by Mellisha Bedminster, '11, Psy.D. '18
I fell in love with psychology at Loyola as an undergraduate student. I enrolled with the full intention of becoming a medical doctor and quickly realized my passion for the helping profession aligned with psychology much more than it did with medicine. When I decided to earn my doctorate in psychology, I knew I wanted Loyola to be the place where I developed the skills to be a doctoral level clinician. After obtaining my Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology, I returned home. That’s what Loyola has become for me—a home away from home. As I prepared for my return, I was surprised to learn that I would be coming back with an extra piece of baggage. I would begin Loyola’s Psy.D. program about eight months pregnant. Confused and concerned about my plans to embark upon my doctoral journey, I informed the program of my pregnancy. I knew I made the right choice to return to Loyola when I spoke with Dr. Lyons about my situation and her sole interest was to support me in whichever decision I made regarding motherhood and completing the program. That support continued throughout my tenure as a Psy.D. student at Loyola.
The support of the faculty was a fundamental reason for choosing Loyola once again and also what made it possible to make the most of my doctoral story. One of the best aspects of the Psy.D. program at Loyola is that each student is able to create their own unique journey. This was very important for me given my circumstances upon entering the program. Loyola’s well-established partnerships with a wide array of practicum sites and their willingness to vet new sites were crucial in my ability to find placements that were suitable for both my interests and my needs as a mom. I was able to secure practicum and research opportunities that aligned with my interests, improved my clinical skills, and established me as a competitive candidate for internship. Serving as an extern at three distinct sites was invaluable. My work with a wider array of clients doing both assessment and therapy improved my clinical skills exponentially. As I thought about potential placements and my skill development, there was supportive faculty always eager and ready to discuss the best options based on my needs. Faculty members were always open to discussing their own experiences of juggling careers and parenthood and having to make choices that fit both career and family.
These conversations made me feel empowered and that my experience was understood. This type of support also afforded insights needed to figure out how to be successful academically and be an active graduate student. In addition to juggling motherhood and being a student, I was also a graduate assistant for Student Life, a Division 19 Campus Representative, and part of the student initiative: Cultural Competency Advisory Board (CCAB). As a graduate assistant, I lived on campus among the undergraduate residents and held several responsibilities included supervising a staff, attending meeting and programs, and being on a duty rotation. As a campus representative and board member, I assisted with program planning and execution and attended meetings among other obligations.
I was often asked about my ability to balance all responsibilities and maintain good academic standing. I chose activities and positions that were of genuine interest and flexible enough to not interfere with my primary responsibilities—being the best mom and student. It was difficult to scale back, but I learned the value of prioritizing and firsthand practice in making those decisions faculty members discussed. I was also able to successfully balance all my obligations through advocating for myself and being vocal to all respective parties about my capabilities and any limitations. These are skills I continue to practice as a clinical intern and skills that I see as vital for being a successful early career provider.
My experience at Loyola as a doctoral student was tremendously different from my first four years. I planned on returning and forging a trail similar that of my undergraduate career—academically successful and very involved in leadership and extracurricular opportunities. However, my life circumstances did not align with this plan. Openness with the faculty made it possible for me to have an experience that was still fulfilling. I forged a path balancing my most important role of mother with academia and leadership. Every day at Loyola was not easy nor positive. Nevertheless, I chose to rise above the hard times and focus on the positive in order to be satisfied with my journey and look back at this time in my life with appreciation. I chose Loyola because it felt like home and was reaffirmed in my decision with my ability to create a doctoral experience that provided me with opportunities to develop personally and professionally. Loyola allowed me to have a priceless and unforgettable four years where I truly believed the Jesuit value of cura personalis was exhibited by the faculty. My entire identity was important, and care not never just placed on being a student but rather how could I be a successful mother, student, and young professional. For this, I am forever grateful. Thank you, Loyola, for another four years of growth, development, and building lifelong relationships.