Forensic Psychology: Featured Alum Q&A

Uhl_Carolyn (1)Carolyn Uhl


What first interested you in forensic psychology?

  •  After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, where I completed my undergraduate degree, I obtained full-time employment as a Case-Manager at Marion House, a group home for pregnant and parenting adolescents.
  • Case-Managers were responsible for a multitude of activities; we coordinated all of a client, and her child(ren)’s needs.  These needs included medical, dental, counseling, AODA, legal, educational, nutritional, legal, etc.  We were also responsible for maintaining contact with our client’s social workers and/or parole officers.
  • My interest in forensic psychology began during my employment at Marion House.  Most of our clients came from underprivileged backgrounds, and many of them with criminal backgrounds.  Due to my limited, prior knowledge and experience with the legal system, I found that this was the area in which I most struggled in aiding and advocating for my clients.
  • Additionally, I was fascinated by learning about the reasons behind their behavior, as well as trying to understand how parole officers and/or social workers would try to predict my client’s future behavior (e.g., via a risk assessment).
  • I decided to apply to graduate programs in forensic psychology in order to better serve my clients.

What did you learn in your undergraduate career that contributed to your current knowledge?

  • Classes from UWGB that best prepared me for graduate school included:  Research Methods/Experimental Psychology, Statistics, Test and Measurement, Social Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology.
  • Classes from UWGB that best prepared me for my employment (past and present):   Research Methods/Experimental Psychology, Statistics, Tests and Measurement, all of my developmental courses, as well as any cross-cultural courses I took.
  • I also worked as a research assistant and completed an internship during my last semester at UWGB and learned a lot of valuable skills in each of these positions.  If I could go back, I would have spent more time working on research as an undergraduate student.  I would also have completed an independent study project.

Do you have any advice for any aspiring forensic psychologists?

  • Participate in as much research as possible.  Even if it is unrelated to forensic psychology, the skills you learn are invaluable and can easily translate to another subfield within psychology.  Try networking with forensic psychologists working in the field to get a more realistic sense of what forensic psychologists do and what skills will be most beneficial for you to gain experience/knowledge with during graduate school.

For more information specifically on Graduate School see what advice Gretchen has about graduate school related to counseling psychology.

Graduate School Alum Advice: Forensic Psychology

Uhl_Carolyn (1)Carolyn Uhl


What steps did you take to get to where you are now?

  • I completed my undergraduate degree at UWGB, where I majored in Psychology and Human Development.
  • During my last semester at UWGB, I completed an internship at Marion House, a group home for pregnant and parenting adolescents.
  • Upon graduation, I was offered full-time employment at Marion House, where I worked as a Case-Manager for around a year and half, at which time I was promoted to Program Manager for a recently opened transitional living program for homeless pregnant and parenting young mothers, especially for those aging out of the foster care system.
    • As I mentioned above, I thought that one area in which I could grow in my ability to advocate for my clients was related to helping them navigate the legal system; however, I didn’t want to go to law school, so I found forensic psychology to be a great compromise.
  • I applied and was accepted into the MS forensic psychology program at the University of North Dakota (UND).
    • During my time in the program, my advisor encouraged me to apply for the experimental/general psychology PhD program.
    • During my time in the PhD program, I focused on classes that would enhance my statistical skills, expand my knowledge of forensic psychology, and/or provide me with skills that were easily transferrable to other fields.
    • During graduate school, I taught classes at UND, as well as a local technical college. However, working on my own research, as well as various research projects within my advisor’s lab, was where I learned the most.  I was able to apply my classroom knowledge and study things that were of interest to me and others in the lab.

Did you enjoy your forensic psych graduate experience? Anything in particular?

  • I definitely enjoyed my forensic psych graduate experience. I enjoyed my classes, conducting research, teaching, and speaking and working with classmates.  I especially enjoyed working on research, especially data analysis.

What is a typical day schedule for you?

  •  What I currently do:
    • I am currently a Research Analyst at St. Norbert College.
    • As a Research Analyst, I prepare, initiate, and implement survey and other data collection and research efforts. I also help refine research questions, construct datasets, conduct statistical analyses, summarize research findings, create interactive data visualizations and dashboards, and prepare reports and presentations in support of requests from various units on campus and of accreditation efforts.
    • Our office also works to support faculty, staff, student, and collaborative scholarly research efforts.
    • In my free time, I conduct research on juror perceptions regarding victim culpability, cyber-crimes and the law (e.g., image-based sexual abuse), and social injustices faced by underrepresented populations.
  • What I did before you moved back to this area/how I use my research skills in my current position:
    • In graduate school, I chose to take courses that would best prepare me for a career conducting research.
    • I focused on building my statistical skills as much as possible.
    • I also sought out opportunities to enhance my research skills and took a mixed-methods course, a Ux course, a writing/publishing course, and worked with different students and faculty within the department to help get the broadest range of experiences and skills.
    • These experiences helped expand my skill set and allowed me to be a more well-rounded researcher.
  • What others from UND forensic psychology programs have done after finishing their education:
    • Graduates from the Forensic Psychology program where I do work in many different areas.
    • Some, like me, are working in data analysis and/or research capacities, some are conducting forensic evaluations under the supervisor of psychologists, some work with prisons and juvenile facilities, some work as probation services, some work as legal advocates (e.g., child advocacy centers, sexual assault centers, crisis centers), some work in social service agencies, some work in law enforcement, etc.

Graduate School Alum Advice: Counseling Psychology

gretchen

Gretchen Klefstad


What steps did you take to get to where you are now?

  • During my senior year of undergrad, I applied to a number of master’s counseling programs.
  • In all honesty, a lot of my internships and assistantships in undergrad were through the Public Administration department or with local nonprofits.
    • A strong motivator for me to pursue a graduate degree in counseling came from my determination to learn more about mental illness and continue to reduce the stigma. I ended up attending the University of Minnesota (the Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology program).
  • I just graduated in May 2019. After graduation I took some time off to reset and figure out what was next for me. With a counseling degree, there’s a lot of different avenues and opportunities for work. I needed some time to find the next good thing and how I could best fit into the counseling field.
  • Just a few weeks ago, I accepted a job at Indigo Counseling Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. This happened after two months filled with job applications and interviews.

Did you enjoy your counseling psych graduate experience? Anything in particular?

  • Overall, yes. With any graduate experience there are some drawbacks or challenges. I feel as though the CSPP program was more directed toward school counselors. However, with that experience, I also shared a learning environment with people pursuing different avenues of counseling and that led to interesting group discussions and new perspectives.
  • Throughout my practicum experience, which was extremely challenging, I felt very supported and encouraged from faculty and my supervisor at the U.

What is a typical day schedule for you?

  • In a few weeks, I’d be able to give a more detailed answer because I’m currently still settling into my new job and building a client load.
  • So far, I’ve found that private practice offers a lot of flexibility. I’m currently only doing two days a week at Indigo, planning to see about five clients each day. I will continue to add on more days as I bring on new clients.
  • What I like best is that I can see clients and accumulate hours toward LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor) licensure, but I also have the freedom and time to do other things like volunteer for mental health care initiatives, get involved with local nonprofits, and work on my “passion projects”.

Graduate School Alum Advice: School Psychology

 

Tessa

Tessa Evenson


What steps did you take to get to where you are now?

  • First, over the summer before my senior year at UWGB, I researched potential graduate schools I was interested in. Then I went to see some of my professors when my senior year started to ask them about the programs I was interested in.
  • After bringing it down to 3 graduate schools I thought were the best fit, I made checklists for each one. (Each school has a completely different application process, so it was a lot of work on top of a full school and work schedule.)
    • For two of the programs I was applying for, the GRE was needed, and a minimum score was required to be considered into either of those programs. So, I scheduled myself to take the GRE, which was also about $200, as well as each grad school application being about $75. I studied for the GRE using online resources and talking with my professors. I took it on a Saturday morning, and it took about 4 hours, if I remember correctly. From there, I was able to send my scores to the schools I wanted.
  • Next, all applications required I write some sort of personal statement or essay describing my skills and why that program would be a good fit for me. One of the programs asked for an APA writing sample from my undergraduate career. I also had to submit at least 3 references and most programs recommended 2 of those references be professors.
  • Most of the applications were due in December or January and I waited about a month before I heard back from any of them.
    • Two programs called me, and scheduled interviews.
    • One program emailed me to inform me that they did not choose to interview me, therefore they were not an option anymore.
  • In February, it was down to two schools, UW-Stout and UW-La Crosse.
    • My interview at UW-Stout comprised of two one-on-one interviews with the program director and a professor in the program. I was also able to meet many of the other applicants, as well as talk extensively with current School Psychology students. I was also able to eat lunch with those students and get a tour of the school.
    • The UW-LaCrosse interview was much different. I also had two interviews on interview day, however, one of them was with 6 people and the other was one-on-one with the program director. I also had a Q-and-A with three current students and only met two other applicants.
    • I was given a tour of the school, but did not have as much contact with the current students as I did at UW-Stout. A couple weeks later after each interview I was contacted.
  • The program director at UW-Stout, herself, called to let me know I was accepted into the program, which I very much appreciated.
  • After careful consideration, I chose UW-Stout because I really enjoyed my experience on interview day and felt that the program, overall, was the best fit for me.
    • After becoming admitted in the UW-Stout School Psychology program, I attended an orientation laying out the classes I needed and information needed for my first year. The current students also gave me and my cohort (the other first-year school psychology students) information on financial aid, ideas of where to live, and cool places to visit in the Menomonie community. I met a girl from my cohort that day and we decided to live together. During the summer, I enrolled in classes and we found an apartment and here I am now living in Menomonie going to UW-Stout for graduate school!

What is a typical day schedule for you?

  • My school day as a graduate student is not much different than my school day as an undergraduate student.
  • I do not think I will ever have more than 2 classes in one day. This is because the classes are a bit longer. Some classes are 2 hours and some are 3. I also have a Saturday class this semester and we only meet 5 times throughout the semester, but it is an 8-hour day.
  • On a typical day, I start class around 9-9:30 and sometimes end around noon and sometimes end around 4:30, with a 2 hour break in between.
  • Then some days I go to the GA (graduate assistant) lab after class to ask the GAs questions about my assessments or to turn in assignments. I’m usually in the GA lab about 2 or 3 times a week, sometimes more.
  • The class structure, in general, is not much different than undergraduate classes, except there’s just more material and it is always school-based (content applies to practice in K-12 public schools), in general.
    • I have some papers to write, I had to complete volunteer hours working with kids, I had to shadow a school psychologist, I have discussion posts, quizzes, assignments, and exams.

Do you enjoy your school psych graduate experience? Anything in particular?

  • Probably the best part about the program is the people. My professors, just like UWGB, are extremely helpful.
  • My professors also always make a point every class that they will do everything in their power to make sure we are successful.
  • This school psychology program at UW-Stout is cohort-based. Therefore, all of the first-year school psychology students are in all of my classes. It is meant so that we have that support throughout graduate school, as well as when we become school psychologists.
  • It is nice to have those people to relate to when classes are difficult. They are also the first people I go to for any school-related questions or comments.

What is Sport Psychology?

Have you heard of Sport Psychology before? Can you describe it? Did you know that the Psychology program here at UWGB had two sport psychologists on the faculty and a Sport Psychology masters program?

Let’s break it down…

Drs. Jana Fogaca and Alan Chu are the two Psychology faulty who are Sport Psychologists. They both work with students on research regarding sport psychology and they are the two in charge of the master program. Here is what they had to say about some further information on sport psychology for those of us who are fairly new to the topic.

chufogaca

  • How would you describe sport psychology?
    • Sport psychology focuses on the use of psychological skills to perform well
    • typically work with athletes, but the field has been expanding to work with other performers, such as musicians, dancers, surgeons, and pilots
    • Psychological skills include strategies like deep breathing, mindfulness, self-talk, imagery, developing a growth mindset, working well with others, being a good leader, etc
    • One nice thing is to use sport activities to teach these skills to kids. It helps them build their confidence and perform better at school and engage less in risky behavior.
  • What are the important aspects to know about the sport psychology master’s program?
    • The masters program is prepared to receive students who want to work in applied sport psychology (with the applied track) and who want to focus on research and pursue doctoral studies (thesis track).
    • We designed it in a way that the students will have opportunity to take all the courses necessary for the CMPC (certified mental performance consultant) certification.
    • We also have two faculty, Dr. Fogaca and Dr. Chu, who are certified and part of the list of approved mentors.
    • We also have great connections with the community and they are excited to receive potential interns and researchers from our program.
  • What kind of work is done with students in the sport psychology research lab?
    • RAs help with literature review, design, and may do some pilot data collection and analysis
    • “This semester, we are finishing up the plan for an intervention at the YMCA where we will use basketball and volleyball drills to teach psychological skills to the participants. They are helping me think about the drills, how to incorporate psychological skills into them, and how to communicate difficult concepts to kids. On the second half of the semester, they will help me implement the project and collect data.” – Dr. Fogaca
    • “For field experience, some of my RAs and I will go to several high schools in this areas to collect data on sport motivation, meet with coaches to provide suggestions, and deliver some mental skills workshops to athletes. For lab experience, we have been planning projects on the effects of novelty on motivation (in collaboration with Dr. Cowell) and gender and racial biases in sport (in collaboration with Dr. Fogaca) that will involve experiments with the use of physiological measures such as eye tracking.” – Dr. Chu