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Judith Hopkins ’23: Non-Traditional Path Lands Her Among the Stars

Georgian Court University 2023 graduating student Judith Hopkins

When Judith Hopkins of Allenhurst, NJ had to leave school due to chronic illness, she wasn’t sure she would ever be able to continue her education. Two decades later, she has completed her undergraduate degree, and her unexpected path has led her to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In 2002, Judith was an undergraduate junior studying Dance and Theater at another university when she fell ill and became bedridden for 14 years. No longer able to sing and dance competitively, Judith’s pursuit of this dream ended. In 2018, she found the strength to return to school in her 40s, starting part-time at Brookdale Community College to pursue a new path and study Psychology. She then transferred to Georgian Court as a full-time student and graduated with a 4.0 GPA in December 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

This past academic year, Judith was approached by Dr. Susan Field, Professor of Psychology at GCU, who presented her with the opportunity to be a research assistant to Dr. Nicola A. Meade, Assistant Professor of Psychology. After Judith joined Dr. Meade as her research assistant, Judith was awarded a prestigious NASA NJ Space Grant for undergraduate research for the 2022-2023 academic school year.

Judith received a $2,000 stipend from NASA for her research project titled Women’s Cost for Motherhood Expectations in the Workplace, which she conducted under the guidance of Dr. Meade. The project’s goal was to create an assessment that will determine the psychological preparedness of mothers who are intending to take an extended leave from their children, including as an astronaut. Judith presented the results of this project in April at the NJ Space Grant yearly Poster Session for NASA Undergraduate Student Researchers.

“The experience was new and exciting to me. It turned out to be so much more than I expected, and I have learned so much from Dr. Meade,” said Judith. “This topic fascinates me, and it is vital to improving the mental health and well-being of mothers.”

Judith completed the research for the NASA grant before graduating in December, however, she is still conducting an ongoing content analysis with Dr. Nicola Meade in order to create the assessment portion of the project. When she isn’t working on the content analysis or as a proofreader for court transcripts, she is studying to take the GRE to apply for graduate school in the fall.

Judith’s ultimate goal is to earn a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Health Psychology and open up her own practice to treat chronically ill patients.

“I had an incredible psychologist throughout my life who inspired me to want to help others in the same way. I had learning disabilities when I was younger, and he helped me deal with that. He was also there for me when I got sick,” said Judith. “A lot of people living with chronic illness are on Medicare, which doesn’t cover mental health. These people deal with isolation, and they are lacking the care they need for their mental health. That is where I want to make a difference.”

Having to give up a dream is hard, but often when one door closes another opens, and the struggles along the way make achieving a new dream that much more rewarding. 

“I struggled with learning disabilities as a kid, and unfortunately teachers in those days didn’t have a good understanding of what that meant. I was told by many teachers in my younger years that I wouldn’t amount to anything, that school was not for me, that I needed an alternate path,” said Judith. “My confidence as a student was built back up at Georgian Court. From getting the position as a research assistant with Dr. Meade, to receiving the grant from NASA, my experience at GCU restored my belief in myself.”

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Georgian Court University is a leading regional university that provides a transformative education, preparing students for ethical leadership and service in the Catholic Mercy tradition. Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. The university has a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women.

As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 1,900 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 16 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings, and in 2024, GCU was named one of the best Online Master’s Colleges in New Jersey.

The main campus is in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students through its Center for Professional Studies, and at other locations, including GCU at Brookdale, and through multiple online degree and certificate programs.