Commencement Speaker Spotlight: Connie Vait

Psychology major looking forward to career as psychiatrist

Connie Vait, 20, is graduating from Inver Hills Community College this spring with a Psychology Transfer Pathway Associate of Arts (A.A.). Connie was an exceptionally engaged student at Inver Hills, having served as president of the college’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) chapter of the international honor society. She also served as president of Psi Beta, the national honor society for two-year college psychology majors.

2024 All-Minnesota Academic Team

A member of the 2024 PTK All-Minnesota Academic Team, Connie was recognized along with other statewide members of the team at a luncheon April 19 in the Bullard Rainforest Auditorium at the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. In line with her psychology pursuits, she also earned Mental Health First Aid and QPR (suicide prevention training) certification at Inver Hills.

Connie will be transferring to the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in fall 2024 with plans to major in Psychology with a minor in Behavioral Biology. Her longer-range academic objective at the U of M is earning a Ph.D. in Psychology. She is centering her career goals on completing medical school and becoming a psychiatrist. Helping others is what she strives to do—and mental health is her passion.

Student speaker at this year’s commencement ceremony

Connie is the student speaker at the 2024 Inver Hills Commencement Ceremony May 9 at Aldrich Arena in Maplewood, Minnesota. The theme of her speech is focused on the importance of a diverse student population and different generational perspectives in the campus community—and how that diversity makes Inver Hills a place where all students belong.

“This is a college where everyone’s voice is heard and valued,” she said, “which greatly enhances not only our education, but also our society. I am honored to be able to share my voice and how the experiences I’ve received here at Inver will greatly aid in my personal and professional journey.”

Faculty perspective: Jennifer Parta

“It has been such a pleasure working with Connie this past semester as president of Psi Beta.  She is always so good at taking the initiative for projects and ideas that will benefit our campus community and fellow students. Her leadership in our recent Food Pantry fundraiser was so appreciated. Connie is a natural leader, and I am so thankful to have worked with her!”

Jennifer Parta
Psychology Faculty
Interdisciplinary Studies Faculty
Psi Beta Advisor
Active Minds Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

Staff perspective: Kimberly Swinney

“Connie is a strong and influential leader. She helped mobilize our PTK chapter into one with structure, direction, and engagement. She leads by example with her fellow officers and that is evident by the success of our chapter and individual officers have made this year.

“Her dedication to promoting mental health has left a lasting mark on our chapter and our campus. It is not surprising she is dedicating her career to the mental health field and will do incredible things. I am proud of everything she has accomplished academically and personally—and excited she was selected as the student commencement speaker.”

Kimberly Swinney
Director of Student Life
PTK Staff Advisor

Inver Hills Community College

More about Connie…

Originally from Farmington, Minnesota, Connie graduated from Farmington High School, Class of 2022. She is the middle child in her family.

“I have one older sister, Kaylie, who is twenty-eight, and one younger sister, Debbie, who is eighteen,” she said. “My younger sister is finishing her senior year of high school, and my older sister entered the workforce and currently works full-time as a receptionist.”

Connie’s parents did not attend college and also went straight into the workforce, making her a first-generation college student. Her mom, Lisa, works at an in-home daycare with Connie’s grandma. Connie’s dad, Jamie, works at Stampings of Minnesota.

“In my home, I have three mischievous cats,” Connie added. “Milo is the youngest at two years old, Misty is nine, and Simone is ten. They are all very cuddly and love to play with the one hundred and one toys we have for them.”

In her free time, Connie enjoys reading books about psychology and mental health disorders. She is also an avid reader of philosophy and find many fascinating complexities in this subject. When I am not reading, I am typically hanging out with my friends and/or shopping.

Connie resides in Farmington.

Connie family, college, and life gallery

Connie Vait Q & A

Connie Vait
What inspired you to major in psychology at Inver Hills?

In my senior year of high school I took an AP psychology course and instantly fell in love with the subject. It is so mind-boggling how we likely only know about one quarter of the things that the brain is capable of and how it works. This subject is truly my passion.

What do find most intriguing about your psychology coursework?

Reading case studies and journal articles about new studies coming out every day with more research and advancements in the field. I enjoy researching this topic and finding all the data that is out there.

What branch of psychiatry interests you the most and why?

I am most interested in neurology and/or abnormal psychiatry. It is captivating to me to look at brain scans, see abnormalities of the brain, and diagnose individuals further. By doing this, I am able to fulfill my passion for mental health and help others live their most fulfilling lives.

What were your primary duties as Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) president at Inver Hills?

As the Phi Theta Kappa president, my duties include overseeing the officer board and ensuring I am assisting my team where help is needed, planning events, service projects, and meetings, and, most importantly, creating a welcoming environment for all PTK members.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

How did your engagement with PTK helped you pursue your academic goals?

Being involved with PTK has encouraged me to shoot for the stars and strive every day to be the best student that I can be. After all, at the end of the day, I am a student first, and PTK truly finds value in the academic journey of its members.

What advice would you give students who meet the GPA requirements and are thinking about joining PTK?

Just do it! This organization is a wonderful one that showcases the academic excellence of students around the world. To be invited is such an honor, and that alone is worth taking the next step of joining. I would invite you to talk to me or any of the officer board members, or you could attend a PTK meeting. There is something in PTK for EVERYONE!

What are the major benefits of belonging to Psi Beta?

Psi Beta has allowed me to give back to the Inver Hills community through our food pantry and winter wear drives. This organization also allows me to expand my knowledge of psychology by discussing the topic with others who have the same passion for mental health as I do.

What do you like best about attending Inver Hills?

I liked the community the most. Since day one of walking onto campus I’ve noticed there are always friendly faces around saying hi and inviting you to attend events. There are always posters of different things on campus, and Student Life really makes everyone who walks by know they are seen and appreciated.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My parents have influenced me the most in my life. They have always encouraged me to go above and beyond. They push me to be the best version of myself that I can be and I know I can always count on them if I need someone.

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

I would make it so everyone would listen to each other. This does not mean that everyone needs to agree necessarily, but I think there is so much value in the act of listening. So many different perspectives and ideas are out there that would benefit all of us if we just listened to each other.

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Connie Vait 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Dance
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Ancient Egypt
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Went to a Minnesota Wild Game and sat right next to the ice
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1)  Pay for the rest of my education 2) Buy my parents a bigger house 3) Get a Welsh corgi and a great Dane
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: The 1950s
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: I would love to write my own book about my endeavors in my education and career
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Shoebill stork
  9. Dream occupation: Psychiatrist
  10. Person you would most like to meet: John Mulaney
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I would love to learn ASL; it is such a fascinating language, and I would love to find some time to learn it
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Lack of understanding/listening to one another; in today’s world, everyone needs to be right, and anyone else’s opinion that disagrees with them is wrong; this should not be the case; even if we disagree, we should still maintain respect for one another and find value in listening to others’ perspectives
Learn more about the Psychology program at Inver Hills by contacting:

Admissions Team
College Center

Learn more about Phi Theta Kappa at Inver Hills by contacting:

Kimberly Swinney
Director of Student Life
PTK Staff Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

Sadie Pendaz-Foster, PhD
Sociology Faculty
PTK Faculty Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

Tanya Smutka
Biology Faculty
PTK Faculty Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

Learn more about Psi Beta at Inver Hills by contacting:

Jennifer Parta
Psychology Faculty
Interdisciplinary Studies Faculty
Psi Beta Faculty Advisor
Active Minds Advisor
Inver Hills Community College

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