Coming Full Circle: One Alumna's Journey to Pursuing a Doctoral Program in School Psychology

Coming Full Circle: One Alumna's Journey to Pursuing a Doctoral Program in School Psychology

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Emily Winter MA'17

Emily Winter MA’17 shared her journey through Fairfield’s school psychology program and return to Fairfield to teach as she pursues her PhD.

When Emily Winter MA’17 enrolled in Fairfield’s specialist-level school psychology program she hadn’t considered pursuing research in the field. A recent graduate from Connecticut College, she studied psychology and human development and was eager to take the next step in her academic career. While at Fairfield Winter pursued practicum experiences, a year-long internship, and graduate assistantship experiences that influenced her desire to want to one day teach as well as attain licensure as a psychologist to pursue private practice work.

“For my year-long internship I worked at Joel Barlow High School supporting students, families, and teachers in the counseling center and special education department,” said Winter. “It was an amazing experience that exposed me to the wide breadth of responsibilities school psychologists take on including psycho-educational assessment, consultation with families, working with students via counseling in individual and group formats, as well as working on systems-level programming.”

Winter undertook her practicum experience at Eli Whitney Elementary School in Stratford.

“One of my favorite parts of my clinical experience was being supervised by alumni of the program,” she said. “The school psychology program maintains great relationships with their alumni network, especially when it comes to finding internship and practicum sites. So, oftentimes, students are placed with supervisors who intimately know the experience at Fairfield as a graduate student of the school psychology program. This is so helpful when working on assignments for class, testing cases, and case conceptualizations.”

In addition to her school-based clinical experiences Winter pursed a graduate assistantship in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Profession’s Dean’s Office as a way to defray the cost of tuition. During her time as a graduate assistant she had the opportunity to meet faculty from other departments and to learn about their coursework and teaching in the classroom. That experience gave her insight into what it would be like to teach in the field. Winter also began collaborating with Dr. Evelyn Bilias Lolis to co-create a research project around body image.

After graduating from Fairfield with her master's and sixth-year certificate, she received continued support and encouragement from Drs. Gill Lopez and Bilias Lolis. Winter is now pursuing her doctorate of school psychology at UConn’s Neag School of Education and the research she did with Dr. Lolis has informed her dissertation topic, entitled “Measuring Coaches’ Knowledge of Eating Disorders and Weight Bias.”

“My experience at Fairfield was so much about making connections and having support from my faculty mentors,” she said. “They’ve been really gracious and they’ve had a lot of trust in me. Those relationships, coupled with my clinical experiences, made me fall in love with the profession and pursue my PhD at UConn. Advanced standing students like myself already have certification. Some school psychologists get into the field, learn more about it, and then decide they want to teach and do research so pursing a PhD is the next step. ”

Even though she is now at UConn, Winter still remains close to her faculty mentors at Fairfield, and has even returned to design coursework and teach as an adjunct faculty member. Last summer along with Dr. Lolis she co-designed and taught Foundations in Equity-Based Multitiered Systems of Support (MTSS). The course explores MTSS, a tiered system that schools are legally mandated to use in Conn. to identify students who experience learning difficulties before they experience academic and social-emotional concerns. MTSS relies on the principles of early intervention.

The course incorporates an equity-based lens and looks at how reporting is conducted to ensure that student populations are not disproportionately over or under referred to receive services within the special education context. The course aligns with Fairfield’s Jesuit mission of inclusivity and education to serve for and with others. Now Winter is redesigning another course on her own titled Applied Statistics for School Psychologists which focuses on progress monitoring, data collection, and single subject research design.

“I am so thankful for the connections I made at Fairfield,” said Winter. “I have followed in my mother and grandmother’s footsteps who also received master’s degrees from GSEAP. I am proud to be a third generation graduate student and continue to stay connected with my alma mater as I pursue my PhD.”

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