Bryan Batien“I chose USD because of the quality of the clinical psychology program and the generalist training.”

Bryan Batien, Ph.D. - Wolsey, SD
Major: Clinical Psychology

There was not one specific thing or person that led me into psychology. Prior to pursuing psychology, I had always wondered why people do what they do. However, it was not until I experienced a combination of life experiences, several unique relationships and my desire to help others that I fully committed to psychology as my major and future career.

There are a number of things that I enjoyed about my time at USD. I have formed several personal and professional relationships that have greatly impacted my personal life and career.

Barbara Yutrzenka, Ph.D. was an inspiring USD faculty member. She has the ability to be organized, professional, friendly and supportive all at the same time, while still balancing work and personal life. I am now starting to realize what a difficult task that is but she made it look effortless.

Since graduating from the clinical psychology program in 2012, I have been working as a psychologist at the Orlando VA Medical Center in Orlando, FL. At the Orlando VA, I am a coordinator for the VITAL program, which is a new program aimed at helping Veterans return to and graduate from college. I had the pleasure of developing and helping build the program both locally and nationally. I also currently serve on several national committees within the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as volunteer with an organization helping veterans with mental health issues.

The best advice I have for students is to keep working towards your dreams. There will always be obstacles and hurdles, but they can be overcome.

Ashley Arens“Even when the coursework was challenging, I always found the professors to be encouraging and supportive.”

Ashley M. Arens, Ph.D. - Pierce, NE
Major: Clinical Psychology - M.A., Psychology - B.S.
B.S. 2006, M.A. 2009

I was interested in the study of psychology since high school. After researching the field and shadowing psychologists, I decided to pursue this path.

My favorite part about USD was the sense of community. Even when the coursework was challenging, I always found the professors to be encouraging and supportive. I highly value the personal and professional relationships I developed during my time at USD.

The most important course during my education at USD was adult psychopathology with Jeffrey Simons, Ph.D. I use the knowledge and skills I learned during this course on a daily basis.

In addition to my studies, my involvement in Psi Chi (a psychology honor society) helped prepare me for graduate school. As a graduate student, the time I spent at clinical practicum rotations and the Leadership Education Excellence in Caring for Children with Neurodevelopmental & Related Disorders (LEND) program had a great impact on my professional development.

I am currently a clinical psychologist at the University of Central Florida. I treat patients and conduct research within a clinical research study funded by the Department of Defense which examines virtual-reality assisted exposure therapy and group therapy in the treatment of OIF/OEF veterans with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder.

If you are planning on studying at USD my advice to you is if you choose to enter a helping profession, a certain amount of self-sacrifice is necessary. Rather than choosing the easiest or most convenient path, make decisions that will prepare you to provide the highest quality of services.

Carrie Nassif“I chose USD because of the quality of the clinical psychology program and the generalist training.”

Carrie Nassif - Hays, KS
Major: Clinical Psychology

It took me a while to determine what I wanted to do and I tried on several different majors before setting into psychology which seemed to give me the most flexibility. I still like being able to teach and practice and choose the aspects of my field which best suit my strengths.

I honestly chose USD when I was an undergraduate student because of the affordable tuition. I stayed there because of the compassion and commitment of the faculty to develop well-rounded people first, and professionals, second.

Although I felt comfortable in a small town setting, USD's strong emphasis on graduate training pulled people from all over which made for an invigorating community of diverse people.

During my education I earned my masters and doctorate in clinical psychology, and had practica expereinces at the VA in Sioux Falls, Lewis and Clark Behavioral Health in Yankton and at the Psychological Services Center on campus. I spent my internship year at the Counseling and Psychological Services Center in Bozeman, MT and at the Indian Health Services Center at Crow Agency, MT.

In addition to my studies, there were so many opportunities to engage in service projects. Something I still enjoy in my professional life. I think of the BRIDGE conference, for example, and am amazed at what we were able to begin.

My ideal job out of college was as an assistant professor in a small university where I worked for 8 years and taught master's level psychology students while also seeing clients at the counseling center. I've since started up a private practice in the same community and enjoy being more independent.

Lubna Somjee“My favorite part about USD were the professors.”

Lubna Somjee - St. Louis, MO
Major: Clinical Psychology

The doctoral program in clinical psychology drew me. The areas of focus within the program and knowledgeable, warm faculty were a huge draw. Additionally, each faculty member was very involved in various areas of the field at the state, national level or international level, outside of their direct responsibilities to the psychology department or university. That signaled that the faculty had a genuine interest in professional development and that it would help to further round out my education.

Additionally, the graduate students did very well on internship match day, which is very competitive. Many psychology graduate students in the country do not get matched and have to postpone until the following year, assuming they are matched then. This program had an incredibly high match rate which was very important to me and necessary to complete my degree. Lastly, given there are only a few students selected each year, the graduate students tend to be close and work cohesively. I ended up maintaining many lifelong friends as a result.

In addition to my studies, I was involved in the Students of Color in Psychology program. Being a woman of color in a predominantly white area of the country was an adjustment. My membership in the group helped me make the adjustment, and also allowed for honest discussions with the professors about my experiences. This ultimately helped me navigate my career as a woman of color and deal with various issues that arise for people of color in the workplace. Additionally, I spent a year working at the disaster mental health institute which was an incredibly unique and wonderful experience. I learned unique skills and had the opportunity to work on a national hotline sponsored by USD’s clinical psych program and the American Red Cross, amongst other opportunities.

My favorite part about USD were the professors. They were incredibly competent, demanded a high level of professionalism but were also very personable and eager to mentor the students and create a warm atmosphere. I was initially worried about the training opportunities given the rural environment. However, when I interviewed for internships at the end of my graduate education, in Chicago and the New York area, I was just as competitive as other students from those areas and many times more competitive given my varied training experiences, solid clinical supervision and high number of clinical hours under my belt.

My most inspiring professor was Barbara Yutrzenka, Ph.D., the director of the clinical psychology training program. She was someone many of us, including myself looked up to. She was incredibly busy given her responsibilities within the university as well as her professional development pursuits beyond the university. Somehow, not only did she keep the program running very smoothly, she always made time to mentor students and encourage their interests. For example, I had an interest in advocacy and she encouraged me to become involved with the SD State Psychological Association. This lead to me engaging in advocacy work as a grad student with the American Psychological Association. The love for advocacy has stayed with me, and as a result I am now very active regarding issues of health care reform within my state psychological association as well as the national level.

I am currently in private practice in Poughkeepsie, NY providing psychotherapy as a clinical and health psychologist. I also provide executive coaching to those in leadership positions and provide consulting around healthcare issues.

My advice to those looking to seek a degree in clinical psychology is to remember that given the rigors of the clinical psychology doctoral program, it’s tempting to try and just meet the requirements and graduate. However, this particular program offers wonderful mentoring opportunities and ways to get involved in varying opportunities that are rewarding. Take advantage of doing as much as you can.

“My favorite part about USD were the professors.”

Melissa Hiller Lauby - San Diego, CA
Major: Clinical Psychology

When it was time for me to choose a graduate program I was impressed by the personal dedication of the faculty to its students at USD. The faculty were dedicated to ensuring that students met their academic goals and created numerous personal opportunities for me to gain knowledge and experience in my areas of interest.

As an active duty member of the US Navy, I had the opportunity to evaluate prospective intern applicants from across the country. When I compare the clinical and personal learning opportunities that were provided to many of the applicants I have interviewed over the years, I am constantly validated that my alma mater offers a top rate education, clinical supervision and graduate assistantship opportunities seldom offered by other programs.

Throughout my time at USD I was very involved in several of the programs within the department. Being a part of the Disaster Mental Health Institute enabled me to participate in several unique training experiences that included a summer internship in the Disaster Mental Health Department of the National Headquarters of American Red Cross. I also had the opportunity to participate in two national level disaster mental health operations, attend an international Red Cross and Red Crescent conference, and a summer research exchange opportunity with disaster specialists at a university in New Zealand.

In addition to my studies, I was able to be involved both in the Ally Group and in the BRIDGES organization and attend the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity. Together these experiences gave me not only the nuts and bolts of clinical practice, but enabled me to see the psychology field from a wider perspective. As I've created my own professional identity, these experiences provided in my training enabled me to have the confidence needed to very quickly step into leadership positions within the Navy Clinical Psychology Field and prepared to deal with intricate clinical issues in challenging circumstances.

I am currently a board certified, licensed psychologist in the state of Hawaii. I am serving as a clinical psychologist in the United States Navy where I specialize in assessment and selection of special duty positions, resiliency and mental toughness, and the treatment and prevention of stress related injuries and disorders.

Shannon McCaslin“The attention to diversity and opportunity to receive world class training in disaster mental health made an impact on my experience and future career choices.”

Shannon McCaslin - Amasa, MI
Major: Clinical Psychology, Clinical Disaster Psychology

USD made an impression not only because of the rich academic program but also because it clearly had a uniquely warm and supportive community. During my undergraduate studies I was part of a research team conducting cross-cultural mental health research. I was inspired to continue in this field by the important questions asked and difference the team was making in mental health.

Gerard Jacob's mentorship and dedication to helping those impacted by disaster and trauma was inspirational. My training in the Disaster Mental Health Institute, including the opportunities to train with the American Red Cross, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, influenced my decision to focus my career largely in the area of trauma.

I had the opportunity to train at the Ho-Chunk Neenk-Chunk Ho-Chee, Inc., Winnebago Youth Facility, working with Native American youth. This experience was one of the most meaningful and personally impactful training experiences that I had while at USD.

I also interned at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and did a Postdoctoral Fellowship with the University of California, San Francisco. These experiences led to my current position as a licensed psychologist and researcher at the National Center for PTSD, Dissemination and Training Division, VA Palo Alto HCS and Assistant Professor (vol) at the University of California, San Francisco.