Alumni Updates

Alumni Update - Emma Iverson '10

[Emma Iverson, ’10 is currently living in Chicago, IL in a dual degree program, pursuing a Master’s in Child Development from the Erikson Institute and a Master’s of Social Work degree from Loyola University Chicago.  She will graduate in December 2012 and hopes to find a job doing clinical work with young children with developmental disabilities.]

During the past two years (almost) since I graduated from Gustavus, I have spent a lot of time thinking and reflecting on my own education, budding professional career, and the lessons that I have been learning along the way.

Thus far, my journey has consisted of graduating from Gustavus, moving to Chicago, and beginning graduate school right away.  Although this is definitely not the right path for everyone, I know that I made the right choice for myself, and it is a Emmachoice that many current Gustie psych majors may end up making as well.  Like we all know, learning is a lifelong process and I am still very early in my professional development, but there are several things that I have found to be helpful along the way…

  • Be active. In this case I don’t mean go to the gym--although that is a great way to deal with the inevitable stress that comes along with being a grad student, beginning professional, and human being in general!  Although your classes and the academic knowledge that you obtain during your education and time at Gustavus are important, I have yet to have a professor, colleague, potential employer, or internship supervisor ask me about what I learned in my various psychology classes (or any others for that matter).  They want to know what I’ve done.  It has become rather common knowledge that experience is necessary (or at least very helpful) in getting a job, getting into grad school, entering the real world, etc.  But this experience can come from many places.  Volunteering, job shadowing, even informal conversation or informational interviews with people whose jobs sound interesting to you are all great ways to get experience.  Looking for ways to explore different interests and to try interacting with different types of people also help you to become a more active learner.  I have found that class material becomes much more interesting when I am able to connect it to something that I have experienced outside of the classroom as well.  There are lots of opportunities available to students who take an active role in seeking them out.  (Your professors and advisors can be a great place to start if you are looking for ideas!)

  • Ask questions—and don’t be afraid of the answers. This one seems pretty obvious.  But one of the most important things I have been learning as I begin my journey into the “real world” is that it is a VERY big place.  There are so many people, places, topics, fields of study, etc. that it is impossible to know them all.  And asking questions is often the best (if not the only) way to learn.  In addition, asking questions means being open to the possibility that there might be answers that you had not considered before, things you might need to think about differently, or new ways of doing something different from what you have always done.  This can be a difficult process.  There have been many times over the past couple of years when I have been challenged in ways I couldn’t have imagined before.  I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone and asked many difficult questions—and had them asked of me as well.  But this has been an invaluable part of my learning, both inside and outside of the classroom.  This process is one that began during my time at Gustavus (yes, I was one of those students who often had my hand up in class), but I have come to understand it more fully and realized its importance even more over the past couple of years.

  • “It depends.”This is one of the catch-phrases that is used often in my child development classes.  Although I have just gone on about the importance of asking questions, I can tell you that more often than not when a question is asked in my classes or in my professional experiences, the answer is (or at least begins with) “it depends…”  So many areas of life are not black and white and there is no one right answer.  I knew that this was true on some level in college, but I have been realizing that it is even more true in the so-called real world.  There isn’t necessarily one right path or one right professional journey—but it depends on the choices that you make and the circumstances that you find yourself in.  The way a child grows and develops depends on an innumerable number of factors (which usually just get simplified into “nature” and “nurture”) and this same concept can be applied to other kinds of growth and learning throughout the lifespan.  Realizing this and embracing the need to consider multiple factors, influences, and perspectives can go a long way in reducing the pressure to come up with the one “right answer” and also allows for a lot of important learning to take place!

Alumni Update - Anaya Mitra '03 -- December 2011 issue

Greetings Gustie Psych Majors!
Let me take you on a not-so-brief journey of my academic travels that took me from Minnesota to Florida and back; and how I came to be a faculty member in a Psychology department, in a small-ish liberal arts college, in a big-ish city.
My name is Anaya Mitra and I graduated in 2003. I was a Psychology-Biology double major (the interdisciplinary neuroscience/psychology program was just coming online around the time I was finishing up), and after taking Tim's “Brain and Behavior” class, and Mike's Neuroscience class, I decided that biological psychology/behavioral neuroscience (it goes by many names) was the field for me. I applied to graduate school in my penultimate semester…a harrowing process, but well worth it. I matriculated into the University of Florida's Behavioral Neuroscience program.
My mentor's research areas were broad and he was very flexible in accommodating my research interests. This is more important than it seems at first. If you are truly interested in “it all” (which very few truly are), then any mentor will likely work for you (provided you don't have personality clashes ), but if you have a specific interest, it is better to find a mentor/lab/program that fits your interests, rather than joining one simply based on prestige, or worse, convenience. Graduate school was a research heavy experience for me, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I took classes in my first two years, after which most of my graduate work involved the completion of my doctoral research.
I had my first real taste of animal research in graduate school, and for the first week, I thought I might have made a mistake…picking up a 600 gram rat, that was looking at me resentfully (or so I anthropomorphized), was an anxiety-inducing event, like none other. However with practice and the patient guidance of my laboratory technician, I eventually became very comfortable handling my furry, albino research subjects. While I was getting my PhD, I also earned a Master's degree in public health, which allowed me to view my obesity-related research more broadly. I encourage you all to look into Public Health; it is a growing field and there is a growing need in this country for primary health care initiatives, which tend to be more cost-effective than tertiary health care options.
After graduate school, I returned to the land of snow and ice (that is MN) and started my postdoctoral research at the University of Minnesota and the VA medical center. During the course of my postdoctoral work, I realized that while I loved academia, research and answering interesting questions, I was less excited about grant writing (which is how we get our funds to pay salaries, buy rats, buy equipment and so forth), and grant money was quicklybecoming something of a mythical entity. So I started considering alternatives to academic research; industrial research, or teaching. The former option had the advantage of allowing me to continue to do research, without worrying about funding; however I Nobelwould not have any control over my research. The latter option allowed me to remain in the world of academia (a splendid place to be), without the burden of grant writing; however my researchprospects would be limited. It was (or so I thought) a difficult choice.
It turns out, that the choice was not that difficult after all. St. Catherine University‟s psychology department was looking for someone with my research interests. I applied for the job, and as luck would have it, I was called for an interview. I went in well prepared for the interview, but, was not “REALLY REALLY” wanting the job at that point…I was simply "considering alternatives‟. But then I met the department, and met the people, who would end up being my future colleagues, and it suddenly became very clear to me, that this was the job I REALLY REALLY wanted, and again, as luck would have it, I got the job! I am now in my first semester here at St. Kate's and despite the

Alumni Update - Emma Espel '09 -- May 2011 issue

For all of you Psychology majors (and others!) reading the fabulous Emil’s Epilogue right now; I am going to tell you the story of how Intro to Psych led me to my current status in a Ph.D. program for Developmental Psychology with a Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience tool (a.k.a. minor) at the University of Denver. I will tell you this story in the hopes that some of you might glean helpful information from it (or at least enjoy the read).

After Intro Psych sparked my interest and more department classes ensued, one of my most influential decisions was to conduct a cross-cultural research project as part of the Honors program. With the help of Marie Walker, I studied abroad in Chile and collected data with the Emmagoal of studying how different cultures experience happiness. That research experience gave me critical tools that helped me in the application process, because at that point I decided I wanted to go to grad school. I applied to several programs and found a research match with my advisor, as well as what I was looking for in the program (things such as collaboration, option to study multiple disciplines, happy students, good quality of life were important to me).

I am currently a second year graduate student. Some major stepping-stones: I plan to defend my Master’s thesis in mid-June and will take a comprehensive exam in the fall to advance my candidacy for a Ph.D. The program is fairly research focused with additional teaching opportunities. The research work I have done includes submitting a paper for publication, presenting at Society for Research on Adolescents and presenting a poster at Society for Research on Child Development (and Kyle Chambers stopped by my poster!). I have three lines of ongoing research. (1) Cross-cultural differences in emotional experiences, based on self-construal, particularly Chile vs. the U.S. I also am still collecting data down there. (2) Our lab studies adolescent delinquency, particularly in the context of female offenders ages 12-18 and how they might differ from male offenders on crime type, interpersonal expression, and internalizing problems. I am interested in intervention programs. (3) I study the association between parent-adolescent relationships and sibling relationship quality to better understand family dynamics. I also am an RA, TA, and committee member. When I finish the program, ideally I will be able to teach at a small school like Gustavus and continue some research.

Things I get to do for fun in Denver include skiing, hiking, enjoying the 300+ days of sun, playing in the park, and coffee-shop studying in sweet pocket neighborhoods throughout the city.

Words of wisdom and things to realize: The importance of doing research with the incredibly talented faculty. Presenting at poster sessions. Getting as much out of classes as you can. Psi Chi. Statistics. The Neuroscience minor (Awesome!). Applying to schools where your research interests fit in. The option to take a year off before starting grad school (I went right away, which works out as well). Study abroad is unforgettable, and you don’t have to do research if you go. Plan ahead for grad school applications.

* If you have any questions about grad school, I’m happy to email with you!


Alumni Update - Jennifer Grundman '10

Hello Gustie Psychologists! Since graduating in May, I have been working on a Master's Degree in Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota--Twin Cities. My specific program is called Counseling & Student Personnel Psychology and I am in the School Counseling Track. For me, graduate school has been very similar to my days at Gustavus. I am enrolled in four classes per semester, each emphasizing tests, papers, and presentations. Because the program uses a practitioner model of counseling, I have been learning and practicing many counseling skills. For me, it has been fascinating to finally apply theory and content from my courses to the lives of real individuals with real concerns. I am currently taking my thesis class, "ResearchJen Seminar", which requires a project much like the projects completed in Methods II. Next year, I will be doing practicum in three different area schools for a total of 700 hours. I cannot wait to use what I have been learning!

For those who are considering graduate school or have already completed the applications and are waiting to hear back, I want you to know that Gustavus prepares its psychology students very well for the graduate level. Also, as a student at GAC I was scared of the field of "counseling"... it sounded mysterious, intimidating, and too hands-on for me. But, I LOVE it! If you are at all interested in helping individuals who are struggling with mental health issues, counseling is an excellent route. And, an excellent way to put what you learn at GAC into action. Study hard, take advantage of the honors/senior thesis option (I am using my honors thesis as a base for my master's thesis), and thank your professors. They may be sticklers about APA format and they may push you to use only peer-reviewed articles, but you will be thankful!!

Also, if you have questions about the CSPP program at the U of MN, feel free to contact me ( it's a fabulous program.


Alumni Update - Heidi Lawson '05 - December Issue, 2010

Heidi Lawson '05 is a Gustie honors psychology, criminal justice and political science triple major. She is currently studying constitutional law at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

She writes…

"I'm still plugging away at that PhD. I passed my comprehensive exams this past September, so I'm finally working on my dissertation. I was originally hoping to have the proposal Heidicompleted by December, but it's been pushed back to January at the moment. It's been a very busy semester considering that it's the first one that I'm not taking classes of my own. I'm hoping another year and a half will do it. I'll just have to read a couple thousand court decisions between now and then, and then write about them (I wish I were exaggerating...). I'm starting to think about where I want to end up, and I'm hoping to get a teaching job at a school just like Gustavus. If you could encourage anyone in the poli sci department to take early retirement in a couple years, that would be great timing for me. Otherwise I might have to settle for St. Olaf or something!

I've also been traveling a lot the past year or two. I've got positions on some boards and committees with the American Federation of Teachers and Illinois Federation of Teachers, which is the reason for most of the travel, in addition to a few weddings here and there. In October my woodwind quintet from Gustavus was reunited to play at a friend's wedding in D.C. We had an absolute blast, and didn't sound too bad for a group that was really out of practice."

Some advice for students considering graduate school would be to take your time and really consider it. I don't know anyone who's sorry that they took a year or two off between college and graduate school, and you want to be sure that it's really what you want to do because it's a big commitment. When you're looking for schools, look at individual professors who teach the topic you want to focus on. One of the most important factors of your graduate training is your advisor--it has to be someone you can work with who is supportive of what you're interested in. I'm very lucky to have found such an advisor, and it's made a huge difference! Some advice for students not considering graduate school: good for you! Find a job you like, and maybe you'll find later that a Master's Degree would help, maybe you'll find that you just don't need it. There's plenty of time in life to make those decisions.





November 2010 Issue -- Morgan Barkus '03

My journey has been everything but traditional, typical, or conventional since leaving Gustavus. When I graduatedfrom Gustavus in 2003 I was not sure what I wanted to do. Getting a psychology degree as an undergraduate does not make a person ready for a career in the field... it is only the beginning. I knew I would have to get a master's or doctorate level degree in something, but I was not sure what, so I did what I had to do to survive financially until I decided.

My first job was a waitressing job at Minneapolis cafe on Hennepin Avenue. While working there, I met a man who was a rather influential lawyer who was also very active in the non-profit sector, mostly donating money and coordinating events. He would invite me to lunch meetings with people who were in the non-profit world of the Twin Cities. He also got me interested in law. I thought I could be a social worker with more influence if I were to get my law degree. After taking the LSAT and completing the applications I was accepted into both Hamline and William-Mitchell. I chose to go to Hamline and very quickly realized that a law Morgandegree was NOT for me. I would sit in class absolutely lost. I even got a tutor, but it was a lost cause, so before even finishing the first semester I dropped out of the program. More soul searching, if you will... and soon I was enrolled as a first-year student at the U of MN in the social work program. Besides waitressing jobs at various restaurants over about a three-year period I was working part-time gigs at various non-profit agencies. I worked at a homeless youth drop-in center in downtown Minneapolis, a daycare/preschool as a teacher in south Minneapolis, and then a family worker for a visitation center for families in the midst of child protection cases. (Working in the non-profit sector is not exactly good money, and I like nice things, as well as live a lifestyle out of a social workers budget, so you can bet I always had 1 or 2 part-time jobs outside my field.)

Anyway, I went to the orientation at the U of MN at the school of social work and decided right then and there that I did not want to be a social worker the rest of my life. I did not start the program. More soul searching... continued....

November 2010 Issue - Crystal Smith '07

Well, I have been extremely busy since graduation just 3 years ago (Wow, how time flies by).  Shortly after graduation I found a job working as a PCA with Homeward Bound, Inc.  In this position, I helped individuals with physical and mental disabilities complete their activities of daily living.  After gaining some experience with the population of individuals we served, I was promoted to supervisor of one of the waivered group homes in the company.  In this position I was responsible for training staff, organizing the schedule, and corresponding with family members, day programs, doctors, etc. (just to name a few of my duties).  I had a blast working in this position for two years before I decided it was time to go back to school. 
After graduating from Gustavus, I knew I would go to graduate school, I was just not sure what I wanted to go back for.  Working at the group home helped me realize that working directly Crystalwith individuals was important.  I also realized that I enjoyed bringing my clients to their therapies.  After numerous volunteer hours, I decided to apply to physical therapy school, which is where I am now. 
I attend St. Catherine University's Doctor of Physical Therapy program.  I have completed my first year and have two more to go.  After graduation from this program, I envision myself working in a NeuroRehab facility with individuals that have suffered a stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, etc. 
Aside from my professional life, a lot has happened in my personal life since graduation.  I got married to Jay Stien (another gustie alum) and have moved 3 times!  We were married at Christ Chapel in August of '09 shortly before school started.  Being back at Gustavus during that time brought back lots of wonderful memories, many occuring with Psi Chi and working on research projects in the psychology department.


October 2010 Issue - Lisa Swenson '04

After Gustavus, I became a Supervisor for Chrestomathy, Inc, a company who services adults with dual diagnosis of developmental disorders, mental illness and or mental retardation.  It was a day-vocational treatment center.  The adults who came to this center also engaged in severe aggressive-maladaptive behaviors.  Needless to say, I learned a lot about Mandt training and behavioral modification.  After that, where I am currently still employed, I became a behavior therapist / mental health practitioner with the Minnesota Autism Center.  Currently, I am a Lead Behavior Therapist / Mental LisaHealth Practitioner within the company with hopes of moving up the corporate ladder.  I write Individual Treatment Plans and corresponding programming, write Behavior Intervention Programs, manage client cases, train my therapy teams and therapist on implementing and use of ABA principles, dynamics of learning and teaching children with Autism how to learn communication, socialization, daily living skills, and reduce restrictive and repetitive behaviors.  On the side of education, I am completing my Master's of Arts in Clinical Psychology at Argosy University.  I will begin my practicum at St. David's Family and Child Development Center in Minnetonka "officially" in January 2011.  As of right now, I am assisting in the development of their family and child workshops and support group therapy curriculums.  In the next year I plan on beginning my BCBA--Board Certified Behavioral Analyst Certification at St. Cloud State University.  Eventually, I hope to obtain my Doctorate in Child Psychology and LP.  It is an ambitious career goal, however I am looking forward to obtaining each of these goals within the next 5-6 years

April 2010 Issue -- Julie Severson '06


  • After I graduated from Gustavus in May 2006 with majors in Psychology and Criminal Justice, I accepted a job as a judicial senior court clerk at the Anoka County Courthouse. JulieAt the time, I wasn’t exactly sure what the position would involve but it sounded interesting and was my first job after college! The position was temporary for one year and began in July 2006. The job itself wasn't difficult or challenging – for the most part, I spent my days delivering people and files to and from courtrooms when requested by judges, court clerks, or other court staff. I ended up really enjoying the atmosphere of the courthouse, gaining work experience, and getting to work with so many different types of people. After the courthouse job ended, I spent a couple months working in random positions doing promotional work, temporary office jobs, etc. until I found one I really enjoyed.
  • It was while I was working at the courthouse and talking with deputies there that I decided I would pursue a law enforcement career (while I was still young enough to jump over the 6 foot wall required as a part of the program :).  Soon after, I enrolled in the Law Enforcement Career Transition Program at Alexandria Technical College and began taking online classes in August 2007. I accepted a part-time Community Service Officer position in the City of Crystal in October 2007 as a way to gain experience in the field.  In order to work full-time, my other part-time job at the time involved my working at a trucking company... that was interesting!
  • After completing the academic classes at Alexandria in May 2008, I entered the 10-week summer skills program. This was the best summer I've ever had!! I continued as a Julie in uniformCommunity Service Officer in Crystal during this time which meant that I needed to drive home every weekend. Luckily for me, the City of Crystal was hiring and I interviewed with them before I even started the skills program. I took the POST exam (MN state peace officer licensing) in August 2008 and was subsequently offered a position for the City of Crystal. My first day as a police officer was in October 2008. I've now been a police officer for almost a year and a half and I love the fact that every day brings me plenty of challenging situations, interesting people, and lots of camaraderie. Psychology majors have a lot of career options.  Remember that it is important to make sure you are working at something you enjoy!


March 2010 Issue - Heather Meyers '05

Greetings, GAC psychology students, faculty, and staff,

It is such a pleasure to write for Emil’s!!

It seems like just yesterday when I was sitting across from my advisor, Dr. Marie Walker, in her office, pondering what to do with my life. As an eighteen-year-old freshman, and not unlike many if not most of my cohort, I had no clue what I should “major in” or into which profession I should stake claim. After experiencing General Psychology as a sophomore, however, I decided to set up camp in the Psych Department in SSC and without regret I never looked back! I was absolutely enthralled with the discipline of psychology. To me, psychology is life, and life is psychology; the two are forever entangled in a beautiful relationship, notwithstanding culture, race, ethnicity, sex or gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. Mainly, I felt attracted to psychology because the discipline entails appealing attributes such as: critical Heather Meyersthinking, intense and engaging dialogue, research, reading and writing, theory, and problem solving. I particularly enjoyed reading journal articles in Social Psychology with Dr. Walker and engaging in critical dialogue about theories such as the looking glass self and group think; collaborating with two colleagues to develop a hypothesis and design an experiment for Research Methods; and learning about the brain and physiological reasons for our behavior in Brain and Behavior.

By the time my career as a GAC student was coming to an end, I recognized that critical thinking, dialogue, researching, reading and writing, and theory, satiated my intellectual curiosities. Yet, I also longed to make a positive, direct impact on people’s lives, to be involved in social change, policy, advocacy, and social justice. And that is where law school entered the picture. I decided to enter law school and become a lawyer because I thought lawyering would be an excellent way to satisfy my desire to be challenged intellectually and my longing to make a difference.

I enrolled at Hamline University School of Law in 2006. While, not unlike many of my classmates, I often felt overwhelmed and challenged in law school to the point of physical and mental exhaustion, I never ceased appreciating the intellectual rigor of the program. I enjoyed the challenge of reading and analyzing cases, debating multiple sides of an argument in class and on paper, researching case law and statutes, and arguing for a client in an appellate brief for Legal Research and Writing. Further, I enjoyed finding psychology in law and legal theory and engaging my Election Law classmates and professor, as we were conversing about James Madison’s reasoning of what a successful democratic republic should look like, in a conversation about group think. Outside of the classroom, I clerked for a legal aid agency and while clerking I was able to apply my substantive knowledge of the law, written and oral advocacy skills, and my passion for helping others. As a certified student attorney, I advocated for low-income clients who had either lost, or were at risk of losing, their affordable housing. I represented clients in judicial and administrative hearings, negotiated settlements on behalf of my clients, drafted a federal complaint, and more simply but no less importantly, provided my clients with a listening ear. I felt the most intrinsically satisfied when I called a client to tell her that we successfully argued in her administrative hearing for the reinstatement of her Section 8 voucher. I also found that my undergraduate degree in psychology provided me with valuable insight. For instance, I was able to at times recognize clients who were struggling with depression or other mental health issues and lend support and/or refer to appropriate social service agencies.

I graduated with honors from Hamline with a Juris Doctor in May 2009 and immediately thereafter began studying for the Minnesota bar exam. What a grueling process!!! I sat for the bar exam on July 28th and 29th, 2009. Last October, I learned that I indeed passed, and on October 30th, I, along with over 800 others, was sworn into the Minnesota State Bar as a licensed attorney! Currently, I am seeking a career in the legal or social services profession in which I can apply the skills I gained while at Gustavus and Hamline. In the interim, I am also immersing myself in volunteer opportunities as they arise, such as judging middle school debates. I am ever so grateful to the Gustavus Psychology Department for providing me with a challenging yet fulfilling education and the tools to achieve a legal education.

Update:  I have (recently) received an offer to join Affordable Housing Connections, Inc. AHC is located in St. Paul and partners with funders and owners of various properties to oversee compliance, train, and consult regarding rules and regulations of affordable housing programs, such as the Section 42 Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. I am very excited to begin my journey into the professional world!

If you are a psychology student and are pondering law school, feel free to contact me! -- Heather Meyers '05

February 2010 Issue - Joyce Sinakhone '06

After graduating from Gustavus in 2006, I decided to live and work abroad.  Thanks to many wonderful faculty and staff members, the college years I spent in the United States were especially joyous and important to my development as a young adult. 

I’ve recently learned that the immigrant experience is the main topic of this year’s Building Bridges Conference and I am reminded of my last visit to the State Fair – one of my favorite childhood locations.  I distinctly recall seeing a man’s shirt with, “Welcome to America” proclaimed in fancy print across the front with a flag waving in the background.  On the back it read in plain bold letters, “Now, speak English.”  As a daughter of two Laotian, Vietnam War refugees and lucky enough to be born in the States, I was already aware that mastery of a language was not simply a matter of personal motivation.  And now, after living in Japan and returning from abroad, I realize that the difficulties immigrants face are even more poignant Joyce Sthan I’d previously imagined.

Language is just one of the many difficulties that I had to overcome while abroad.  Customer service in the Japanese culture is generally held to a very high standard, therefore, when I struggled with language to explain my situation or was unable to respond to a drawn out, unintelligible question, most people were polite and tried to assist me in whatever English they knew.  In my opinion, there are few countries where I would have experienced that kind of patience.  Regardless, being unfamiliar with a certain procedure or unable to articulate the answer to the simplest task can be extremely frustrating as well as embarrassing.

One person told me, “You’re so brave to go to a country where you can’t speak the language and have no contacts.”  Although it was nice to be considered brave, I was very aware that I had not left my family and friends because my life was at risk, nor did I need to find job in order to meet my basic needs. By simply being an American, I was guaranteed a line of easy-to-find work that was not physically dangerous or particularly unstable.

Despite the fact that I blended in easily and was never stopped by the police asking for my passport or alien registration card, I was not immune from discrimination. Most newcomers to a country have no way of knowing what their rights are, and like me, most foreigners cannot depend upon being given benefits required by law at the workplace.  After coming across a Foreigner’s Survival Manual at an English bookstore and attempting to unionize my coworkers, I sued a company for illegally dismissing me for union activities.  It was difficult to be away from my family and a familiar legal system during this time, particularly when immigration people and the police became involved.  In the end however, with the help of many friends and union members, I won the case.

Although my situation was very unusual, I most certainly empathize with the experiences of immigrants.  I know how even small, negative interactions and feelings can eventually wear a person down.  That is why upon my return to the States, I wish I could find the guy wearing that shirt at the Fair so I could tell him, “We are doing the best we can with what we have.  Are you?”

-- Joyce Sinakhone '06

February 2010 Issue - Rachel Anderson '06

After graduating from Gustavus in 2006, I decided to return to my "writing" roots. In 2007 I spent two months volunteer teaching English in Cusco, Peru. I spent 2008 studying copywriting at a well-known advertising school in Minneapolis. The roaming writer in me emerged again in 2009: I sought out, applied and was accepted for a full-time writer/editor position with VIVA Travel Rachel AndersonGuides, a Latin America travel guide publisher based in Quito, Ecuador. Since February of this year I have been working in Ecuador, learning about the publishing industry and refining my writing/editing skills. During my downtime I summit volcanoes, zip-line through cloud forests and beef up on my Español. Overall it has been an amazing experience for me both personally and professionally. As I immerse myself in such a diverse and different culture, I am often reminded of my psychology studies and how they apply to the real world. I met my boyfriend here in Ecuador, and his anthropology/archaeology background compliments my psychology background extremely well. The writer in me has always been curious about people and the mind, which is what drove me to psychology in the first place. Even though I am not directly practicing psychology, I believe my studies have enabled me to explore the world with a curious, perceptive and educated eye. Buen viaje! (Happy travels!)

This photo was taken during my trip to Quilotoa, a volcanic crater lake in the Andes of Ecuador. It was amazing! A little chilly, but nothing compared to Minnesota :)

---Rachel Anderson '06

October 2009 Issue - Taylor Olson '08

I started off my second year of grad school running.  I am currently attending the School of Professional Psychology at Forest Institute in Springfield, MO to obtain my doctorate in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Forensic Psychology.  I am taking six courses this semester including: Cognitive Assessment, Objective Assessment, Relationship and Interview, Cognitive Behavior Theory and Intervention, Risk Management, and Sex Offender Evaluation and T OlsonTreatment.  In Cognitive Assessment I'm learning and practicing how to give the WAIS IV and WISC IV, a form of an adult and child intelligence test.  In Objective Assessment we are entirely focusing on administering and interpreting the MMPI 2, currently the most used assessment tool in the psychology field.  I also am preparing to see my own clients by learning and practicing intake interviews, mental status exams, and suicide assessments.  I begin seeing clients under supervision in January at our school’s community clinic...weird I know.  In October I will be presenting a poster on Juvenile Sex Offender treatment and effectiveness at the Society of Police and Criminal Psychology Conference in Hartford, CT.  I'm also starting to work on my thesis, which will be a literature review of two risk assessments, the COVR and the HCR-20. The COVR is a newer risk assessment instrument used on prisoners and/or forensic inpatients.  In my paper I will compare it with another commonly used risk assessment used with this population, the HCR-20.  Once I write my thesis reviewing these two assessment instruments I will use archival data, data already previously collected, to validate the newer COVR with the commonly used HCR-20 at the Federal Medical Center, a federal prison, in Springfield, MO.  The prison administrators there have been looking for someone to conduct this research so, hopefully, I will receive some funding for it as well as get it published when it is completed. After completing one full year of grad school, including summer classes, I have come to appreciate some of the aspects of the psychology department at Gustavus and encourage all students interested in attending grad school to take advantage of them: (Taylor Olson, continued)

October 2009 Issue - Christine Grotjohn '09

I've been in South Korea just over a month now! This is already my fourth week teaching. I can't believe it! This was such a great choice for Christine in South Koreame after graduation. I love everything about it here: my community, school, the teachers and Korean staff, and my students. It's all so wonderful! I teach kindergarten from 10am-2:30pm (with an hour lunch) and elementary students in the afternoon, every day. My classes include: Phonics, Reading Comprehension, Story Time, English Writing/ Essay, and American Social Studies. My days go by SO FAST because I'm constantly teaching something new. I can already see myself staying another year, but we'll see how I feel about that after 11 more months of teaching! As of now, I am enjoying every minute of my time here! I hope the school year is off to a WONDERFUL start!

October 2009 Issue - Laura Moran '89

Laura Moran '89 was featured in an article in the September 22 issue of the Hutchinson Leader. According to the Leader, Moran lived in Spain and the Canary Islands for several years after graduating from Gustavus with degrees in English and Psychology. She returned to Minnesota to attend the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and earned a master's degree in human resources and industrial relations. Three years ago she started her own tea company - Liif Tea. For more information, visit her website at The Hutchinson Leader article can be referenced at

April 2009 issue - Nicole Fuerstenberg '05

Beyond Industrial/Organizational Psychology, is there a realistic fit among psychology majors and the business world?
  • In essence, yes. I graduated from Gustavus in 2005 with majors in Psychology and Criminal Justice. I have always been fascinated with human cognition and behavior; during my junior and senior years at Gustavus, I worked on my honor's thesis with Dr. Ackil on her eyewitness testimony research paradigm comparing suggestive interview techniques. I found research interesting, specifically in the analysis of information and in the practical application of research findings. NicoleToday, I work in the financial services industry at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and have found elements of what I learned helpful and woven into my career in several ways.
    • The psychology classes I took in statistics and research methods, and the additional advanced classes that required reading and critiquing research articles tactically helped prepare me for a career in business. In my current role as an Advanced Business Analyst, understanding data and basic analytical concepts are important in my job. For example, at one point I was responsible for business level data analysis in the area of performance management metrics. Not only did I need to understand data, but I also needed to know how to communicate effectively to others as they used data to make decisions. Often times, recipients of data do not understand the details behind the reporting or analysis so it is critical to explain it in understandable terms. The group research projects, presenting to classes, and active participation in the Psychology Symposium were great experiences that helped prepare me for this part of my career.
    • Additionally, a background in analytics has proven beneficial in understanding data and how it can be applied to business situations. I am currently working on a Lean Six Sigma* initiative, where we use a set of tools to improve results relative to a core business process. As part of the Lean Six Sigma process, we collected and analyzed large amounts of qualitative and quantitative information in order to understand current state processes, determine gaps, uncover critical to quality aspects of the process, and make recommendations for improvement. This initiative has given me a direct opportunity to further use my analytical and critical thinking skills that I began to develop as a psychology major at Gustavus.
  • More generally speaking, my psychology background has helped me to get along well in the business environment. One aspect of psychology that has been helpful is in understanding individual and team behavior. On an individual basis, knowing about personality and social psychology has been a benefit in building trusting, professional relationships. Also, much of the work that I have been involved in has resulted in change to business processes. Knowing how people think, process, and filter information is generally helpful in change management situations. Additionally, a depth of knowledge in these core elements is advantageous at a team level. It is helpful to understand that people hear and process information differently in order to avoid making assumptions about what others may or may not have heard. As part of my role as an Advanced Business Analyst, I need to develop advanced knowledge in the business application of technology tools and teach them to adults. The first time I had to prepare for this, I found that understanding memory and how the brain works (at a high level) is beneficial when organizing content, developing a training curriculum, and delivering the training to help others learn effectively. As one can imagine, understanding principles about how people remember (and forget!) was critical in designing and implementing the training classes.
  • Outside of my career at Thrivent Financial, I am currently enrolled in the part-time Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at Carlson School of Management (at the University of Minnesota). I am nearing the end of my first semester and look forward to classes in management, human resources, and industrial relations. Even though I will not be conducting formalized experiments like I did at Gustavus, my background in writing, research, and critical thinking will be particularly helpful throughout my upcoming classes.
  • In summary, taking psychology classes has helped promote my career in ways I never imagined. Admittedly, I would be hard pressed to remember exact psychological terms and definitions, however, I have leveraged the knowledge that I have gained and the skills that I have developed in my non-traditional psychology major career. I foresee using additional skills and competencies related to psychology in the future if I obtain a role as a manager. I think that understanding different personalities, working styles, and individual motivational levels will be beneficial in managing and developing a team. * More information about Six Sigma can be found at:

April 2009 issue - Kara Derner '01

Hello. I am Dr. Kara Derner and I graduated from Gustavus in 2001 with a degree in psychology. It feels like so long ago, and life has been pretty busy since then, but I am very grateful for how Gustavus prepared me for graduate school. After graduating from Gustavus I moved to Fort Lauderdale, FL, in August of 2001 to start a doctorate program in clinical psychology at Nova Southeastern University. I was in Fort KARALauderdale for about 6-7 months but then moved back because the program wasn't the best fit for me, and the lifestyle and pace of Southern Flordia did not quite fit for this Minnesota Girl. I was very appreciative of the time I spent in Fort Lauderdale, but was excited to return to MN.

In the fall of 2002 I started graduate school at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology, Argosy University. Although graduate school, especially the first year, was extremely demanding, I really liked the program and learned a great deal. I also completed practicums at the Counseling Center of Southern Minnesota in St. Peter, the College of Saint Benedict in their college counseling center, and at the Eating Disorders Institute of Methodist Hospital in their outpatient program.  After four years of classes and practicums, I completed my pre-doctoral internship at my first choice, the University of Colorado at Boulder in their counseling center. After returning from Colorado, I focused on completing my dissertation which was titled: A 12-Year Follow-Up Study of Body Dissatisfaction and Other Eating Disorder Risk Factors in Male and Female High School Students in Namibia, Africa.

I completed my doctorate in Clinical Psychology just this past December and I am now working on getting my post-doctoral hours and will begin studying for the licensing exam.  I currently live in Eden Prairie and work at Nystrom & Associates, Ltd., which is a Christian-based counseling center, where I see clients for individual therapy.  I also work at the Melrose Institute of Park Nicollet, formerly known as the Eating Disorders Institute, mainly doing group therapy.  I am hoping to get licensed by Janurary of 2010 and plan to continue to specialize in eating disorders.

March 2009 issue - Alyssa DeHaan '05

Alyssa DeHaan is a 2005 Psychology Honors graduate currently living in Broomfield, Colorado. She writes:

  • I am in my third year of graduate school at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I am working on three different doctoral degrees: an AuD (clinical doctorate in audiology) and a dual PhD in cognitive neuroscience and speech, language, and hearing sciences. Clinically, I am currently interning at a medical site that specializes in cochlear implants. Additionally, I am involved in several different research projects. My research focus is auditory evoked potentials, which are responses to sound measured at various points in the brain. Specifically, I am examining the processing of speech in the brainstem in individuals with auditory neuropathy, which is dysynchronous firing of the auditory nerve. I am also studying cortical maturation in children that have had auditory deprivation (were deaf and then received a cochlear implant) or receive degraded auditory information, as in auditory neuropathy. My husband Colin (not a GAC alum), is also a student at the University of Colorado. He is working on his PhD in astrophysics.

February 2009 issue - Kristen Fichtner '03

Kristen Fichtner is a 2003 psychology graduate. As an undergrad, Kristen was very active in the department as a departmental assistant and as a regular contributor to this newsletter. She attended graduate school at St. Cloud State University where she earned a Master of Science degree in Mass Communications with a specialty in Advertising and Public Relations. She welcomes conversations with current Gusties and can be contacted

  • Currently, I work for Directions Research Corporation in Mason City, Iowa as a project director. The firm specializes in marketing research for the agricultural industry. I split my time between the main company and a daughter company, AcreLink. On the main company side, I do quantitative research projects such as advertising, new product names, tagline testing, new product development, product perceptions and usage, and general market evaluations.
    kristenOn the AcreLink side I run a longitudinal study for a single client. The project is in its fourth year, but this is my first year managing it. I have 6 interviewers who each have 250 farmers they are responsible for interviewing. We conduct 6 studies a year with the entire panel of 1,500 farmers. Since each farmer talks to the same interviewer each time, they've developed a familiarity with each other and we've managed to have a high retention rate from year-to-year. The ultimate goal is to forecast brand usage/behavior based on opinions and previous behaviors. However, in the first three years there were very few surveys with questions similar enough to actually track behavior/opinions. So, for now we're working on turning it into an actual longitudinal study rather than simply a group of unrelated studies with the same people.
    Outside of work I spend most of my time fixing up my house and occasionally driving up to St. Peter to attend the Gustie hockey games!

February 2009 issue - Katie Thomas Jensen '08

  • The Psychology Department was recently notified by the Gustavus Library Associates that KatiePsychology alum Katie Thomas Jensen '08 is the 2008 recipient of the Patricia Lindell Research Prize. This award is determined by the library faculty for a Gustavus academic course paper that demonstrates excellent use of source material. Kate currently resides in Roseville and works at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul as a Psychology Associate in the locked unit with Traumatic Brain Injured patients. She plans to begin grad school next fall to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy.
  • Jensen, Katie. False Memories: The Effect of Confidence Ratings on Free Recall Tests. 2008.
  • This study sought to extend research on false memories by examining the influence of confidence ratings immediately following forced confabulation and memory implantation on subsequent free recall. All participants were asked a series of false-event questions, for some of these questions an experimenter provided a response (memory implantation), for others participants were forced to generate a response (forced confabulation). Half of the participants rated their confidence in their implanted and confabulated answers, thereby reflecting upon the misinformation, the balance did not rate their confidence. The results demonstrated that participants were more likely to falsely recall these items. Whereas, the confidence condition did not have any statistically significant results, it showed an interesting trend suggesting that reflection led to a higher rate of false recall only for implanted items.
February 2009 issue - Two Gustie Psychology alums receive two of five 2008 McKnight Presidential Fellow Awards presented in 2008.
  • Kathleen Vohs '96, Associate Professor of Marketing and the McKnight Land-Grant Professor at the Kathleen Vohs - scCarlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota, and Joseph E. Gaugler '95, Associate Professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota were each awarded the prestigious McKnight photo of Joseph GauglerPresidential Fellow Award. The Award recognizes accomplishments and supports ongoing research and scholarship. Selection criteria include an identification by internal and external reviewers as leaders in their field; potential to build programs that will be in the top tier internationally; international reputation as evidenced by record of scholarship, publications, external funding, invited presentations and symposia addresses, significant awards or other evidence of recognition for research and scholarship.

February 2009 issue - Clinical Psychologist Amy Stark '76

Dr. Amy Stark '76, Santa Ana, was featured in the Orange County Register in an article about providing court-ordered therapy in family reunification and child custody cases "Giant Poodles save the day":

December 2008 issue- Leah Barry Pitzenberger '02

  • When I think about my time at Gustavus, I feel like I spent the majority of it underground.  Being a Psych major, I’m sure you understand that feeling.  Sitting in the office area getting extra help from my Statistics Professor, because for the life of me, I just couldn’t grasp the concept of Correlation Coefficients and the importance they have in my life as a college student.  Little did I know that all that time underground would bring clarity to my life that would allow me to emerge from SSC with a plan for the future.  After graduation, I attended the University of St. Thomas and got my degree in Counseling.  That program afforded me the opportunity to really specialize in what I wanted to… a more career oriented field.  Much like the professors at Gustavus, those at St. Thomas encouraged me to find my passion and follow it.  Upon completion of that program, my husband was transferred to Denver, CO for work.  Jobless, I packed up all our belongings and drove half-way across the country to look for my place in these new surroundings.  Within 24 hours, I had a great job that allowed me to actually apply all that knowledge I gained from sitting around that little table in the basement of SSC.  I am currently the HR/OD Supervisor for a company called ASF International.  I was hired on as the Training Supervisor and then assumed all the HR duties within a couple months.  I get to apply my knowledge of psychology in the business world through an amazing Employee Development Program we have here.  I oversee a staff devoted solely to improving performance through coaching.  In addition, we have a full-time trainer that works in conjunction with myself and the Director of HR/OD to provide any and all training that happens within our company.  We have New Hire Programs, Up-Training for existing employees, Manager Training for the management staff, Soft-Skills Training, and are currently developing a corporate university that would allow our employees to obtain “degrees” that would provide them opportunities to move up within the company.  I am challenged on a daily basis to pull out my knowledge of assessment, evaluation and measurement methods, Adult Learning Theory, and Counseling Psychology to work with my staff to consistently provide our employees with a great work/life balance and the knowledge and support necessary to help them be successful, in their jobs and their careers.  When I think back to my time at Gustavus I realize that all of this wouldn’t have been possible without the urging of my professors there to push myself beyond what I thought I could achieve, and, more importantly, this life wouldn’t ever have been my reality without that silly little table in the basement of SSC.

December 2008 issue - Nicki Shay '03

  • After more than 5 years I return to writing for Emil’s Epilogue, although I am considerably more educated than I was back then and have experienced many more natural disasters (a tornado and a serious flood)!  After graduating in 2003, I went directly to graduate school at the University of Iowa in Clinical Psychology.  The program at UI has a very strong research emphasis, so I have spent many, many days in the lab running subjects, crunching data, and writing.   My area of research emphasis has generally been in child abuse and neglect, with a more narrow area of interest focusing on the effect of maternal depression on risk for abuse and resultant psychological disorders in children.  The research that I have been working on is funded by NIMH and NICHD, via my advisor, and is a longitudinal project, which means that I have had the chance to meet many families in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids over the years.  I currently have one publication: Shay, N. L. & Knutson, J. F. (2008).  Maternal depression and trait anger as risk factors for escalated physical discipline.  Child Maltreatment, 13, 39-49; three publications in the works; and am finishing up data collection on my dissertation.  Although the UI program is very research based, I have had many opportunities to get involved in clinic work.  In my clinical practica I worked in an Autism clinic, an ADHD/Learning Disabilities clinic, and on an inpatient consultation service.  I found that I really enjoy the clinical aspect along with research and am planning to pursue a mixed research/clinical position when I am completed with my schooling.  I am not currently living in Iowa, as I am currently on my internship at Henry Ford Behavioral Health in Detroit, MI.  My internship specialization is in Pediatric Neuropsychology and I am planning to pursue postdoctoral training in the same field.  I will be completing my dissertation, defense and all, by the end of summer, meaning that I will have my PhD by next December, and will be continuing on for a 2-year postdoc in a currently unknown location starting September 2009.  I am currently working on applications and will know by March where I will be going next year. 

November 2008 issue - Jessica Rye '03

  • I loved my time as a psych major at Gustavus.  Between work study for the psych department, running subjects for Dr. Ackil’s eyewitness memory projects, and conducting an independent study my senior year, I spent a lot of time in the basement of the SSC. The Jessica Ryedepartment had some of the nicest and smartest people I’ve met. After a 5-year hiatus, I am happy to write one more article for Emil’s Epilogue.
  • During my time at Gustavus, I developed a strong interest in research and ultimately decided that I was interested in applying research to business issues. After graduating from Gustavus I went to Minnesota State, Mankato and got my MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. They had a great applied program.  Students worked on real consulting projects with local businesses, had lots of networking opportunities, and were able to travel (Chicago, Los Angeles, Florida, Singapore, and Thailand while I was in the program).
  • After finishing my degree, I found a job managing research studies for Ipsos - one of the top survey-based research companies in the world. My division (Ipsos Loyalty) helps improve company performance by identifying drivers of satisfaction among customers. We differentiate ourselves from competitors with our global capabilities, thought leadership, and custom programming capabilities.  Last year I had the opportunity to relocate to Ipsos’ Seattle office. I love living in the Northwest.  I stay very caffeinated and enjoy hiking, traveling, and going to music and theater events.

November 2008 issue - Jennifer Wood '03

  • I am a special education paraprofessional for the Hopkins Schools.  I work at an elementary school that is K-6 and have been there for three years.  Prior to that I was a paraprofessional for the Richfeld schools.  I work in a room that has 6 students who spend most of the day in a self-contained classroom and not the mainstream classes.  The students in my room are grades K-4 this year.  Five of the students are labeled autistic.  Jennifer WoodOne is non-verbal and in 2nd grade.  It is a challenge to communicate with that child but I love the effort I put towards him every day.  As a para professional, I go along with the students throughout their day and help them with whatever they are doing. That may be keeping them on task, writing or speaking for them, or helping them in gym or music.  I accompany them on their field trips and class parties!  I love my job!  While I do not necessarily need a college degree to be doing what I am doing, it helps me so much, especially my psychology background.  When the teachers are discussing student situations, I understand what they are talking about. 
  • I also coach synchronized swimming and coach for two different teams.  One is MN Aquafins and is for girls in grades 2-6.  They are a rowdy bunch but fun because they find joy in the easiest skills.  I also am an Assistant Coach for the St. Louis Park High School Varsity team.  There we expect nothing but the best and most effort and it is also fun to work with very skilled swimmers.   
  • And I am anxious to return to Gustavus for a visit!

May 2008 issue - Ann Marie MIller Winskowski ' - '04

When I graduated from Gustavus in 2004, psychology degree in hand, I knew that eventually I would pursue postgraduate study. Exactly what that would mean for me, I was not certain. It was my good fortune to obtain a dual position at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center (VA)-as a vocational counselor for a work therapy program, and a research coordinator for a study focused on the transition of recently returned veterans from Iraqi and Afghan combat zones to civilian life. From these experiences, I have gleaned a wealth of knowledge about the field of psychology and about myself. My position as research coordinator has helped me to appreciate the scientific process, the complications of studying broad psychological concepts, and the integration of research into practice. Research at the VA looks at many factors of adjustment and trauma to determine which factors may be important to positive functioning. As a vocational counselor, I have been afforded the opportunity to work one on one with clients managing serious and persistent mental illnesses as they learn the vocational and social skills necessary for employment. This experience has helped me to realize my passion and strength for working directly with people in a therapeutic setting. After working at the VA for two years, I entered the master's program in counseling psychology at the University of St. Thomas, through which program I was given the opportunity to serve as a therapist at a community outpatient clinic in Minneapolis called the Neighborhood Involvement Program (NIP). I provide personal counseling for individuals with a wide variety of mental health concerns and also for those that have survived the trauma of rape or sexual assault. In May, I received my master's degree in counseling and this fall will continue my work at the VA and my education at St. Thomas in their PsyD program. At this point in my academic journey I find myself thankful for the people and experiences that have shaped me and look forward to what lies ahead. - Publications I have been involved with through my work at the VA: Harris, J.; Erbes, C.; Engdahl, B.; Olson, R.; Winskowski, A. & McMahill, J. (2008). Christian religious functioning and trauma outcomes. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64(1), p.17-29. Harris, J.; Winskowski, A. & Engdahl, B. (2007). Types of workplace social support in the prediction of job satisfaction. The Career Development Quarterly. 56(2), p.150-156.

April 2008 issue - Melissa Bateson Keltgen '01

[Melissa (Bateson) Keltgen is a 2001 psychology and music double major. She is currently providing outpatient mental health therapy at Sioux Trails Mental Health Center in the New Ulm, North Mankato, and St. Peter offices.]

When I chose my majors at Gustavus, I was planning on becoming a music therapist. By the time I graduated in May 2001, I was unsure of what I wanted to do, but knew I wanted to pursue more education in the psychology field. I took a year off to gain work experience before starting my master's degree at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I completed the degree in three years (May 2005) and then searched for a job to get the two years of required supervised experience needed to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. It was extremely Melissa and familydifficult finding a job in this field to get the experience I needed to become fully licensed. I spent one year as a therapist at Leo A. Hoffmann Center, working in a residential setting with developmentally delayed adolescent males with inappropriate sexual behaviors. I discovered that I preferred the outpatient setting and took a job at Sioux Trails Mental Health Center, my current position. I perform diagnostic assessments, outpatient therapy, and crisis intervention to children, adults, and families. I enjoy co-facilitating the DBT skills group and providing DBT therapy. My journey to become a licensed marriage and family therapist was completed in February 2008. Along the way, my husband and I decided to start a family. Our daughter, Evelyn, was born on June 23, 2007. She has had serious health issues and has made managing a stressful career even harder. At six weeks old she was diagnosed with primary pulmonary hypertension, a rare and terminal illness. This disease has no cause and no cure, but medical advances have provided medications that can prolong life expectancy. This disease is unpredictable and no two patients are the same. Evelyn's doctor is in New York City and we currently fly out there every three months for testing. People keep telling me "I don't know how you do it." It has been difficult managing stress and sleep deprivation, but the support of my husband, friends, family, and co-workers (along with the skills I have from working in mental health) have definitely helped. Evelyn has a caring bridge website that you may visit if you want to stay informed on her health and development: Please help increase the awareness of pulmonary hypertension. You can visit the official website for more information on this disease:

February 2008 issue - Rachel Elvebak '07

[Rachel Elvebak is a 2007 psychology honors major and neuroscience minor with completion of the pre-med requisites. She is currently working as a research assistant at the Mayo Clinic in the Human and Integrative Physiology lab...

  • Time has really flown by since graduating from Gustavus last May.  Since then I’ve been working at Mayo Clinic in the department of Anesthesiology; more specifically in the Human and Integrative Physiology lab headed by Dr. Michael Joyner.  The research I contribute to is designed to investigate how peripheral circulation and autonomic reflexesRachel adapt to physical stresses.  As a research assistant I am responsible for equipment
  • setup, assisting with arterial line placement, monitoring and recording vital signs, and analyzing data using Windaq and Powerlab software.  The physicians in the lab are also practicing anesthesiologists.  It is a wonderful opportunity to see how clinical practice and research influence each other. 
  • In addition to psychology, my background at Gustavus includes the neuroscience minor, the pre-medical requisites, and the Honors program.  Since all the research I do is clinical, the major in psychology is very useful.  A significant part of my job is reassuring anxious patients during the informed consent and experimental trials.  The neuroscience background is great too because many of the studies I assist with monitor changes in sympathetic nervous system activity.  Some of the software and techniques used in the neuroscience labs are also used here at Mayo.  One of the most beneficial experiences I had at Gustavus was conducting my own research through the Honors program offered by the department.  I would recommend it to all motivated psychology majors because it provides a unique opportunity to do human research at an undergraduate level.  My experiences working with Dr. Wotton opened up many doors for me, my current position being one of them! 
  • Best wishes to you all this spring and with your future aspirations.  There is so much you can do with a psychology major.  Get in on all the opportunities the department has to offer!    

February 2008 - Katie Vohs '96

  • Katie Vohs, psychology '96, assistant professor of marketing, University of Minnesota -- Carlson School of Management, was recently named as an inaugural recipient of a Young Investigators Katie VohsAward from the Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology. This award, given to individuals 3 to 7 years into their first independent academic appointment, is accompanied with a $5000 stipend to be used for research funding. During the summer of 2007, Vohs was also awarded the McKnight Land Grant Professorship, the University of Minnesota’s highest honor for assistant professors. The purpose of the professorship program is to nurture the careers of the most promising junior faculty members in order to strengthen the faculty for the future. This is only the second time in 20 years that a professor in the Carlson School of Management has been awarded this honor.

December 07 Issue - Chris Rozek

[Chris Rozek is a 2006 psychology honors graduate. Chris was active in the department and editor of this newsletter while a student at Gustavus. He is currently enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison]

  • Psychology Ph.D. Program application advice from a Gustavus grad

    I've been in grad school working on my social psychology Ph.D. for this past year and a half and realized, as we were getting visits from new perspective students last spring, that there’s a lot of advice I could give now with all I've learned about the process. I think applying to Ph.D. programs in psychology is a tricky process that wants very specific things from you, the applicant, and what they want isn't always extremely obvious.  Also, Chris RozekI've found out some things that should really be your priorities when it comes time to select a school. 

    What to do when applying?  Well, first off, what makes you a good applicant?  The first thing the schools you apply to look for, as well as what they will probably place the most initial importance on, is your GRE score.  It’s helpful if this is high to grab their attention since many professors are big believers in getting students with high aptitude.  This seems like an obvious point, but make sure you study hard and do your best because it is important and can help get you noticed out of the huge pile of applicants.

    I would say the second most important factor in getting accepted is how focused/motivated you appear.  You may be thinking, "What about my grades and letters of recommendation?  Aren't they more important than appearing 'focused'?"  Well, they are important to a degree.  Of course, you need to have a high GPA and good recommendations, but I'm not completely sure letters are always even read, and GPA is unlikely to be noticed much unless it is abnormally low.  After they feel assured that you have the potential for a high level of intelligence (via your GRE score, grades, etc.), it seems like the next priority your possible future adviser has is getting a student that really has a specific area of research and goal in mind (which should happen to coincide with an interest this professor has).  Applying to a lot of grad programs is, basically, applying to a person.  You apply to someone who you want to work with and be your adviser as opposed to the entire program in general.  When I was applying, my interests could have appeared a bit too varied.  In my personal statement, I wrote about a couple of big topics I was interested in doing research in, and then I applied to schools that had professors that researched these topics.  This seemed like the way to go, but I didn't think about how wide-ranging my interests may have appeared.  I thought that, by narrowing it down to a main topic or two, I had really narrowed it down.  Now, if I had it to do over, I might be more specific in exactly what I wanted to research and even add some more specific research questions I would be interested in examining within that topic.  Research is a priority for many graduate programs, and your future adviser will want to know that you are someone who is a) intrinsically interested in a topic they are also interested in and b) have some ideas or hypotheses about this topic and will be able to begin the research process right away. Read more from Chris about the Grad School Process 

November 07 issue - Jo Ellison

Jo Ellison

[Jo Ellison is a 2007 psychology honors and spanish graduate and is currently enrolled in the University of North Dakota's Clinical Psychology Doctorate program.]

The Clinical Pyschology Doctorate program is a four-year program that focuses on the science-practitioner model, where students are expected to complete a Master’s thesis within 2 years and a dissertation by the end of their fourth year. During each year students take classes and are slowly introduced into the clinical/therapeutic aspect of the program. The first-year students are on a supervision team where they learn about the theories and skills behind therapy and then shadow 3rd and 4th year students who have clients. First-year students are trained to administer psychometric tests and may begin working in affiliated assessment clinics during spring semester of their 1st year and their second year. Second-year students begin seeing clients, Jo Ellisonmostly conducting intake interviews and assessments for the Psychology Department's clinic. They may take on one or two full time clients. In the 3rd year students take Comprehensive Exams and are then recommended and accepted to the PhD program. They receive outside placements, which are part-time positions at nearby clinics seeing a certain amount patients per week. This continues in the 4th year, during which students apply for external internship through a national database. Hopefully, students are then matched to an internship site for one year. Those are the nuts and bolts of the program. I am enjoying my first semester as much as is possible. I have been told that this will be the worst semester, regarding work and commitments. So I am quite pleased that I have survived thus far. My classes are currently: Univariate Statistics, Behavioral Psychopathology, Clinical Assessment and Clinical Supervision. The program also offers a tuition waiver and a Teaching Assistant position that comes with a stipend to pay for living costs. My current assignment is to a General Psychology course, and I teach 4 labs (100 students total) every Thursday. The Psychology Department also offers higher degrees in Forensic Psychology and Experimental Psychology. The curriculum varies slightly and the Forensic program is 2 years and a Masters Degree, whereas the experimental PhD is 4 years. The faculty are friendly and approachable; we have departmental socials several times per semester which are almost always a good time. There are a wide variety of research interests in the department and almost everyone is willing to work with your ideas. I am working on proposing my thesis this spring. I am going to look at personality variables and how they correlate with video game usage and the intensity/investment that people have for the games they play. I will look at correlations between investment and also the types of characters people choose to play with and their personality traits on a continuum of non-clinical to clinical personality types. Grand Forks is a nice place to live. It is a small town, though bigger than Mankato, and has just about everything you need. If Grand Forks doesn't have it, then Fargo (a 45min-1hr drive) will. I've met some really nice people here and am really starting to enjoy myself. I am from the Twin Cities, so my drive home is about 4.5- 5 hours, which can get long, but is very doable. If any Gusties are interested in the program apply now! And let me know if you are coming to Grand Forks for a tour!