Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Student helps veterans. And wild cats.

allyce 1“Live Animal?” Yup, that’s how she rolls. Or used to, when she went by that name for roller derby. Better known as Allyce Rusnak, the WSU Global Campus student hung up her skates when she went back to school.

Now, instead of knocking people down, she’s raising them up: She works with veterans and psychologists to make 3D games that help service members cope with PTSD and brain injuries. She’s an ASWSU Global senator, helping support the online student body. And she also helps nonhumans. In her spare time, she traps feral cats.

“They can’t be rehomed, so we have them spayed or neutered so they don’t create a colony that gets out of hand,” she said.

Rusnak already had a bachelor’s in computer animation when she enrolled at Global Campus in fall 2015. But the south King County resident is changing paths, and is studying psychology and biology.

“My teachers do a really good job,” she said. “They are really involved. They have office hours every week, and student projects so we don’t feel isolated. It’s a lot more involved than online programs at community colleges.”

After graduating from Global Campus, Rusnak will look for a Ph.D. program in neuropsychology, behavior genetics, and neurogenetics, which is how genetics affect brain development.

“My passion is to better our understanding of mental health,” she said. “My goal is to increase early detection so we can use prevention techniques before a person’s illness becomes too much to handle.”

Getting into graduate school is a key reason why she chose WSU’s online program. “I wanted to make sure my degree was valid,” she said. “Because I want to pursue a Ph.D., it looks a lot better if I’m coming from a reputable actual physical campus.”

It also looks a lot better on doctoral applications if your name isn’t “Live Animal.” How did she get that name? “I had a sticker for a cat crate that said ‘live animal,’” she said. “So I put it on my helmet. The name just stuck.”