Ryan Knuppenburg

SNC psychology student Ryan Knuppenburg at Lake Tahoe

Major: Psychology

Class of: 2018

I worked full-time in the restaurant industry for four years after high school. During that time, I got involved in a relationship that was extremely dysfunctional and abusive. I allowed myself to become completely isolated from friends and family, and I noticed that many of the waitresses at work were in similar relationships. At the time I had no education about domestic abuse or the power and control wheel – my parents always made being good to each other look easy.

This experience really got me interested in the topics of mental health and well-being. I wanted to know more about what makes humans tick.

SNC psychology student Ryan Knuppenburg high above Lake TahoeEducating myself was the only way for me to heal after that terrible environment. Everybody should go to college when they decide it’s best for them. I went back to school at a community college on the east coast, where I grew up. “Lake Tahoe” was where I was born, so after finishing my lower division courses I looked up four-year colleges in Lake Tahoe and SNC popped right up. I had no idea it was so beautiful here. I love going on adventures, hiking, taking my dog for walks, and exploring. I love to ski. I also spend a lot of my time going to the beach and swimming. When I’m under water, near water, or floating on top of water, I feel free. I love boats!

My classes at SNC have transformed my way of thinking, especially my psychology classes. My focus is creating well-being and constructive relationships for others, for myself, and hopefully for society. I have become entranced with the Positive Psychology movement, which originated with Dr. Martin Seligman at Penn State. Psychology generally has always focused on what is wrong with people. Seligman argues that this focus on negative events and information, pathologies, or diagnoses keeps people stuck in a box and in a victim state. In my own life, the more I focused on what went wrong the more wrong kept occurring, no matter how much I wanted it to be different.

My experience here has changed who I am, my life, and my trajectory.

Most of the people at SNC and in the Lake Tahoe community are very kind and caring. My internship with Professor Christina Frederick has pushed me do things I never thought I would be doing. I have been writing on the student blog, and I’m co-facilitating an education and prevention program in the Incline Village public schools with Tahoe Safe Alliance. Sometimes I’ve had to work two jobs plus school to afford to live here and educate myself, which has been challenging. The opportunity SNC has given me through scholarships and grants really influenced me to persevere.

I am currently doing my independent senior research, which I hope to publish. My research looks at the impact of positive and negative language on mood and altruistic behavior. I am extremely excited to present my data at research conferences and begin to meet other psychologists in the field. After I graduate, I plan to stay in Lake Tahoe for Crisis Intervention Training through Tahoe Safe Alliance. CIT is a 70-hour training course for working with domestic abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and family counseling. The course is a great resource and you learn a lot about people who have undergone trauma.

I will be applying to Master’s and PhD programs in clinical counseling and psych research for 2020. In a perfect world I’ll get into a graduate program in Positive Psychology! No matter what, I plan to try and help others and make the world a better place, because that’s what keeps me going and puts joy in my life.

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Christina M. Frederick
Psychology Program Chair; Professor

Undergraduate Admissions
FAX: 775-831-6223