Stanford senior once toured the world in the rock band The Donnas

As the former lead singer of the rock band The Donnas, senior BRETT ANDERSON has toured the world, won awards and appeared on magazine covers. In June she’ll graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

While her life in the classroom has been a far cry from her days riding a tour bus and walking down red carpets, she sees one huge similarity between Stanford and the music industry.

“They’re definitely both very competitive,” she said.

The Donnas
Brett Anderson, center, performing with The Donnas.

Anderson and her bandmates met in Palo Alto when they were teenagers and bonded over their shared love of hair metal and riot girl music. Success came early and fast. At 16, the young rockers went on their first international tour in Japan, and shortly after graduating from Palo Alto High School, they signed a deal with Lookout Records, a Berkeley-based independent label that also signed the band Green Day.

The Donnas decided to attend college while they wrote their eponymous debut album. But their music career proved to be too big for school, and they each left in their first year. Three more albums would follow – including American Teenage Rock ’n’ Roll Machine – before they signed to Atlantic Records in 2002.

Music videos, awards and high-profile television appearances brought the band more mainstream success. But after the release of their last album in 2007, music streaming services grew in popularity and the band saw a decline in record sales. They turned to touring to make money, but then the 2008 recession arrived and their income from live shows took a hit.

When a friend asked her to take a class with her at Los Angeles City College, Anderson reluctantly agreed. One class turned to two, and then three, and soon she was fully immersed in school. Although she enjoyed her classes, starting clubs and making new mentors and friends, she said the experience wasn’t easy. “It was really humiliating going back to school because part of me was like, ‘I was successful and now I’m sitting in this classroom and no one knows or cares,’” she said.

But school reignited her passion for learning and put her on a new path. In 2016, after four years at LA City College, she was admitted to Stanford. Today she spends much of her time in the Life-span Development Laboratory, working under psychology Professor LAURA CARSTENSEN, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.

“This lab focuses on the whole life span and particularly aging and longevity, which is my interest,” Anderson said. She’s currently working on her honors thesis on temporal discounting, or the tendency to devalue delayed rewards. Anderson, who is the second member of The Donnas to attend Stanford, recently applied to graduate school and is considering a career as a therapist.

Outside the classroom Anderson has embraced the Cardinal identity, attending football games and other events. She’s also involved with the Stanford Resilience Project, a program that encourages students to accept and learn from their defeats, something she knows a lot about.

Read the entire story in The Roundabout.