Q&A with Lexie Bergen, UBC Psychology Alumna and 911 Call Taker

Lexie Bergen chose to study psychology on a whim; little did she know it would turn into a passion—and ultimately set the course for her career.

Lexie graduated in 2016 with a BA Major in Psychology, Minor in Sociology with Arts Co-op. After graduating, Lexie joined UBC Psychology as an undergradaute program assistant where she was the first point of contact for undergraduate inquiries and advised undergraduate students. Now Lexie is putting her psychological knowledge to good use again as a 911 call taker with E-Comm 911 dispatch services.

In her own words, Lexie shares how psychology has helped her adapt to a career in emergency response—and how she learned about the variety of careers available to BA graduates through the UBC Arts Co-op Program.

Why did you choose to study psychology at UBC?
I picked it a little bit on whim! I started off in the BSc program at UBCO, but realized pretty quickly I really didn’t enjoy research and lab work. Having grown up during the CSI craze, and loving Criminal Minds and the Mentalist, I was always fascinated with understanding how people think and why they make the decisions they do especially when it came to crime, so when I decided Science wasn’t for me, I picked Psychology and fell in love with it! I applied to transfer to UBC in Vancouver so I could join the co-op program and I figured there would be more opportunities to explore various careers relating to psychology and my interests.

When you were a student, was there anything or anyone who inspired you?
The co-op program for sure. There is such a strong rhetoric that Arts degrees are useless unless you go to grad school and, having known from pretty early on that I was very likely not wanting to go to grad school, trying to figure out what that meant for me was really important. Going into the job market is such a black hole and co-op really taught me where to start. But more than that, I was able to see what sort of careers were really out there for people with BAs in Psychology – and there really were so much more than I could have ever thought. Plus, being involved in such an interdisciplinary program and seeing students from a wide variety of backgrounds, going after what they wanted, was really inspiring and that applies not only to the co-op program—but the Arts and Psychology programs as well. Interacting with students and professors with such varied passions and goals made me want to find something I was equally passionate about and made me strive not to settle for something I didn’t want.

“In learning about behaviour, mental health, learning and other aspects of psychology, I feel like I'm better prepared to work with a greater variety of people.”
BA Psychology, UBC (2016)

In your experience, how does the value of a psychology degree translate into the real world?
I feel like this is a very cliched answer, but there’s a real benefit in being able to understand people and individual differences. In learning about behaviour, mental health, learning and other aspects of psychology, I feel like I’m better prepared to work with a greater variety of people. Increasing my knowledge and exposure to individual differences in behaviour and personality has made me a more tolerant and open minded person which helps me every day.

As a 911 call-taker, I speak to people with mental health diagnoses or I reference mental disorders everyday and beyond that, things I learned in Psychology classes—like biases, eyewitness memory, stress, bystander effect, and so many other things—have become so real. Having studied all of this previously has been invaluable knowledge and has helped me adapt better to the position where I not only speak to anxious and scared people every day, but I have to deal with my stress and anxiety as well. And while nothing could have really prepared me to understand what it would be like to pick up that phone and speak to people in acute distress in sometimes very serious and deadly situations, knowing and understanding some of the background mechanisms makes it a lot more manageable than it otherwise may have been. Being able to use my Psychology degree in such a tangible way has been such a pleasure and something I didn’t really expect without needing to have done further schooling to work directly in the Psychology discipline.

In your own words, how has UBC shaped your career?
The opportunities I had as a student, and later as a UBC employee, were invaluable. The flexibility of the BA in Psychology not only let me study what I wanted and  find what interested me, and participate in a co-op program that opened so many doors and made me a lot less fearful of what came next after university. I know that if I hadn’t chosen to switch into the BA Psychology program, move to Vancouver, or join the co-op program I would not be in the career I’m in today, which would be a shame because I’m really enjoying it. It’s been so rewarding to have been actually able to use Psychology in my career and to work in a field that I spent my undergrad working towards.

“It's been so rewarding to have been actually able to use Psychology in my career and to work in a field that I spent my undergrad working towards.”
911 Call Taker