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10

DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY NEWSLETTER

How did your studies at USD prepare you for your

current work? With whom did you work most closely

at USD? How did they influence your work?

Dr. Randy Quevillon was my assigned advisor as an

undergraduate and I later choose him to be my thesis and

dissertation advisor. I have known him since fall 2000 when I

started my undergraduate classes, and this fall, he will hood me

as I graduate with a Ph.D. Pretty cool! I have received so much

support and encouragement from him over the years. When I

thought I had nothing left to finish the cause he will nudge me,

ever so gently, reminding me of what he knows I have. He is a true

teacher. Dr. Beth Boyd, too, has been a guiding light throughout

my program. She was my mentor and still is in a sense. When I

find myself at a crossroads, I find myself thinking “what would

Beth say?” What’s funny is she always threw the questions right

back at me. I never realized it at the time; I always thought she

just knew what to say. But as a great psychologist, she asked the

right questions.

I spent countless hours in Beth’s office struggling with

identity issues, acculturation stressors, and a fair share of issues

related to being a minority psychology trainee in a predominately

Caucasian community. I had never put much thought on being

a “black girl.” I vividly remember her saying all these experiences

will come in handy one day. She went on to tell me that my

role may be to be a bridge. And she was right. My experience

being in South Dakota has proved to be so valuable and has

helped me to be more compassionate and understanding to those

who find themselves in similar situations. From 2007 to 2010

I was a contracted psychologist for Peace Corps Volunteers in

Botswana and had many conversations with Caucasian volunteers

who found themselves as first time minorities with the related

stressors—guess who understood their experiences? I had become

the bridge.

I feel prepared for where I am right now. I think it is also

the maturity of knowing when to ask for help and where to look

for further information. I have taken a break from providing

psychotherapy and have ventured into consultancy and training.

The reason for this was burnout and the realization that I was

putting out fires instead of engaging in activities at a policy level.

Psychotherapy will always be a first love, but I think there are so

many different ways we psychologists can make a difference to

our communities.

So advocacy is where I find myself now, engaging medical

insurance carriers to increase mental health coverage that is

informed by evidence-based practice. I also am in talks with

the Ministry of Health on the review of our mental health act,

which has not been reviewed since 1971. Much of the language is

insensitive and does not acknowledge our current realities.

I recently paid the new World Health Organization country

director a courtesy call to introduce myself to her office. This

was an opportunity to rally all the stakeholders to support the

efforts of reviewing the mental health act, an activity I know we

will need support for as we embark on this. It was the WHO

office that provided the very first technical support for Botswana

to draft its first mental health act. Understanding how to navigate

the community protocols thanks to the conversations we had

in various classes has come in handy when I find myself in

new territory.

I can’t begin to say how much I am grateful for the many years

I spent as a Disaster Mental Health fellow because we learned so

much from faculty members and conferences. We were all on

the first team of disaster mental health professionals to respond

after the 9/11 attacks. I, too, had opportunities to respond to

several local and national disasters including the World Trade

Center attacks at a later stage. These experiences have set me up

for the role I find myself in back home. I recently went out to the

National Disaster Management Office which is housed under

the Office of the President and introduced myself as a disaster

consultant, as we brace ourselves for the Ebola preparedness/

response activities. I am currently working on a proposal to

train emergency responders in psychological first aid. I am really

excited with the collaboration.

Is there anything you will miss about the Midwest U.S.?

I miss the people and believe it or not, the different changes

in season. Weird thing to say, but we have what seems to be

two seasons here; it’s a short winter and then summer almost 80

percent of the year.

Despite my great experiences in the Midwest, I have met some

U.S. citizens here (we call them expats) who in so many of the

interactions I have had, have been quick to judge the Midwest.

Every time I hear these judgmental remarks about a place they

haven’t really been to themselves, I almost want to break into the

South Dakota jingle—“Great faces, Great places, South Dakota!”

Because I really have met some amazing people there. I have made

relationships that will last forever.

I also miss the Clinical Training Program family. I had some

memorable times there. Bowl-o-ween was probably one of my

favorite activities. The Friday of Halloween was a big festivity for

the students and faculty. For someone who had first tried to bowling

at age 24, had and no way to compete with a pro like Dr. Gemma

Skillman, the reigning queen of bowling almost every Bowl-o-ween;

it was still a special time. As luck would have it, I proposed my

dissertation on Bowl-o-ween Day, 2008. I rocked up as a punk and

an hour-and-a-half later the committee deliberated on my proposal

and I was officially a doctoral clinical psychology trainee. I can’t

imagine any other place you would be able to do this.