Ph.D., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
M.S., University of Kentucky
B.S., Tougaloo College
My love for mental health and taking care of the mentally ill started after I graduated from college and from my first job working in a group home for adults diagnosed with serious mental illnesses. I have followed this love for the mentally ill for well more than a decade as I have worked in almost every area of the helping field, hoping to make people’s lives better, alleviate their distress, help them solve problems and deal with the symptoms of their mental illness, and nurse them back to reality and/or sobriety. Most importantly, from these experiences I learned the critical role that family and having good family relationships play in all that we do.
I always joke to people that I must have been a prisoner in my former lifebecause of my obsession with all things related to prisons and prisoners. As a mental health counselor at a medium-security prison, I spent hours observing visitation time and watching families interact with their incarcerated loved ones. It was heartbreaking to watch young men "do their time," leave the prison and know the type of restricted world they and their families would be rejoining. How could I be optimistic when the odds of successfully maintaining their freedom were stacked against them? How did family members help or hurt the inmate in maintaining his freedom?
Thus, my research interests focus on families, prisoner re-entry and the mentally ill.
My voyage from clinician to professor was an unlikely one. I wanted to be a licensed clinician, conduct research on the side and save the world "in the trenches" and not from the "ivory tower." As a graduate student instructor during and after the tragic shooting on April 16, 2007, at Virginia Tech, I not only had the job of keeping myself together, but I had 45 undergraduates who were relying on my leadership to overcome the effects of the event. I’ll never forget when the class finally met for the first time after the shooting; I had sent an e-mail saying that they didn’t have to show up if they didn’t want to, but I would be there if they needed anything, for closure, for a hug or just not be alone. They all showed up, and I knew on that day that my work in the classroom was not complete.
I am very happy to be a part of the UB family and to prepare the next set of professionals in human services because I believe the field is absolutely rewarding and ready for new minds to tackle the problems facing families of today.