The Wright State University School of Professional Psychology (SOPP) celebrated the graduation of 20 students at its 2022 commencement ceremony on July 15 in the Student Union Apollo Room.
This was the last time SOPP will hold a separate commencement ceremony since the school merged with other units to form the College of Health, Education and Human Services. The college, which opened at the start of the Fall 2021 Semester, includes undergraduate and graduate programs in nursing, kinesiology and health, professional psychology, social work, human services, teacher education and leadership studies in education and organizations.
LaTrelle Jackson, Ph.D., former interim dean of the School of Professional Psychology, said that for this reason the 2022 commencement ceremony is extra special.
“While I am excited for the graduates, I am also pleased that our society will have a new group of clinical psychologists to address the many needs that exist today,” she said. “I can’t think of a better time to have our graduates begin their careers. Our students have been equipped to make a positive impact on the world. The global landscape is theirs to influence in powerful ways. It is time for them to utilize the skills they have acquired to find solutions to problems, facilitate healing for the wounded, advocate for those who are disenfranchised, and lead the path for equity, inclusion and equality. I wish them well as they find their corner of the world to create their legacy.”
Michelle S. Schultz, Psy.D., who will serve as the new chair of the School of Professional Psychology, said that as a faculty member, administrator and alumna of the school, she looks forward to the graduation ceremony each year.
“There seems to be a special energy that day — a mix of excitement, hope, pride and gratitude,” she said. “It is also a time for the graduates to not only reflect on all their hard work and accomplishments during their time at SOPP but on their future contributions to their communities as clinical psychologists. Events over the last few years have highlighted and reinforced the role clinical psychologists can play in addressing societal challenges and health and wellness needs.”
James Denniston, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health, Education and Human Services, also addressed the graduates, discussing the integration of the school into the new college. He said that bringing together Wright State’s health-related and educational programs will help to foster interprofessional collaboration.
“Our discipline exemplifies the commitment to lifelong learning that is informed by the scientific literature across the health-related disciplines,” said Dennison, who was a professor of psychology at Appalachian State before joining Wright State. “These are the core values of health service psychology, and they are well aligned with the vision of the new College of Health, Education and Human Services, where we bring together psychologists, nurses, educators, counselors and social workers to meet the needs of our community.”
Wright State Provost Amy Thompson, Ph.D., shared with the graduates life lessons she learned throughout her career, encouraging them to work through setbacks and mistakes by reflecting on them and striving to become better. She encouraged them to find mentors, treat others with kindness and respect as well as to practice a growth mindset that keeps them moving forward.
“You are about to start your life with a blank canvas. You can paint it any way you want, make it a masterpiece,” Thompson said.
The keynote speaker for this year’s graduation ceremony was Hector Y. Adames, Psy.D., a Wright State graduate who cofounded and codirects the IC-RACE Lab (Immigration Critical Race and Cultural Equity Lab). He investigates and develops frameworks and interventions designed to promote and support the psychological wellness of Black, Indigenous and people of color.
Among his many accolades, Adames received the 2018 Distinguished Emerging Professional Research Award from The Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity and Race, a division of the American Psychology Association and the 2020 Distinguished Star Vega Award from the National Latinx Psychological Association. Adames has also authored over 30 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in top-tier journals, including the American Psychologist.
Student speaker Sara Martinko also addressed her fellow graduates about the growth that they have experienced through the years.
“We’ve learned to grow, communicate, collaborate and support each other when sometimes it feels like no one else will,” Martinko said. “Looking around the room here, I see exponential growth in all of my fellow graduates. From day one to where we are today, I never would have expected to see in front of me such a wide range of early career psychologists. Regardless of where you go on from here to work, what’s important now is what you choose to do with the knowledge you’ve gained.”
During the ceremony, the following student awards were presented:
The Dean’s Award: David Oblinger
The Excellence in the General Practice of Psychology Award: Courtney Yahle
E. Scott Redman Community Service Award: Amandalee Higgs
Omintha R. Petrie Diversity Award: Tiphani Moss
Diversity and Inclusion Award: Laura Sowers