November 09, 2020
A licensed clinical psychologist, Lauren Finnegan is the director of counseling and wellness at Ursinus College and is passionate about supporting our students while helping them reach their academic, career and personal goals. A former high school English and social studies teacher, she still has a passion for both subjects. She recently spoke to Ursinus Magazine about her role on campus, navigating a pandemic, and, of course, books.
You interact with many Ursinus students on a daily basis. What do you like best about that?
I’m always impressed by how passionate and involved our students are. Sometimes this can create some additional self-inflicted stress and pressure, which is often how I end up interacting with them. However, these are qualities that I sincerely admire and think it will lead them to greater success in their futures. I hope to help them feel inspired by these drives and interests, and to lessen that experience of being overwhelmed.
Is there a particularly memorable moment that you’ve had with a student or groups of students in your time at Ursinus?
One of my favorite experiences thus far has been providing trainings around mental health for RAs. These are student leaders who are often first on the scene trying to support their peers, and to provide them some information and make them more comfortable handling challenging situations was such a privilege. And they ask such great questions! I was blown away by the depth and thoughtfulness of their queries and their suggestions for future mental health services on campus.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
I love the feeling of having a truly great individual therapy session with a student. Perhaps we’ve worked through a significant issue, processed an upsetting event from the past or developed some new coping strategies to manage current concerns; whatever the content of the session may be, it is a powerfully satisfying feeling to know that you’ve helped someone with something that may have been weighing them down.
As a former English teacher, your love of literature is pretty evident, but you also say that you’re “obsessed” with audiobooks. What are you listening to right now?
Audiobooks are definitely one of my methods of self-care! I’m currently listening to The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. Her first novel, Station Eleven, is one of my most-listened-to-audiobooks. It starts with a pandemic, which felt like it was hitting a bit too close to home when I re-listened to it this past winter, but it’s such a creative and unique story that I could not resist.
Do you have a favorite genre?
My guilty pleasure is female-centric thrillers. I’ve done some work in forensic psychology, so I’ve always been fascinated by the way the criminal mind works.
Who is your favorite all-time literary character and why?
I’ve always enjoyed characters that were ahead of their time, particularly women. Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights comes to mind. She was a flawed character, yes, but she was also a woman who was willing to break free of some of the expectations put upon her and pursue what she loved.
COVID-19 has presented quite a few new challenges to our society and, of course, to our small campus community. What’s the most important thing for our readers to remember as we move forward through the next several months and continue to navigate the pandemic?
Self-compassion. The standards that we previously held ourselves to are no longer relevant. It takes more effort and mental energy to simply get through our normal daily activities. Trying to hold yourself to the same expectations of productivity and efficiency that you used to is unfair and unkind to your overall well-being. Be reasonable and considerate of yourself and all that you’ve been through over the past few months and adjust your mindset accordingly.
What are some other interests that our readers may want to know about you?
I love 6 a.m. workouts, spending time with my niece and nephew and finding my next favorite TV show. Above all, I’m just so glad to be here at Ursinus. I’ve spent many years on many college campuses and can say, with all honesty, that this is a truly special place.