news-category: Alumni

Gardner-Webb Psychology Degree Leads to Success

Natalie Bada, ’23, Grateful for Opportunity to Complete her Degree and Work in Fulfilling Job

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Natalie Bada graduated in May 2023 from Gardner-Webb University—after 13 years and two distressing life events—to earn a bachelor’s in psychology. Although difficult and painful, her experiences led to new opportunities and a fulfilling job working with children and their families.

A native of Voorhees, N.J., Bada is a mental health specialist for the New Jersey Pediatric Psychiatry Collaborative (NJPPC) at Cooper University Health Care in Neptune City, N.J. Through the grant-funded program, families receive a psychiatric evaluation for free. “After that, it’s my job to keep in contact with the families and make sure they have enough resources and connections within their community to best support their child,” Bada explained. “One of my favorite elements of my position is connecting with the families. Being able to check in and make sure they are connected with one of our resources and hearing the relief in their voice that their child is going to be OK makes it worth going to work each day.”

Bada further described how the NJPPC works to support New Jersey’s primary care physicians as they manage pediatric mental health patients. “Our support comes in many forms: medication management seminars, providing resources to support their patients, consultations, and so much more,” she related. “We are operating out of Cooper’s affiliation network, which allows us to reach many families that need our services.”

Bada noted that through her studies and the help of her psychology professors, her knowledge of psychiatric disorders increased and this understanding helps her on the job. “By reading about what the kids’ diagnoses are, I am able to research and find resources unique to their diagnoses that will help them succeed in life,” she affirmed. “I also believe that the culture of Gardner-Webb helped me reach my potential of working in a helping field. I always carry with me my time at the Webb, specifically how everyone treated others with respect.”

It was Gardner-Webb’s supportive community that assisted Bada when she came back in 2019 to finish the education that she started almost a decade earlier. What brought her to GWU in 2010 was the American Sign Language program. “I was looking for schools that offered American Sign Language as a major,” she offered. “That’s actually what put GWU on the map for me. Unfortunately, I had to withdraw the end of my sophomore year due to personal and family matters. When COVID hit, I lost my job and realized I had a unique opportunity to come back to GWU and finish out something that I started all those years ago.”

She changed her major to psychology, because during her time away from Gardner-Webb, she had worked with people who had dual diagnoses. Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in psychology would increase her skills and ability to serve people looking for help. “Studying for exams as an adult learner turned out to be rougher than I originally anticipated,” Bada shared. “But I was able to make friends within all my classes, and they really got me through. No matter what, I knew that I was not alone.”

Along with the help of her peers, Bada appreciated the way Gardner-Webb’s faculty treated her as a student. “My psychology professors challenged me with each assignment and taught me so much,” she praised. “Most of that information I still reference and currently use today at my job. Each of my teachers—regardless of if they were my psychology professors or my general education teachers—knew my name and made me feel welcome, appreciated, and valued as a student and person. I got to know God a little better through each person I met on campus. I am truly thankful to have been a part of a school that takes time investing in their students and their futures.”

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.

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