Self-described as always being really driven, Bakou arrived in Nebraska from West Africa at age 8 and has worked hard to make her parents’ sacrifices worthwhile. Her academic efforts earned her selection into the Nebraska College preparatory Academy at Omaha North.
“NCPA has taught me a lot about myself and opened my eyes to dreams I did not even know I had,” she said. “I always been interested in human behavior and how we socialize things. When I first came to the university, I thought I wanted a career in psychology working with businesses.” She enrolled in a summer program for that area but realized it was not for her. She shifted to clinical psychology and did an internship working with kids on the autism spectrum. Bakou enjoyed it and learned a lot but it wasn’t quite right for her either.
“I moved into counseling psychology and that’s where I’ve found my fit in the field,” Bakou said. Inspired by research conducted by Dr. Sarah Gervais, a psychology professor at Nebraska who specializes in Women’s Studies, Bakou applied for the Undergraduate Creative Activities and Research Experience program or UCARE and earned a scholarship to conduct funded research with Gervais as her advisor.
“Usually, students do a research project that’s similar to what your advisor is working on, but I wanted to do my own thing—and that’s what I did. I worked with Dr. Gervais to study how African-American women and European-American women have been dehumanized in advertisements.”
Now with more than two years of research experience, a degree in psychology, several internships and campus leadership roles filling her resume—she’s applying to several graduate schools. She says it’s a huge relief for her and her family to finish college without thousands of dollars of debt thanks to NCPA.
Her goal is to earn a Ph.D., have a counseling practice and open a nonprofit organization that offers low cost or free therapy and mental health resources to people living in impoverished communities.
“I hate that mental health is seen as a stigma or weakness in many minority groups and hate even more that therapy is seen as a rich person’s luxury. Everyone should have access to mental health resources regardless of their economic or social status and I’m very passionate about creating a space where people who can’t afford therapy still have access to mental health resources. Money shouldn’t determine well-being and we need to live in a world where we care more about others well-being than money. I hope I can one day work toward creating that change.”