Amazing Students

Alec Murphy

Senior Alec Murphy loves teaching people how to paddleboard at Lake Herrick. He’s a trip leader for UGA’s Outdoor Recreation Center. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

From teaching people how to paddleboard on Lake Herrick to leading trips through the Outdoor Recreation Center, Alec Murphy is committed to improving the lives of people around him. A future physician, he hopes to incorporate positive psychology research with medicine to make others happier and healthier.

Cincinnati, Ohio

High school:
Alpharetta High School

Current employment:
Trip leader for the Outdoor Recreation Center at the Ramsey Student Center.

Fun fact about me:
I know every bird in Georgia by sight and call. My favorite is the cedar waxwing because they look like their wearing the same mask the superheroes from “The Incredibles” wear. Check out Google Images for a good laugh.

Family ties to UGA:
My older sister was the first of my family to attend UGA. She danced for the Georgettes in Sanford Stadium on game days, and we traveled to Athens on Saturdays to support her. Over time, the whole family grew to love the Dawgs (even my mom who went to the University of Florida).

Expected graduation:
Spring 2021

Degree objectives:
B.S. in biology
B.S. in psychology

Other degrees:
Minor in Spanish

Top university highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:
Joining Sigma Phi Epsilon during my first semester on campus has taught me many lessons, including the importance of always having and being a mentor. It inspired me to become involved in my community.

I volunteered at St. Mary’s Hospital in radiology and neurology departments and the wound care center on Atlanta Highway. I learned how invaluable a listening ear can be in a lot of situations.

I’ve volunteered and interned on the social services team at Mercy Health Center, a local free health clinic that serves low-income uninsured patients in Athens. I’ve helped patients with nonmedical needs like food, clothing or employment. Because of Mercy, I strive to be a bilingual physician who holistically treats the medical and nonmedical needs of the marginalized communities of the United States and South America.

I share my love of the outdoors with other UGA students as an outdoor trip leader through the Outdoor Recreation Center at the Ramsey Student Center. We regularly take students on adventures throughout the Southeast, and I’ve learned a lot about my personal leadership style through this gem of a job.

Locally, my friends and I share our love of the outdoors through the Paddle Board & Longboard Club. We made this club the week after we found out Lake Herrick would be opened up. It’s a fun way to socialize and enjoy the outdoors.

This fall, I get to be a peer learning assistant for a seminar that aims to provide students with the tools to experience joy and achievement in their lives.

“My friends and I share our love of the outdoors through the Paddle Board & Longboard Club. We made this club the week after we found out Lake Herrick would be opened up,” said Alec Murphy. “This club has been a fun way to create room for people to enjoy the outdoors, socializing with others, and the amenities UGA makes available to its students.” (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

I chose to attend UGA because …
I knew I wanted to stay in-state to save money through the incredible Zell Miller Scholarship. I was also aware of the wonderful community that existed at UGA because of the numerous Saturdays I visited Athens, along with my family, to cheer on my older sister and the Dawgs. When you put those two together, you get the best four years of your life at an unbeatable price. I’m no business major, but I knew that was a good deal.

My favorite things to do on campus are …
I love teaching people how to longboard at the parking decks and paddleboard at Lake Herrick. I thoroughly enjoy riding around campus on my electric longboard, especially riding down Sanford Drive and peering into Sanford Stadium. Gives me goosebumps. I also love hanging out with people at the old and new UGA scoreboard. It’s always a great time watching our Dawgs on Saturdays with friends. I spend a lot of time playing basketball, working out or rock-climbing with people at Ramsey, and playing Ultimate Frisbee on Myers Quad is also an absolute blast. I’m a big fan of taking people to the UGA Botanical Garden. Finally, I love playing IM sports, specifically flag football (shoutout to Team Ryan Smith and the Landsharks).

When I have free time, I like …
… spending it with friends! The best part about UGA has been the friends it has brought me and the time we get to spend together. I’ve been lucky enough to go on trips with friends everywhere from Utah to Miami. During these adventures, I like to spend that time doing things like snowboarding, hiking, hanging at the beach or lake.

The craziest thing I’ve done is …
… rented a minivan and driven around exploring the entire island of Kauai, Hawaii, with my friend Andrew Shuford. My old lacrosse coach retired my junior year of high school and moved to Hawaii to open up a flip flop shop. Before he left, he told our entire team to let him know if we ever wanted to visit him out in Hawaii. So, naturally, that’s what I did!

Andrew and I spent every day exploring new pockets of the island. We did a ton of beautiful hikes, jumped off a bunch of waterfalls, and ate a lot of fantastic food. We both got a fresh pair of flops from my coach’s store, and I wear them more than any pair of shoes I own. Having nothing to do but explore the island every day was a nice change of pace from my regular fast-paced routine.

My favorite moment from Hawaii was when I watched Jack Johnson perform while I was perched in a tree. Jack was playing for a relief concert where all proceeds went directly toward funding the repair of damage dealt as a result of the floods in Kauai. (Many people don’t know about the flooding Kauai suffered because they occurred while the big island of Hawaii was suffering from volcano eruptions.) The event was sold out long before we got to Hawaii, but I personally think our seats were priceless.

Alec Murphy balances majors in biology and psychology with a love for the outdoors. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)

My favorite place to study is …
… the seventh floor of the main library, looking out at campus, during sunrise. I like it being quiet when I study, and there’s something special about studying early in the morning. Also, I figure that the earlier I start, the sooner I’ll be done and hang with friends! I like studying here because studying with such a big beautiful view in front of you makes your daily stressors seem smaller. It’s easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty of our days, but looking out at our massive campus reminds me that my community on this campus matters the most and not the answer to 31c of my organic chemistry book.

I like to switch up my scenery every now and then, so I have some honorable mentions.

  • The solar-paneled umbrellas at the IM fields because Lake Herrick is my favorite spot on campus, and I feel best when outdoors.
  • The Georgia Center is convenient because it’s a unique spot on campus, but not many people know about it, so it stays pretty quiet.
  • The third-floor cubicles because it’s quiet, and I love going on short walks to lay down underneath the Sanford Stadium scoreboard during breaks.

My favorite professor is …
I never expected to view so many professors as my closest friends and mentors. Let me tell you about how great they are.

  • Dr. Karl Espelie is the epitome of a servant leader who puts his students’ needs first and actively works to help them develop and perform as highly as possible.
  • Dr. Billy Hammond taught my two favorite classes, and I enjoyed him and his work so much that I ended up joining his research lab. He is such a patient teacher who wants to promote intellectual curiosity and exploration in his students. Every day I found myself laughing out loud and staying after class to ask him all of the questions that came to mind from what we had just learned.
  • Dr. Paula Lemons and the environment she creates to allow myself and other students to explore our intellectual curiosity through the Science & Faith Book Club. Her inclusivity and desire to be a lifelong learner is contagious.
  • Dr. Gary T. Green is one of my biggest mentors and is incredibly generous of his time to meet with me and so many others to offer beneficial advice. I’ve never actually had a class with him, but he would always carve time out of his busy schedule to meet with me.
  • Dr. Rubén Maillo-Pozo is the best Spanish professor I’ve ever had. He does an incredible job of pushing his students to progress in their Spanish capabilities while also encouraging them to explore their unique interests. ¡Muchas gracias Señor!
  • Dr. Sylvia Hutchinson helped me ask myself some of the most challenging yet essential questions in college.
  • Dr. Winfred Biddle, I am thankful for the opportunity to grow in my knowledge of positive psychology at UGA and pushing me to reach out to other positive psychology professors in the country to expand my knowledge even further.

I’m also very thankful for a few graduate assistants — Patrick Doyle, Jeffrey Nightingale and William Schiavone — for helping me grow in my understanding of psychology research and the methods scientists use in scientific investigation.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …
… Jack Johnson. I’d love to hang out with him. I have always wanted to learn how to surf, and I wouldn’t want to learn from anyone else. I’d love to get some guitar lessons from Jack and learn how to play some of his incredible music.

I admire Jack for his ability to use what he loves, music, to bring people together, and to send positive messages. One of my favorite songs of his, “Shot Reverse Shot,” is all about seeing the world from different peoples’ perspectives. I view that as such a unique message that many musicians don’t touch on, and I think being able to see multiple perspectives beyond your own is crucial in the world we live in.

If I knew I could not fail, I would …
… create health care systems that would be uniquely effective in different areas of the world. While I understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health care, I would love to be able to implement evidence-based health care systems that seek to holistically treat the unique situations of each patient and their families in these different regions. I want the systems to focus on preventive medicine and actively find ways to make administering that care cheaper while maintaining the highest quality.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to …
… live in a different part of the world every year. I love being exposed to different types of people and their unique perspectives, and this would be such a fun way to do precisely that.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
I am passionate about improving the lives of people around me by loving them well, especially in their vulnerable times.

I think the medical field is a beautiful place to pursue that passion. I want to become involved with positive psychology research in medical school to explore human flourishing further. Positive psychology is essentially the study of happiness or psychological well-being. I believe positive psychology interventions, also known as happiness practices, could have drastic benefits to a wide range of populations, sick and healthy.

After graduation, I plan to …
… attend the medical school that will best prepare me to holistically deliver patient-centered care to the patients and their families in the community I grow alongside. I strive to be a bilingual physician to care for underserved populations in the United States and South America.

I am interested in learning more about the health disparities that different populations face and how to alleviate those problems as best as possible. I would also love to focus on preventative medicine to learn how to mitigate the health problems of patients and their communities before they arise.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …
The F-16 flyover as the sun was setting at Sanford Stadium before the Notre Dame game. It was exhilarating. That combined with jumping around to the infamous “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” song with all my friends in section 309 while the stadium lit up red was a moment I will never forget.

I #CommitTo: Loving others selflessly.