Exploring options

UMD grad Gavrielle Gunther finds focus in the serendipitous

Gavrielle (Gavi) Gunther knew the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) was the right choice as soon as she and her family got lost on a campus tour. She was struck by the openness of a passing student who reached out to help them. Ever since, that sense of openness and community has been a theme during her time in Duluth, and it’s something she has worked to contribute to.

Gavi found her focus through the UMD Psychology program’s “amazing people and amazing professors who've not only pushed me, but also just really helped foster my growth.”


Headshot of Gavi Gunther


Starting out in the sciences, Gavi was new to the world of research. Her first experience was in Ashley Thompson’s lab. “I had never researched before,” said Gavi, who was tasked with getting things rolling by building an appendix and writing a grant, “and I was like, what is an appendix? What is “grants”? What am I doing?” But Thompson guided her along: to the next step, the next person, and the next resource. “She fostered my growth as an undergrad,” said Gavi, “and it was eye-opening to be able to get my hands into something and actually do large portions of the study.”

From there, she continued to research in Rebecca Gilbertson’s neurocognitive lab and for the Master of Arts in Psychological Science (MAPS) program. From spinning spit samples, to reading 600 abstracts a week and working in a positive child psychology study with Rhea Owens, her knowledge and experience grew until finally she was working on her Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) project with Robert LLoyd and Ryan Hjelle. That undergraduate capstone study looked into the relationship between psychopathy and activation in different parts of the brain.

Gavi Gunther walking into Commencement with many faculty applauding and a standing audience

Outside of her time in the lab and the classroom, Gavi worked to enrich her community. She served as both President of Women in Engineering and Science and the VP of the Trap Shooting team at UMD (which she and some friends helped resurrect from inactive status). She was part of the Honors Program and also worked for Housing & Residence Life and RSOP.

Gavi’s journey honed her focus of helping others, and taught her lessons she hopes to have shared with her student advisees along the way. One lesson she’s learned is that your path may be different from what you expect. “You come into college with an expectation, a thought of how your life is going to go and then that deviates greatly,” said Gunther. “But that's what life is, and that’s ok.”

Gavi graduated in May 2023 with a major in psychology and a minor in biology. She was a speaker at her commencement ceremony.

After graduation, Gavi plans to continue exploring. Whether in corporate business, medical industry sales, or psychology, she wants to eventually make a positive difference. And that starts small, she says. “Change starts with just one person,” said Gavi, “but those small changes can eventually impact an entire system.”