A Passion for Compassion
Psychology senior, Cavel Whyte, nourishes her giving nature at Syracuse University
“Student-centered research” is a well-worn slogan that is making something of comeback at Syracuse University. Popularized by Chancellor Kenneth “Buzz” Shaw in the 1990s, the phrase has been recently co-opted by Chancellor Kent Syverud, as part of a larger institutional trend toward a more personalized student experience.
On the surface, it may seem that Syverud’s policies run counter to those of his predecessor, Nancy Cantor, who favored a more civic-minded approach with “Scholarship in Action.” But ask Cavel Whyte ’15, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, and she’ll tell you that it’s all about a healthy balance between the two.
“The atmosphere here is so different and refreshing,” says Whyte, a psychology major from the Bronx in New York City. “I’m used to everyone back home always going about their business and forgetting to smile or say ‘hi.’ Syracuse University is filled with friendly people who do amazing things, on and off campus. It makes you wonder if there’s something here in the water.”
Whyte knows a thing or two about relating to people. She’s currently working on an independent research project titled “Media Images and Body Satisfaction: A More Valid Test.” Supervised by Leonard Newman, associate professor of psychology, the project studies media objectification and body image issues. “My research focuses on whether or not the nature of models affect women’s satisfaction with their own bodies,” she says.
When she’s not attending class or doing homework in Bird Library, Whyte may be found helping out in the College’s admissions office. There, on the third floor of the Hall of Languages, she meets with hundreds of prospective students and their families, patiently guiding them through the admissions process.
Whyte’s work has not gone unnoticed. Last fall, she caught the attention of Mary Lovely, professor of economics and chair of international relations, who asked her to serve on the A&S Dean Search Committee.
“Communicating to others the importance of identifying a candidate that values transparency about the issues pertinent to the student body was crucial,” says Whyte, the committee’s lone student representative. “Being part of that committee has allowed me to represent my peers and to engage with faculty and staff across disciplines.”
Chris Anderson G’15, an associate for college relations, says he enjoys working with Whyte. “Cavel is a hard worker, but she’s also a lot of fun,” he says. “Importantly, Cavel always thinks of others. She’s very conscious and considerate of others in everything she does. Cavel is wise beyond her years.”
Whyte who hails from Kingston, Jamaica, appreciates the sense of compassion and social justice that her mother and brother instilled in her. Whyte attended a high school in the Bronx that did not have any college counselors. Thus, she took it upon herself to learn the college admissions process firsthand and then teach it to her peers.
Since then, Whyte has made a name for herself in Central New York—whether participating in the Psychology Club, volunteering for the Syracuse University Literacy Corps, or feeding the homeless through the Phi Chapter of the Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity.
Whyte hopes to someday serve as an academic advisor to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. “I want people to know I can relate to them, and that, regardless of their income, they’re capable of doing great things.”