FEATURE STORIES

Psychology Students: Preparing to Touch Lives


Amanda Lasher of Kingston, left, a senior psychology major at Mount Saint Mary College, talks with Rae Fallon, associate professor of psychology, about the Psychology Club’s plans to work with Healing the Children, which helps children get medical care.
Amanda Lasher of Kingston, right, a senior psychology major at Mount Saint Mary College, talks with Rae Fallon, associate professor of psychology, about the Psychology Club’s plans to work with Healing the Children, which helps children get medical care.

NEWBURGH, NY – “I hope I will be able to touch the lives of people when they most need help and to offer them advice and guidance.”

So said Kyle Meditz of Sound Beach.

Meditz, a sophomore at Mount Saint Mary College, is one of the many students who have made psychology the third most popular major at college, behind nursing and business. The Mount also has many students who pursue careers in education, taking a variety of majors.

When you talk with students and graduates, you learn that the interest in studying psychology at the Mount stems from a desire to help people and the personal rapport that the professors develop with their students.

“I have a lot of interest in forensic psychology,” Meditz said. “My mother is an advocate in the court system and counsels her clients in personal and judicial matters. I’ve always admired my mother’s work and as I got older, I began to realize the impact psychology had in helping people in difficult situations.”

“Everyone is fascinated with psychology: Why do people do the things they do?” said Paul Schwartz, professor of psychology. “At the Mount psychology has a strong foundation in research. We hold conferences for students to learn from experts in the field and we’ve created centers to study adolescence and aging.”

The study of psychology helps students establish careers in many areas including counseling, social work, education, the health professions and police work.

“We prepare our students for graduate school and careers,” said Lawrence T. Force, professor of psychology and director of the Mount’s Center for Aging and Policy. “Our research centers cover the lifespan and our practice-based internships provide students with real-life experience.”

Amanda Lasher of Kingston, a senior psychology major from Kingston and president of the Psychology Club, went into psychology after facing some personal challenges, including the loss of two family members.

“I chose psychology because I realized the help I received to overcome my challenges provided me with experience I could offer others in need,” said Lasher. “It is difficult asking for help from someone who hasn't experienced what you have. I want to help those who felt no one would understand them.”

Tomasz Michalak, a senior from Newington, CT, chose psychology because he has “a deep interest in how and why people interact and respond to their environment.” Through the Mount’s affiliation with New York Medical College, he hopes to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy. Michalak is president of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology.

“Psi Chi gives students the opportunity to develop leadership skills and one-to-one relationships with faculty,” Michalak said. “It also provides scholarly activities and the chance to serve the Mount community.”

Erica Echeverria of Mount Pocono, PA, a junior psychology major, said she enjoys trying to help people deal with problems.

“Studying psychology makes me feel like I have a great purpose in life,” said Echeverria.

Colleen Amundson a senior from Wyckoff, NJ, is studying psychology because she enjoys trying to understand people.

“I hope to eventually become a family counselor and heal families before they become broken,” Amundson said.

The Mount provides participatory learning opportunities through its Center for Adolescence Research and Development and its Center for Aging and Policy.

The Center for Adolescent Research and Development studies adolescence with the goal of helping young people on their journey through adolescence. The center will present a conference, "Adolescence in the 21st Century: Constants and Challenges for the Next Generation," featuring psychologist David Elkind, author of The Hurried Child, April 10, 2010.

The Center for Aging and Policy studies gerontology and will present a conference “Mental Health Across the Lifespan” April 30, 2010. Aging United, a student organization, works with the center to create awareness of the challenges facing the elderly.

In addition to adolescence and gerontology, the psychology faculty have a broad range of interests.

Among the courses that Rae M. Fallon, associate professor of psychology, teaches are the “Psychology of Autism,” which helps students understand the challenges of autism throughout a person’s life; and the “Psychology of Stress” which helps students understand stress and provides coping skills. Sarah Uzelac, assistant professor of psychology, is interested in the effects of stress and anxiety on pregnancy and childbirth and teaches a course, the “Biopsychology of Birth.”

Amanda M. Maynard, associate professor of psychology, teaches research methods. In her “Experimental Psychology” course, students conduct independent experiments, and some of them present their research at undergraduate, regional and national conferences.

“Research experience in psychology is integral for students planning for graduate study and employment,” Maynard said, “and our major is designed to provide students with the professional and technical research skills they will need to succeed.”

Mount graduates in psychology say the college gave them a good foundation for their careers.

Andrew O’Grady of Hyde Park, director of case management for Dutchess County, received a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1988.

“The Mount instilled confidence in me to be a leader and I’ve been able to do that in my career,” O’Grady said. “The Mount has great teachers and they prepared me well for graduate school.”

Joseph Monserrat, a staff psychologist at SUNY Albany, earned his degree in psychology in 1995. He has gone on to get a doctorate in psychology.

“Paul Schwartz and Larry Force helped pave the way for me,” Monserrat said. “They are down to earth, easy to talk to. I’m still in contact them, now as mentors.”

He recalled one of his courses with Force.

“Experimental Psychology was the most serious course I took at the Mount,” Monserrat said. “It was different from other courses where I was reading about psychology. With its Skinner Boxes (named for behavioral scientist B.F. Skinner) and learning about the behavior of animals, I felt like I was really doing psychology.”

Another 1995 psychology graduate, Christopher X. Dougherty is a social worker and counselor at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens. Initially, he considered becoming a teacher.

“Dr. Force talked a lot about graduate school and career choices,” Dougherty said. “Our discussions spurred me to check on requirements for graduate school and fortunately, I was able to add some classes I’d not taken.”

While at the Mount, Dougherty went on three alternative spring breaks, which helped him realize the importance of helping others.

“In 1994 Chris Van Damm, the food services director, led us on trip to Illinois,” Dougherty recalled. “We helped families deal with saturated homes from flooding from the Mississippi River. They were grateful for our help.”

Michael and Isabel Miano with Dr. Larry Force
Michael Miano '99, Professor Lawrence T. Force and Isabel Miano '03

Michael and Isabel Miano met through the Mount and married in 2005. Isabel graduated in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is the Healthy Family Supervisor at Occupations, Inc., working in Newburgh.

“The Mount psychology professors develop wonderfully close relationships with students,” Isabel said. “They pay attention to you, treat you almost like a family member. Paul Schwartz was like my father away from home.

“Rae Fallon provided us with personal experiences in the field. She helped us apply our textbook readings to the real world.”

Michael graduated with a psychology degree in 1999. He is a clinician with Mobile Mental Health, part of Occupations, Inc., providing crisis intervention services. He also has been teaching part time in the Mount’s psychology department since 2002.

“The Mount psychology professors reinforced my interest in studying psychology,” Mike said.

We never just stayed in the classroom. Larry involved us in aging; Paul took us to group homes; Rae introduced us to substance-abuse babies.”

“The Mount psychology professors shared their camaraderie with us. We were more than students. We were colleagues.”

 

Students giving presentations at the Fall 2009 Psychology Seminar.
Students giving presentations at the Psychology Seminar in December, 2009.

Five Tips for Dealing with Stress

1. Deep, slow rhythmic breathing for five minutes in the morning and when needed. (Breathe in to the count of four; hold it for the count of four; and breathe out to the count of four.)
2. Self-Talk: Reassure yourself that you can handle whatever your stressors are and that all will be well.
3. Avoid negative people and thinking as much as possible. (Negative people and thoughts deplete energy and add tremendously to stress levels.)
4. Try to do today’s work today and avoid procrastination.
5. Do your best and ask God to help you with all the rest.
Hope these quick tips will help to relax and enjoy all the blessings that the universe sends us!
- Rae Fallon, associate professor of psychology, Mount Saint Mary College

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