Psychology Major, Ciara Covington is the 2023 Outstanding University Scholar and College of Sciences Outstanding Scholar. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her educational experience at Old Dominion University. Even though ODU was not initially her first choice, Covington could not see herself anywhere else now that she has earned a Bachelor of Sciences as a high achieving graduate.

Coming from a military family, Covington was taught to work hard. Covington’s father served in the Army and was stationed in Germany when she was born. The Covington family was stationed in North Carolina and then Virginia. “I’ve been in Richmond pretty much my whole life from kindergarten,” said Covington.

Her parents instilled a strong work ethic into Covington and her older brother. Her father said, “I need you all to go to school, get that education, and come back in and be proud,” said Covington. “And my mom was the same way, and because she’s an independent person, she didn’t want me or my brother to rely on anyone else to get somewhere in life.”    

Self-reliance would help her during high school. Covington was one of five African Americans in the Center for Education and Human Development Specialty Center a rigorous program at Glen Allen High School. When it came to selecting a college to attend, she wanted a place where diversity matters.

“ODU wasn't my top choice at first, it was actually N.C. State,” said Covington. However, after touring the Carolina college with her dad, she said, “it's not for me.” Covington toured other colleges, but once she finished the tour at ODU, something changed about her decision. “I fell in love with ODU,” said Covington. “I loved the diversity, seeing that it (the tour) was student-led and not faculty-led made a difference.” She realized she could see herself on campus as a Monarch. “Seeing people that look just like me who were interested in the same things as me, made me know this is my place,” said Covington.  

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her first year at ODU was fully remote. However, once the campus opened back up, she knew she had to fully embrace the college experience. “I didn't know where anything was and everyone had their groups because people that came in previously already had friends,” said Covington. “I was like a deer in headlights, so I had to have the drive to be involved on campus.” She became very active academically and in various clubs.

Selecting her major at ODU was an easy choice for Covington. “I chose Psychology because of my uncle. He is a Behavioral/Social Psychologist,” said Covington. “I've just always loved his work because he works with special needs kids and of course, I went the opposite direction because I realized counseling wasn't for me.” The opposite end of the Psychology spectrum is Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology. Covington did not just love it, she excelled at it.

I/O Psychology delves into the psychological principles and research of human behavior in work settings. “With my major, I feel like I’m allowed to be opinionated, and I get to look out for the best interests of others,” said Covington. Her interest only blossomed after taking more classes and doing research.  

She participated in SONA which is a research program in the Department of Psychology. They are usually faculty led with opportunities for students to be a research assistant. “While I wasn't a research assistant, I was an undergraduate teaching assistant (UTA) for Dr. Yamani's Human Factors course,” said Covington. “Within that semester being his UTA he opened my eyes to different perspectives or careers within the I/O psychology field.”

The faculty member in Psychology that encouraged Covington the most along her journey at ODU has been Courtney Mozo, Psychology adjunct professor and higher education research assistant. “Ciara was the top student in every course she took with me,” said Mozo. I enjoyed hearing the connections she would draw from across the courses she was taking. Her work was always a delight to read.”  

After successfully excelling in each and every one of her classes, she was selected as the Outstanding Scholar for the class of 2023 in the College of Sciences. I couldn’t believe I was selected, but I’m honored,” said Covington. “I do feel appreciated and the fact that all my hard work paid off two-dimensionally.”

She took advantage of the resources on campus and carved out time to study. “I used to get help at the MSRC which is now the STC Science tutoring centers,” said Covington. “Then I became a tutor at STC.”  She helped fellow Monarchs in the tutoring center with statistics-based and research-based courses.  

Her advice to Monarchs who are reluctant to getting help in the STC is this, “don't be afraid to ask for help because there is nothing like the STC. It is filled with students who were in my shoes taking classes with the exact same questions I used to have. I would tell the students I tutored to not feel inferior because everyone needs help.”

Covington’s involvement on campus along with awards includes following:

  • University Scholar of the University
  • University Scholar of the College of Sciences
  • Elizabeth C. Guy Academic Award
  • Landmark Opportunity Scholarship Recipient Ronald
  • L. Horne, Black Alumni Chapter Scholarship Recipient
  • Frieda Young Science/Engineer Scholarship
  • Recipient
  • Science Museum Association of Eastern Virginia
  • Prize Scholarship Recipient
  • Phi Eta Sigma, Member
  • The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Member
  • Kappa Gamma Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Member
  • ODU Black Alumni Chapter, Student Representative Position
  • College of Sciences Ambassador

After graduation, Covington plans attending East Carolina University to pursue a master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology.