Hannah Paauw ’21
Brandon, South Dakota
Hannah Paauw

Healthy goals

Passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding mental health, Hannah plans to attend medical school after graduating from Northwestern to continue her journey to becoming a forensic psychiatrist. She hopes to work with a prison population or in rural mental healthcare. A double major in biology-health professions and psychology, Hannah is involved not only in her studies, but in a variety of ways on campus. She’s participated in volleyball and is a high-jumper on the Raider track and field team, is a member of the Future Physicians Club and prison ministry team, serves as a teacher’s assistant and research assistant in the psychology department, tutors in a variety of academic departments, and works in the admissions office as a student ambassador and member of the call team. She is studying in Oxford during her senior year.

Welcome home

I was looking for a small Christian college where I would be challenged academically and where I could participate in volleyball and track and field. I visited more than a dozen colleges, and they were all missing something. Then I visited Northwestern. I met with professors and found that Northwestern would help me grow academically. I also met with coaches and found them to be encouraging. I felt so welcomed and loved—and it was only my first day on campus. When I left my Northwestern visit, I felt I was already part of a family that was willing to get to know me and pray for me. I chose Northwestern because of the people and relationships.


Many of my family members work in the medical field, and I’ve always wanted to work in that field too. I didn’t know which area of medicine I wanted to work in—until I read my sister’s textbook about abnormal psychology. I was fascinated. As I explored the field of psychology, I learned about the incredible need for mental health professionals. My decision to study psychology was solidified when I was hired as an intern at the South Dakota State Penitentiary. I was surrounded by an underserved and hopeless population. I found I could be a light to those around me and use my studies to enhance their lives. I’m very passionate about lessening the mental health stigma in all populations, but especially with prisoners.

Holistic education

Double majoring is a challenge, but it’s far more rewarding than I ever imagined. In biology, I get to learn and experience the processes and molecules that make us function. In psychology, on the other hand, I get to learn about was makes us uniquely human—learning, thinking and feeling. Double majoring in biology and psychology gives me a great advantage in seeing the “whole person.” I know how the body functions and how the brain expresses biological processes. I also have a deeper understanding about many topics. For example, when a person is feeling something such as intense sadness to the point of depression, I can understand it from a biological and psychological perspective.


The thing I appreciate most about studying psychology at Northwestern is the help and support I receive. Whenever I have a question or a research idea, I can always discuss it with a professor. I talk with the psychology professors every day and they treat me as an equal. We bounce ideas back and forth. It’s a very collaborative setting. The psychology faculty know my career goals and want to help me achieve them. Additionally, Northwestern psychology courses are jam-packed with interesting and relatable information, studies and activities that not only solidify the content, but also make you want to learn more.

Deeper understanding

Studying psychology has impacted my faith as I think about how consistent yet unique God created us all. By studying emotions and feelings, I feel I have a deeper understanding of God and how we’re created in his image. Psychology has made me dig deep into my relationship with God, the Bible and others to search for answers. I feel well prepared to defend my faith in a professional setting.