she arrived at UTSA.

“My interests really aligned with UTSA’s mission, especially in terms of service learning,” said Sabal, who will cross the stage later this week with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy and a minor in neuroscience from the UTSA College of Sciences. “When I entered the Honors College and had all the opportunities for community service, I knew this was the right place.”

“When I entered the Honors College and had all the opportunities for community service, I knew this was the right place.”

Sabal’s dedication to service blossomed during her freshman year. She was selected to take part in the Civil Rights and Social Justice Experience, a multi-dimensional experience that includes a six-day bus trip highlighting landmarks of the civil rights movement.

“It really helped me realize the importance of activism, and how it's important to do something to make a change in the social issues that you're interested in facing,” Sabal said. “It also helped me get involved with more activities on campus related to my interests.”

The UTSA undergraduate bolstered her community-focused experiences by working in the UTSA Growing Resilient Outcomes Within the Home (GROWTH) Lab. Researchers in the lab study how families approach issues in their lives and how those methods impact a child’s development and well-being. Using basic and applied developmental science, the goal is to devise solutions to the real-world challenges families face. The lab’s research team works with local and national family-focused organizations to enhance the impact of its work.

It is that commitment to San Antonio-area families that has prompted Sabal to stay at UTSA as a post-baccalaureate researcher, after graduation.

“Ariana has been an instrumental leader in my lab and classes,” said Monica Lawson, director and principal investigator of the GROWTH Lab and a professor in the UTSA Department of Psychology. “Her work with dozens of families with at-risk children and with youth living in residential foster care demonstrates her commitment to our community and incredible potential to make meaningful change in society. I am very proud of Ariana and all that she has accomplished. Her future is incredibly bright.”

In addition to her full plate of studies and research commitments, Sabal has spent her four years at UTSA volunteering and participating in student organizations. For three years, she served as the president of the Student Association of Black Psychologists, which provides mentorship, leadership and research skills and initiates community service opportunities, with a focus on Black populations.

When she joined the organization as a freshman, the club was struggling to fill events and find leadership. By her sophomore year, she was the group’s president.

“It's been amazing and stressful at the same time,” Sabal said. “We really had to work hard to revamp the whole organization, but we increased member retention, events and even revenue from fundraising.”

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Under Sabal’s leadership, the organization flourished and increased networking and professional development opportunities.  

“Psychology is such a multidisciplinary field and it’s difficult to hit all of those facets, but we did our best as an organization to touch on all of it,” Sabal said.

In addition to working in the GROWTH lab, Sabal said she plans to travel and to find ways to continue serving her community. She also plans to apply to graduate programs for clinical psychology.

“I’m really glad I was able to experience so many opportunities UTSA has to offer,” Sabal said. “Coming into college, I wanted to feel a sense of community on campus. I had that and more at UTSA.”

Amanda Cerreto

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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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