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Why I Chose Yale

My Background

My name is Keisha. My primary placement is at The Consultation Center (TCC) and my secondary placement is at the West Haven Mental Health Clinic, Child and Adolescent Service. I grew up in New Jersey and attended Princeton University, where I majored in Psychology. Following college, I attended the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where I focused on criminal law and family law, and developed a passion for helping underserved individuals navigate the justice system. After law school, I worked at the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender where I represented adults and youth in criminal matters. This experience taught me that systemic issues have a strong impact on trajectories for justice involved individuals and that early interventions may help to divert these individuals away from justice involvement. Because I wanted to contribute to research to inform justice system policy and practices, I decided to attend Drexel University to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology, with a forensic concentration. My research interests focus on interactions between police and their communities and racial and ethnic disparities in policing. I am committed to research that helps to elevate community voices and improve outcomes for at-risk and justice involved individuals.

Why I Chose Yale

When I first started looking at internship sites, I was very focused on returning home, and had sworn that I would only apply to sites in New Jersey or New York. I stumbled across the Consultation Center serendipitously, early on in my internship site search, and when I discovered it I was so excited because very few sites provide an exposure to community psychology, consultation, and systems-level work in the way that the program at Yale does. As a graduate student, I often felt that there were so many different things I wanted to do in my future career but it always felt like I would have to pick and choose, but could not do them all. Interviewing at Yale and meeting the faculty showed me that there is a way to effectively combine all my interests into an applied research career committed to community-based and systems level work. I was excited about the mentored projects available at TCC and how, as a fellow, you have autonomy to pursue projects that align with your specific interests. There are also ample opportunities to get engaged in work in areas that are new to you, which is something I really valued. I was also excited about the opportunity to work in a community-based setting committed to working in collaboration with and empowering community members. Ultimately, based on the skills I wanted to develop and the experiences I wanted exposure to, choosing Yale and the Consultation Center was a no-brainer for me.

My Professional Activities

My schedule as a fellow differed week to week, which is definitely something I gravitated toward when looking at internship sites. I always felt I would get bored doing the same thing every day, and I am definitely not bored as a fellow at Yale!

My time at the Consultation Center was split between two projects. In my work with Dr. Gordon, I participated in the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee (JJPOC) and Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED) Workgroup. As part of this project, I developed skills in coalition development with state agencies; gained exposure to the role of psychologists in making legislative, practice, and intervention recommendations at the state policy level; and worked collaboratively with justice system stakeholders to define and propose strategies to address disproportionate contact experienced by youth of color. I presented research and practice recommendations to the RED workgroup focused on integrating models of juvenile justice to best serve at-risk and justice involved youth and developed these recommendations into a manuscript. In my work with Dr. Kaufman I helped to support the CMHC Consumer Research team, a CBPR partnership with adult recipients of behavioral health services. I developed skills in the development of focus group questions and facilitating groups, training community researchers, and in coding and analyzing qualitative data. I also developed and engaged in my own qualitative research project with service providers in a community-based organization, which we will publish as a manuscript. Each of these projects allowed me to gain better exposure to the diversity within Connecticut, the resources available within communities and systems, and the challenges faced by the individuals who interact with these systems.

On Mondays and half-day on Wednesdays, I worked at the WHMHC on the Child and Adolescent Service. I provided individual therapy to 4 child clients, in addition to an assessment case, provided parent training, attended treatment team meetings, and collaboratively worked with other child systems, like schools and social services. This experience allowed me to grow as an independent clinician and challenged me to be creative to help my clients achieve the best outcomes. Similar to my work in the justice system, this experience helped me better understand how individuals’ life experiences and circumstances influence their trajectories in life and where interventions can work to help set kids up for better outcomes.

My Favorite Things to do in/around New Haven

I really enjoyed trying new over the weekend, including Thai, Mexican, BBQ, Colombian, Indian, Italian, and the list goes on! There are also a lot of great sweet treats to enjoy, including Donut Crazy, Milkcraft, and Arethusa. New Haven has a very diverse food scene and there are no limits to options to try. In terms of things to do, I loved going to see movies with friends from the cohort or hanging out at fellows’ places for game nights. Similar to the food scene, there is an abundance of activities around the area. While I am mostly a homebody, I’ve been invited out to try roller derby and even aerial arts with friends from the cohort, and had a lot of fun! If you have an activity you enjoy currently, I doubt you will have trouble finding it in New Haven.

Final Thoughts

I have really enjoyed my time on internship and have especially appreciated the friendships I have made. I love having a big cohort with people from so many different walks of life and backgrounds. We have people who bake for us, hook us up with fun things to do in the area, are there for us in times of need, and who contribute to great inside jokes. The mentorship I have had has also been extremely meaningful to me and I know I will keep in touch with the faculty for many years to come. My internship year at Yale has helped me grow in my confidence and excitement for my future work, while fostering my skills and interests in a warm and inviting environment, for which I am truly grateful.