Lauren Poythress (Class of 2020)

photo of Lauren Poythress

  • sophomore Pre-Law student with a Black World Studies and Psychology double major
  • from Carmel, IN
  • President of the Bridges Scholars program
  • Vice President of Miami's National Black Law Student Association Pre-Law chapter
  • participated in the First Year Research Experience program in psychology
"All of my classes have been very unique, taught by knowledgeable instructors who make it very interesting to learn, often in a hands-on kind of way. Miami faculty go beyond the textbook to incorporate their own experiences, and they relate these experiences with our class readings to help us to better understand and make personal connections."

Why Miami?

"I came to Miami during high school with the Bridges Program, which invites us to stay overnight in dorms and meet with students, faculty, and staff as we make our college decision. I also did a campus tour, came to Make It Miami, and sat down to meet with Maria Vitullo, the director Miami's Sue J. Henry Center for Pre-Law Education. Our talk helped solidify that Miami was the place I wanted to be.

"Coming from Indiana, my first year felt different — I knew only around 5 people from my high school, but most students I met were either from Ohio or other places. It was a little hard to make new connections at first, but the Pre-law Program helped by giving me an early start, knowing that I'd get to know the students there over my full 4 years at Miami. I love the people, and it's fun to see President Greg and Dr. Renate Crawford running around campus — it speaks to what Miami is as a warm and welcoming community. And once my classes started, I focused on my studies and really enjoyed my first year.

"My intention has always been to go to law school after I graduate to become a civil rights lawyer, but towards the end of my senior year of high school I became interested in psychology. I love learning how the brain works, and how people think. I originally considered being a double major in Psychology and Neuroscience, but I learned more about the Miami Plan at the Rinella Learning Center — and they recommended that I take the Introduction to Black World Studies course, taught by professor of global and intercultural studies Rodney Coates. Although it was intimidating at first, I ended up loving it. Dr. Coates really helped me out and made me interested in the material we were learning. It provided me with the background I need to know for law school, and although I first added Black World Studies as a minor, earlier this year I made it my second major!"

Best Miami Experiences

Bridges Scholars Organization Executive team serving as student success leaders for the Bridges early move-in program

"My best experiences have been receiving help both inside and outside the classroom, especially from Dr. Coates, who has become a great mentor for me. Making various connections around campus has helped me to gain new experiences that might not have come up otherwise. Even as a second-semester sophomore, I'm learning there's a lot at Miami for me to discover.

"I'm president of the Bridges Scholars organization, whose mission is to promote diversity on campus and serve as a form of continuity for the students who first came to Miami via the Bridges Program, like myself. It's a fairly new organization, where we all try to keep Bridges alumni as a community here on campus. The unique thing about Bridges Scholars is how it's always been supported by Miami — students were contacted to create this organization, and anyone who did Bridges is automatically a member. Some choose to be more active than others, but all of us try to get the word out to upperclassmen and keep everything running in the manner we envision it.

"At Bridges Scholars we help mentor first-year students in the transition, but we also hold various leadership activities to give them more experiences. Our committee chairs work with the students to help plan our events, such as bringing in various speakers for a panel, preparing students for big events like Career Fair, and getting the word out about other events that might fly under their radar.

"I'm vice president of the National Black Law Student Association Pre-Law chapter here at Miami, so our organization works with the Pre-law Program through its director, Maria Vitullo, who is a great collaborator. And in addition to my mentor, Dr. Coates (who directs Black World Studies), I have also been given a lot of support from professor of psychology Joseph Johnson, who is also chair of his department. I took his First Year Research Experience (FYRE) class as a freshman and learned a lot!

"FYRE allowed me to create my own research project based on what Dr. Johnson was doing in his lab. He invited our group to take a look at his work on 'shooter bias,' which tests decision-making in high risk situations by using a video game simulation. It was an interesting experience, and I learned that research in psychology (and I'm sure other fields as well) develops from one another. There may not always be a definitive answer, but we were able to learn about the research process from beginning to end, with students given a platform to present their findings at the Undergraduate Research Forum in the spring.

"Being involved in different organizations and programs around Miami is giving me a lot of professional experience. Whether it's Bridges or Pre-Law or psychology, every activity I'm a part of helps me interact with and understand people. Psychology will play a large role in my future because I'm learning about the reasoning behind people's behavior. As for Black World Studies, it's not only an important part of my history, but I'm gaining knowledge that can keep me a step above and preparing for my future as a civil rights lawyer."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

Outside CNN Center (CNN World Headquarters) where we toured as members of the National Black Law Student Association at Miami

"The College of Arts and Sciences has a lot of hidden gems, so it's really just about finding the ones you're interested in. As a Black World Studies major, I'm not just taking one set of courses, but courses in history, English, music, and much more. Even if you're not necessarily a major in something that interests you, there's a way to get new and enriching experiences without putting you behind in terms of graduation.

"All of my classes have been very unique, taught by knowledgeable instructors who make it very interesting to learn, often in a hands-on kind of way. Miami faculty go beyond the textbook to incorporate their own experiences, and they relate these experiences with our class readings to help us to better understand and make personal connections.

"I originally planned to keep Black World Studies as my minor because I felt as a pre-law student I needed to get into political science. After talking to Dr. Coates, to Maria, and to my parents, I realized that I didn't need to be a poli-sci major to get into law school. I think poli-sci is great, but I felt so passionate about Black World Studies that I knew I needed it to be my major along with psychology.

"All of my classes have been influential in some way, but I think the FYRE program was the first, especially because psychology was my only major at the time. As a freshman I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with psychology, and I wasn't planning on grad school but law school instead. I was interested in research, however, and the class allowed me to create my own research project and learn the entire research process. It was beneficial, because I think that understanding and doing research is an essential skill needed in the furthering of one's education — whether it be graduate school, medical school, or law school. The opportunity also allowed me to work with Dr. Johnson as a research assistant in his lab this year."

Embracing Leadership Opportunities at Miami

Lauren talks about her dedication to promoting diversity and her leadership role in Miami's Bridges Program.

Promoting Diversity Video Transcript

Advice to Students

"Explore. If you think you might like a class or an organization or a research project or study abroad opportunity — but you're not sure, it might be something that totally changes your path in college. Everything is worth taking a shot at.

"So in order to get involved with things outside the classroom, be open minded. Try attending different events on campus. There are always things to do at Miami: Mega Fair, Late Night Miami, Art After Dark, and much more. You never know what you might like until you try it!"

[March 2018]