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Taylor Brant ’17 Exemplifies Excellence

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Taylor Brant ’17 has just capped a remarkable undergraduate career with a phenomenal senior year.

Taylor Brant
Taylor Brant, center, receives the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, flanked by former SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher, left, and Stony Brook Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Charles Robbins.

Over the span of a few short weeks, Taylor, from Shoreham, NY, returned from an Alternative Spring Break Outreach trip to San Marcos, Texas, learned that she will be attending the College of William and Mary to pursue her master of arts in psychology, and received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence, honoring SUNY students who have best demonstrated their integration of academic excellence with other aspects of their lives.

Originally drawn to a STEM curriculum and later to Sustainability Studies, Taylor really found herself in 2015, when she switched to a psychology major. She then began work in the Stony Brook Department of Psychiatry’s Adolescent Development of Emotional and Personality Traits Project (ADEPT) under the direction of Professors Roman Kotov and Greg Perlman.

This kind of success, she cautions, takes patience. “Research has a big learning curve,” she says. “At first you may seem to be doing small, meaningless tasks and the big picture is so hard to grasp. But soon you realize how each task you carry out helps inform your project in various ways and serves as a building block to something else.”

That building block in ADEPT led to the studies of how emotional and personality traits in adolescent females serves as a barometer to their well-being. At Stony Brook’s Celebration of Undergraduate Research & Creativity in April, Taylor presented her findings, which compared how parents and their adolescent children viewed the adolescents’ moods.

Taylor wears Stony Brook colors as Student Ambassador.
Taylor wears Stony Brook colors as Student Ambassador.

Taylor, a University Scholar, is particularly interested in how stress impacts upon health and the role that personality plays in coping to its effects on the body. During 2016 she had recruited, screened and scheduled individuals to take part in the study titled “Personality and Biological Predictors of Resiliency to Chronic Stress among High-Achieving Adults.” As a research assistant Taylor learned how to set up and administer electroencephalogram testing, which is useful in measuring how stress takes its toll on the human anatomy.

Being a University Scholar requires academic excellence but also actively becoming involved in University life and improving the educational environmental for other students, two areas where Taylor excelled. Coincidentally, the same attributes are prized in Chancellors Award for Excellence nominees.

“The turning point for me at Stony Brook was becoming an Orientation Leader,” says Taylor, who did so in summer 2014. “I was able to learn so much about our University and get to know 50 other student leaders who inspired me to become a leader in my own way. Being able to interact with thousands of students coming from different states and countries and welcoming them to our campus community is a responsibility I didn’t take lightly. I loved interacting with students who were shy or nervous about coming to Stony Brook and help them get them through their fears.”

The following summer Taylor built upon that experience by becoming an Orientation Team Leader, when she got the opportunity to mentor and supervise a new team of Orientation Leaders, serve as a role model for the staff and polish her active listening skills.

But Taylor didn’t stop there.

“For my final year at Stony Brook, I knew I wanted to create a program of my own and give back to the community that has provided me with so much,” she says. Noticing a gap between the shy first-year students and the accomplished and self-confident upperclassmen, Taylor connected the two groups by creating a mentoring program. In August 2016, she launched the Peer Assistant Leader (PAL) program with the help of University Scholar advisor Jeremy Marchese and 30 of her fellow University Scholars.

“Mentorship is something I have grown to admire as a learner and hopefully, a future academic,” she says.

To put the finishing touches on a stellar academic career Taylor travelled to San Marcos, Texas this past spring with the University’s Alternative Spring Break Outreach to help flood relief victims with the Blanco River Regional Recovery Team. Many families had been adversely affected by the Memorial Day and All Saints Day floods in May and October 2015.

On April 5, Taylor traveled to Albany to receive the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence. “It was an absolute honor and an extremely humbling way to cap off my time,” she says. “I would never have thought I could have qualified for this type of accolade when I began my time at Stony Brook.”

Taylor can hardly wait to begin her graduate career this fall at William and Mary, America’s second oldest institution of higher learning. “It’s not so much about its age and prestige but being accepted into a program that will allow me to delve deeper into psychological research,” she says. Taylor’s long-range goal is to pursue a PhD program in clinical psychology and incorporate all that she has experienced at Stony Brook, namely the research, academia, mentorship and helping others.

–Glenn Jochum

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