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Intrinsic motivation: Malia Pope named UWG’s Academic Recognition Day Scholar

by Abby Grizzard

In the realm of academia, there are those who not only excel in their studies but also embody a profound commitment to knowledge and personal growth. Malia Pope, the University of West Georgia’s Academic Recognition Day Scholar, has carved a path marked by dedication, resilience and a thirst for understanding the human condition.

The Academic Recognition Day program is designed to select a single undergraduate student per institution within the University System of Georgia who has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and honor their successes. Applicants are nominated through their respective universities and follow an interview process.

From an early age, Pope embraced a proactive approach to life’s challenges and was instilled with a sense of responsibility by her mother. She recalled a time in her life when she inquired about having to complete her homework, as many children do.

“My mom didn’t sit me down like I imagine many parents would and make me do it,” explained Pope, a psychology major. “She simply told me I would have to be the one to explain to my teacher why I didn’t complete my homework – I did my homework that night. That moment instilled a lot of self-responsibility in me that has carried throughout my academic career to make my own decisions and to make good ones.”

She learned the invaluable lesson of self-accountability, a cornerstone of her inspiring work ethic.

“I have always considered myself the opposite of a procrastinator,” explained Pope. “If I know I have something due next month, I will do it now. I pride myself on doing everything I can – whether a big presentation or math homework – to the best of my ability. Those sorts of things require time and care no matter what it is.”

Driven by a profound desire to comprehend the intricacies of human nature, Pope pursued psychology as not just a field of study but as a means to foster empathy and facilitate healing. The tragic loss of her father in 2019 ignited a personal journey of introspection, leading Pope to delve deeper into the realm of mental health and dreams.

“I have made it a central mission in my life to strive to understand as much as I can about people and the world around me so I’m able to love better,” said Pope. “I feel that by studying psychology, I’ve been able to pursue that goal in the best way. After losing my dad, I became aware of a lot of mental struggles that I never had to face until that point. Through this study, I’ve been able to engage in a great deal of self-healing while helping others through what I learned and my past experiences, which is the most fulfilling part of it all for me.”

Choosing UWG as her academic home proved to be a pivotal decision for Pope. She embraced the unique opportunities offered by the university, especially within the dynamic psychology program. Here, amidst passionate professors and engaging coursework, Pope thrived, delving into niche disciplines such as the psychology of dreams to expand her intellectual horizons.

“I first looked at UWG because it was close to home after the difficult transition from high school to college amidst the global pandemic,” said Pope. “I also love to meet new people and try new things, so after getting involved very quickly with various communities and opportunities. I quickly noticed how supportive the university is and knew it was the right fit for me to continue and finish my undergraduate education.” 

Along with being awarded Academic Recognition Day Scholar, Pope will graduate in May 2024 with a major in psychology and minors in chemistry and philosophy

“I am immensely honored and so excited to be the recipient of the award,” said Pope. “I think I danced around my apartment for an hour after I received the official email. It’s affirming for me that I’ve taken advantage of the opportunities I’ve been given at UWG. I’m truly proud to be from UWG and to have the opportunity to represent it.”

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