Student Perspectives

 
Kristen Ashbaugh
Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student
 
What is my background?
I am originally from Davis, California and I got my undergraduate degree in Economics from UCLA (Go Bruins!).  I realized during my senior year in college that my passion was in psychology, so I moved to Santa Barbara after graduation and worked at the Koegel Autism Center for three years before applying to graduate school.  I was a clinician and the Clinic Coordinator during this time, and it was great to get experience in the field before applying to graduate school at UCSB. 
 
Why did I choose UCSB?
I chose to attend UCSB because of the excellent faculty, balance of research and clinical work, supportive environment, and the beautiful outdoors! All of the faculty are unique and strong in their respective areas of work, and I really appreciate how welcoming and helpful they are in working with students.  The CCSP program promotes both research and a breadth of clinical opportunities, and I felt like this was a perfect integration of my desire to get involved in both the research and applied aspect of clinical psychology. 

 

What are my research projects like/what is a typical day like?
My primary area of research is clinical intervention techniques for adolescents and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I work with college students and adults on the autism spectrum, and conduct behavioral interventions to improve their communication, social, independent living and vocational skills. I like to incorporate my clinical work into my research projects, so a typical day also includes working on research, participating in supervision, and engaging in educational courses.
 
 
What advice do I have for incoming students?
Try to find a balance between all of the courses, research and clinical opportunities available to you.  Don't be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, every day is learning experience, and make sure to find time to relax and have fun :)
Erin Engstrom

Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student

What is my background?

A true Gaucho at heart, I received my B.A. in Psychology, with minors in applied psychology and Speech & Hearing sciences at UCSB in 2013.  As an undergraduate, I worked in Dr. David Sherman’s social psychology lab examining climate change mitigation behavior and political decision-making. I also worked in Dr. Robert Koegel’s lab assisting with various research projects and serving as a peer mentor for a young adult with Asperger’s syndrome. In my senior year, spearheaded my own research project under the guidance of Dr. Koegel, in which I examined the effect of integrating social interaction into the interests of children with autism to increase their socialization. Because of these experiences, I passionately pursued a career in the field of autism intervention. Following graduation, I served as Clinic Coordinator and a student clinician at the UCSB Koegel Autism Center.

Why did I choose UCSB?

My main attraction lies in the combined aspect as well as the scientist-practitioner training. UCSB offers a hands-on, direct learning that is unmatched at many other campuses, and I felt UCSB and the Koegel Autism Center truly embraced their commitment to increasing access to opportunities for all children, families, and community members. More importantly, who can argue with the beautiful Santa Barbara weather?

What are my research projects like/what is a typical day like?

I can’t say I really have a “typical” day, but often my time is split between classes, clinical work, and research.  With this lifestyle, I can say with confidence that I am never bored! Currently, my research interests include examining empathy expression in individuals with autism and further developing Pivotal Response Treatments for home, school and community settings. Specifically, I am interested in creating accessible resources through parent education and early identification for infants and toddlers at risk of an autism diagnosis.

What advice do I have for incoming students?

 

Keep in mind that you chose this path to better the lives of others, but that can only be done if you share that same compassion for yourself. Welcome mistakes as a chance for improvement, and ask for help when you need it. Remember that sometimes a Netflix binge is necessary!

Todd Avellar

Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Student

What is my background?

I am a 5th year counseling psychology student working with Dr. Tania Israel. Prior to enrolling in CCSP, I transferred from Fresno City College to UCSB, where I earned my B.A. in Psychology, with a minor in Applied Psychology. I am passionate about developing into a competent researcher, clinician, and leader in the field. During my time at CCSP, I have engaged in research to improve mental health and social support services for sexual minorities in the local community. I have engaged in a range of community- and university-based practica. I now serve as a supervisor (outreach emphasis) at the Hosford Counseling and Psychological Services Clinic. I have also advocated for student issues in multiple leadership roles, via the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). I look forward to soon embarking in a career that will allow me to pursue a line of research related to longitudinal bullying issues, especially as they pertain to intersecting identities. In the process, I hope to mentor promising undergraduate and graduate students in academia and national governance, to ensure that our field remains relevant to our diverse communities for years to come.

Why did I choose UCSB?

As a transfer student, I was determined to gain admittance to graduate school immediately upon completion of my undergraduate work. However, I needed to quickly acquire the necessary research skills and experiences, in order to make myself a competitive applicant. Thankfully, Dr. Israel took me on as an apprentice in her research lab, and provided me with high quality mentoring experiences. She took me to the national APA Convention in Toronto, Canada, and introduced me to her colleagues. While Dr. Israel encouraged me to consider other programs, I still remember the moment when she asked me, “So are you going to apply to our program?” Instantaneously, my answer was “YES!” I chose to continue my work with Dr. Israel at CCSP, because I knew that I had found my lifelong academic mentor. Now, five years later…I knew I was right!

What are my research projects like/what is a typical day like?

My initial research efforts were aimed at improving community and social support services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities. I learned how to create accurate coding schemes. I took the initiate and trained myself to become the team-specialist of the qualitative data analysis software. I became well versed in operating SPSS statistical analysis software to work with complex quantitative data. During preliminary data analysis, it became apparent that few transgender-identified respondents participated in our survey. To address this gap, I engaged in outreach to local transgender community members and evaluated generational differences in transgender perceptions of community. Our team allied with local service providers and community members to develop a representative group of individuals who met monthly to steer the project. Ultimately, we conducted a community summit to generate sustainable solutions to LGBTQ community concerns.

            An outcome to being involved with the community projects was an opportunity to engage local law enforcement personnel (LEP) on LGBTQ issues. I lead the development of a survey to capture LGBTQ perceptions of, and experiences with LEP. I learned how to construct survey and recruitment materials, create human subjects applications, and developed advance knowledge of qualitative and quantitative data analyses. Findings identified helpful and unhelpful behaviors of LEP, and informed a series of LEP diversity trainings on LGBTQ issues. These proved helpful for responding officers when two men were severely attacked because they were seen holding hands. During qualitative data analysis, an inventory was developed to capture LGBTQ community members’ positive and negative experiences, and resultant perceptions of LEP. I have since participated in examining how resistance may have impeded LEP’s receptiveness of the trainings, and how impactful the trainings were on LEP’s apprehension, self-efficacy, and knowledge of effective tactics with LGBTQ communities. I have also engaged in coding factors influencing hazardous alcohol use among sexual minority women.

            Through an online mindfulness-based cognitive therapy intervention, my dissertation aims to alleviate depression, anxiety, and internalized homonegativity that many LGBQ adult survivors of bullying experience. I also intend to explore the possible interactions of the treatment between bullied and non-bullied LGBQ individuals, and between those individuals bullied for LGBQ-specific matters, vs. those bullied for non-LGBQ reasons.

What advice do I have for incoming students?

            Follow your heart. Continue to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” You will wear many hats in the program, so you must be careful not to let external motivators steer you. This is your life and career; so don’t forget to pave your own path. Most importantly…Take care of yourself! You’ve been accepted to the program. You are a smart person, and we all know it. There is no need to prove yourself to your peers. I suggest taking up a hobby, which will get you outside of the academic bubble. For me, I am working towards a black belt in the South Korean martial art, Hapkido. This not only keeps my body strong, but also provides me a diverse community of people. I also enjoy kickboxing, running (by our beautiful beach!), and a range of other fitness activities. Bottom line…get your body moving! And of course, have a glass of wine or two at Santa Barbara’s many wineries!

Jay Bettergarcia

Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Student

What is my background?

I am currently a 4th year counseling psychology student working with Dr. Tania Israel. I graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with my B.S. in Psychology and Women's and Gender Studies in 2009. As an undergraduate, I was actively involved with with feminist and LGBTQ groups on campus. With help from the Pride Center I developed and coordinated a peer-counseling program for LGBTQ students. I hired and trained sixteen undergraduates to work with LGBTQ students on issues of identity, coming out, safer sex, and intersections of identities, such as religious affiliation and ethnic identity.

I decided that although I liked learning about therapy, what I really wanted to do was conduct research related to gender identity, transgender identity development, and LGBTQ communities. I went on to earn a Master's degree in Social Psychology from San Francisco State University where I had the opportunity to work on transgender and cisgender identity research. During this time, I got a job working with semi-independent adults with severe mental illness. I began to realize that although I loved research, I was missing the helping relationships and counseling components that I loved as an undergraduate. I found counseling psychology to be the perfect blend of social justice and diversity-focused applied research and clinical work.

Why did I choose UCSB?

I decided on UCSB's CCSP program because of the faculty and I found the perfect fit. I found an advisor whose research interest matched my own and I couldn't be happier with my decision. As I considered PhD programs in Counseling Psychology, I knew that I wanted diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice to be central to the research and clinical training I would receive. Not only does the program offer the course work, clinical training, and research experiences that I wanted, but the faculty, staff, and students have all been amazing as well. And it doesn't hurt that it is gorgeous-- the beaches, hiking trails, and weather are amazing!

What are my research projects like/What is a typical day like? 

My dissertation examines transgender participant’s perceptions of affirming and non-affirming interactions between a therapist and transgender client in a mock-therapy session. Using an analogue research design, I am investigating how perceptions of the quality of a therapeutic relationship depends on both the messages the therapists provides in the session and the transgender participants’ desire to physically transition or not transition.  

I also examine perceptions of community safety and how to optimally develop and implement diversity trainings that minimize resistance and maximize receptiveness. For example, in a series of three studies, I worked with Dr. Israel's research team to identify LGBTQ community members’ perceptions of personal safety and local police. We then utilized this data to develop a training about LGBTQ issues that was presented to all sworn local police officers. We studied the effectiveness of the training on participant’s knowledge, self-efficacy, and interpersonal comfort with LGBTQ people using a pre- and post-test design. I then led a qualitative analysis of the resistance and receptiveness of the police officers to the LGBTQ diversity training. This study provided a deeper understanding of the officers’ experiences in the LGBTQ training.

In terms of a "typical day", each week and year is really different. In my fourth year, I now spend most of my time working independently on research and traveling between campus and practicum sites. I spend approximately 15 hours seeing clients at a career counseling center and a community counseling center. I'm also taking one class, working on my dissertation, and recently applied for internship. 

 

What advice do I have for incoming students? 

Take breaks, make friends, and don't forget to breath. Graduate school is an amazing experience, but it can be challenging. We're pulled in different directions with courses, clinical work, research, and teaching. Manage your time, know that not everything can be done perfectly, and remember that everything works out in the end. Sometimes taking a step back to look at the bigger picture puts things into perspective. Figure out what really matters to you and what just needs to get done. Take care of yourself, find a good therapist, don't forget to live your life, and have fun within and outside of the department!

Stephanie Moore

School Psychology Ph.D. Student

What is my background?
I received my B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2013. While at UCLA, I collaborated with Dr. Howard Adelman in the Center for Mental Health and Schools on various projects to develop informational resources for practitioners interfacing with children and families. I also worked with Dr. Bruce Chorpita in the Child FIRST (Focus on Innovation and Redesign in Systems and Treatment) lab on a randomized control trial testing the effectiveness of a flexible, modular evidence-based treatment for children and adolescents with psychopathology. These research experiences as well as my school-based work with elementary aged children helped me to direct my passion for promoting children’s thriving toward the field of school psychology, specifically, working toward universal efforts to prevent risk and promote resilience and personal strengths in our nation’s youth.

Why did I choose UCSB?
I distinctly recall falling in love with CCSP at interview/recruitment day. Although the research programs and foci of the school psychology faculty at UCSB initially attracted me to CCSP at UCSB, interacting with faculty and current students, learning more about the supportive and collaborative nature of the program, and the many opportunities to engage in a variety of applied research opportunities, aligned with my own interests and goals, solidified my intention to attend this program. Everything I fell in love with about CCSP on that day two years ago has only enhanced my experience in this program: faculty are incredible supportive, their work is inspirational, and I am honored to be surrounded by these brilliant minds (students, staff, and faculty alike).

What are my research projects like/what is a typical day like?
As a second year student in the program, I divide my time between research, practice, and course work. Each week, I spend between 10 to 15 hours at a school site working alongside a licensed school psychologist. The remainder of my time is split between course work and various research projects, whether they are my own, those with my research team, or as part of my Graduate Student Researcher appointment. Current research projects involve working on a program evaluation for First 5 Santa Barbara County as well as working with schools to coordinate universal screening and follow-up interventions.

I’m currently developing my second year research project and am broadly interested in the intersection of risk and resilience in the context of school-based prevention and early identification and intervention. Specifically, I am interested in supporting students through school-wide, universal efforts to address risk while also promoting strengths and positive development as part of multi-tiered systems of support. I am also interested in understanding the developmental trajectories of risk and resilience, as well as their interaction, and in designing and evaluating interventions that can foster positive growth and development.
 

What advice do I have for incoming students?

Opportunities abound in this program! Seize as many as you can do well. Remember to take care of yourself, seek support in your peers and faculty, and take advantage of what Santa Barbara has to offer.

Matthew Ruderman, B.A.
Matthew Ruderman, B.A.

School Psychology Ph.D. Student

What is my background?
The appeal of school psychology stems predominantly from my background in working with children. I attended Chapman University in Orange, CA for my undergraduate studies. In addition to majoring in psychology, my previous experiences as a camp counselor, working and interning at a preschool, volunteering at a children’s hospital, tutoring students at the college level, and teaching after school enrichment programs to elementary school students had given me a keen insight into what it takes to work effectively with children and families. Initially, the task of finding a graduate program suited for me was a difficult one. The only certainty was that whichever path I chose, I knew I wanted to make a difference. When starting the application process, I was struggling to make a decision between the dictates of my mind and the dictates of my heart. My mind, logical and analytical in nature, was pushing me toward the harder and applied sciences. Conversely, my heart was telling me to pursue a career encompassing my passion and talents; working with children. School psychology is a synthesis of the two.

Why did I choose UCSB?
The weather! In reality, the immediate appeal of the program was its combined nature and scientist-practitioner model; training across counseling, clinical, and school psychology separates this program from many others around the country. Similarly, the prestige of the program made me confident that I would leave here prepared to help children regardless of the career path I chose. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the CCSP community was warm and welcoming.

What are my research projects like/what is a typical day like?
Currently, my research project examines how protective factors (i.e., school connectedness, hope, empathy, and/or self-efficacy) vary among individuals perceived to be in the bullying process. Additionally, I have had opportunities to work on several other projects within my lab (including articles and book chapters), as well as become involved with research projects conducted by other faculty. My research has also afforded me the opportunities to work with students, parents, and teachers, as well as make several paper and poster presentations at state and national conferences. As a school psychology student, I spend on average 10-15 hours a week working in the schools. A typical day at a site included assessment (e.g., cognitive, behavioral), brief solution-focused counseling, consultation with teachers, and report writing. For the first two years, weeks are typically full with classes, practicum, and research (and Tupperware lunches!). Currently, I am primarily focused on research and preparing for my comprehensive exams.

What advice do I have for incoming students in school psychology?
1) Remind yourself why you are here... It can be easy to lose sight of this amidst the chaos.
2) Every little thing counts. Whether it is teaching a preschooler how to write his or her name or helping a college student who is struggling with school, it is extremely gratifying to know that you are making a positive difference in a child’s life.
3) Lean on your friends and don't be afraid to ask for help (cue Lean on Me by Bill Withers).
4) Breathe.. Laugh. Somehow, everything gets done. THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

*Questions related to the program's accredited status should be directed to the Commission on Accreditation:
Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
American Psychological Association
750 1st Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 336-5979 / E-mail: apaaccred@apa.org
Web: www.apa.org/ed/accreditation