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Interview with Angela Pia (2008)

Rachel Schein (RS): My name is Rachel Schein and I am 2nd year student at GIPP. Today I am talking with Angela Pia, also a 2nd year student at GIPP. So Angela, tell us a little bit about yourself, for example where are you from, where did you grow up, go to college, etc?

Angela Pia (AP): I grew up in Newington CT, but I was born in VT. So I’m from CT originally, and then after I graduated I moved to New Haven and then I started going to Southern Connecticut State University.  I started going to school part time and working full time, I was probably about 18. And then I moved back home to this area and I finished my undergrad at central. I majored in Psychology and minored in criminal justice.

RS: What are your personal interests outside of psychology?

AP: My boyfriend and my family, but it’s limited outside of psychology currently.

RS: So why did you choose GIPP?

AP: Well, originally, I knew I wanted to do a PsyD program and not a PhD and I was working full time at Wheeler Clinic when I started the program, and I didn’t want to leave my job. So I applied here and I was a little apprehensive about a doctoral program in general, and then when I came for the open house, I liked the other students that I spoke with.  And then when I came for the interviews, I really liked the staff a lot. I liked the diversity.  It’s still limited but there’s more diversity, and just how real everybody was. People were just out there, this is how I am…and that is how I am, so I liked it.

RS: What do you do outside of the program?  Do you work?  Do you volunteer?

AP: I work 20 hours a week, I do quality assurance for community justice programs around the state. Basically, people that are on probation or pre-trial are sent to alternative incarceration centers or juvenile risk reduction centers and there is staff there that deliver motivational interviewing and other interventions like VOICES, and I quality assure those interventions. People send me their tapes, I watch them at home, I score them, come up with strengths and areas for improvement, and then I go out to the programs around the state and give them feedback and work with them.

RS: So I’m assuming, given that you work, that you have found that you can make money while in grad school?

AP: Yeah.

RS: Within psychology, what are your interests?

AP: Adults, primarily. I like adolescents too.  My interests are trauma, diagnoses and how they overlap, especially Axis II with Axis I and distinguishing between them.  That’s what my dissertation is about. Specifically, borderline personality disorder, and trauma, and bipolar disorder, and how they all look very similar.

RS: What were your expectations of the program when coming in?

AP: That’s a really hard question. To be honest with you I really didn’t know what to expect.  I was completely terrified before we started classes.  It’s such an ominous thing, starting a doctoral program. Expectations in classes?  I expected more critical thinking and conversation rather than lecturing, which is what I’ve found. Use of clinical examples to illustrate clinical concepts that are being presented, which is also what I’ve found, and I’ve found that very helpful in learning.

RS: How was the transition for you from undergraduate to graduate school?

AP: Well, there was a little bit of a lapse there.  I actually started another graduate program before I came here. I went to John Jay and commuted.  I worked full time and commuted to John Jay in Manhattan once a week and took two classes. I was there for two semesters and then I realized that it was all very much assessment and no clinical utility, so I wasn’t really interested in that. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do. So that’s when I started looking into doctoral programs. But grad school in comparison to undergrad. I remember that I always did really well in undergrad, and, when I got my first report paper back at John Jay and there was red all over it, it was a shot to my ego.  But then I started to look at it differently. I’ve learned so much more in grad school then in undergraduate.

RS: What have you liked best about the program so far?

AP: The practical experience. I kind of had the benefit of working with clients even my first year, so a lot of the things we were learning in classes I was seeing differently in my work with clients on a day to day basis. I think that’s what I’ve liked most is to actually see what I’m learning in class play out in real time and in real life. I love the instructors here; they are all very approachable, very nice. The classes are interesting.  I mean they’re long but it goes by relatively quickly. The teaching style, the fact that everybody knows my name

RS: What are the strengths of the program?

AP: I would say the diversity class. The way that you’re forced to think about yourself as well and how that will impact you as a clinician. The clinical examples to highlight concepts.

RS: What could be improved?

AP: I understand why it doesn’t happen, but I think that pre-practicum should be a requirement to have interactions with clients in your first year. Just because everything makes a lot more sense when you’re doing a practicum. It can be really abstract when you’re talking about things in class, but when you actually see them, it’s very different.

RS: How would you describe the student/ faculty relationship?

AP: Very open door policy; I’ve always felt very comfortable contacting faculty if I needed something.

RS: Do you have a faculty member that you would consider a mentor?

AP: I love Dr. McCloskey, I just think she’s great.

RS: How would you describe the relationships between the students?

AP: I think across classes the mentoring in the beginning is helpful because it kind of hooks you up with someone in the year ahead, and I find that it was helpful for me. But because our classes tend to be on different days and at different times, we don’t get to see them as much. Within the class it’s pretty tight knit.  Everybody knows each other pretty well; the level of comfort is there.

RS: How do you think the program’s commitment to diversity is manifested?

AP: In every class, which is good. My diversity class with Dr. McCloskey has helped me to think about things in different ways than before and learn more about myself than ever before. It’s been a unique and enlightening educational experience.

RS: What has been your most rewarding experience in the program?

AP: Finishing Quals.

RS: And how about your most challenging?

AP: Quals

RS: Where do you see yourself after graduating from GIPP?

AP: Practicing psychology, where I don’t really know. Populationwise, I really like putting my time and energy into underserved populations. People who don’t have money tend to get practicum students as clinicians instead of high quality clinicians, because you and I can afford to pay for high quality services and they can’t, and I’ve always felt very strongly about that.

RS: Where do you live?

AP: I live in Newington, just bought a condo, and I like the area.

RS: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

AP: I don’t think so.

RS: Thank you very much.