Alumni Success Story: Patrick Davies

Patrick Davies headshot
Hear from alum Patrick Davies ’90 about his time at SUNY Brockport and his career path since graduation.

Patrick Davies ’90 is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester. His area of study is centered around understanding relationships between family processes, child coping and adaptation to stress, and child psychological adjustment and maladjustment. He is particularly interested in understating the nature, precursors, and consequences of children’s responses to familial and interpersonal difficulties. He received his Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from West Virginia University in 1995 and is an author of over 180 publications including four authored books and monographs. Patrick has served as an associate editor and editorial board member of several scientific journals and as a member and chair of federal scientific review panels. He is the recipient of research and teaching awards including the American Psychological Association Mary Ainsworth Award for Excellence in Developmental Science.

Patrick has been married for over 25 years and has a daughter. In his spare time, he likes to spend time with family, run, play pool, do landscaping and stonework, and watch college football and basketball.

We recently chatted with Patrick about his experiences at the college and as a psychology major. Below you will find what he shared with us.

What is your current position and what do you find the most fulfilling about it?

I am currently a Professor of Psychology at the University of Rochester. I think the fulfilling part of my job is having the freedom to become involved in work that I think is important and interesting. Many academics and scientists work long hours, but the latitude to pursue your passion is something that is very rewarding and outweighs, at least for me, the time commitment. So, it feels more like a calling than a job. For me, the opportunity to acquire, generate, and share knowledge on topics that are relevant to improving the welfare of children and families is something that gets me up and moving.

Please describe your path from SUNY Brockport to your current position.

I transferred to SUNY Brockport after my first year because I couldn’t afford the tuition at the other college. Although one of the main reasons for my transfer was so I could commute from home and get a job to pay for books and tuition, it ended up being a great move for other important reasons. The faculty were so engaged in undergraduate training and offered so many different learning experiences both inside and outside the classroom. Through their encouragement and support, I was able to conduct small independent research projects and serve as an intern on a University of Rochester Medical Center project involving SUNY Brockport and the University of Rochester faculty.

After graduating from SUNY Brockport in 1990, I served as a camp counselor in Pittsburgh for a summer treatment program that was designed to help children with ADHD and other disruptive behavior problems. Like most goals that are worthwhile, my route to graduate school after the summer internship was not easy. I couldn’t decide between pursuing a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology or Clinical Psychology when I was a senior. So, I ended up applying to both programs. In the end, the decision was made for me: although I was not admitted to any of the Clinical Psychology Programs from my group of schools, I was admitted to the Developmental Psychology Programs. So, the rejections from the Clinical Psychology Programs were a blessing in disguise because they gave me an opportunity to focus on developing my research and teaching skills. I ended up attending graduate school at West Virginia University and graduated with a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology in 1995. After graduation, I took a post-doctoral research scientist at the Research Institute on Addictions in Buffalo. Finally, in 1997, I started my current a position as a professor at the University of Rochester.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned while at SUNY Brockport?

To be confident in my abilities. I think it is natural for people to experience the imposter syndrome as they go through college and beyond. And I was definitely one of those people.

I was not born with an academic silver spoon in my mouth so college was completely foreign to me. But, the faculty and the students I worked with were supportive and encouraging. For me, SUNY Brockport provided a comfortable, caring environment that helped me to gain more confidence in myself to persist in the face of challenges and failures and try to make a mark on the world for the better.

What is your favorite memory from your time at SUNY Brockport?

As a commuter to campus, my favorite memories were working with the faculty and other students on joint research projects. The hands-on experiences provided a great way to get to know everybody at a deeper level and cooperate as a team toward a larger, common goal. If I had to pick a specific research experience, I would say it was working as an intern on a developmental disabilities project headed up by a SUNY Brockport professor (the late Dr. Stuart Appelle) and University of Rochester Medical Center researcher Dr. Phil Davidson. They made the whole process of learning about research fun and interesting.

What advice would you give to current SUNY Brockport students? Any special advice for our psychology majors?

Unless you’re born super rich or win the lottery, you are most likely going to be spending more of your waking hours working than any other activity. So, take the time to find a major and career that you love. Don’t let money, prestige, or social pressure from others be a deciding factor in the trajectory you forge for yourself. If you are passionate about a topic, area of study, or profession, you’ll end up immersing yourself in it in a way where earning a living and any of the other pressures you face will have a way of resolving themselves.

For psychology majors, I think it’s important to be flexible and patient in exploring all the options that psychology has to offer. There are so many different ways that you can apply the knowledge and skills that you learn in your major. So, beyond coursework, try to take advantage of as many of the teaching, research, applied, and service experiences that Brockport has to offer. From these experiences, you will learn a lot about what areas of psychology are interesting to you and which ones are not. Even the experiences that are less interesting to you in the moment are useful in helping to shape and refine your career interests and skills. As a result, this process is more like a long, winding marathon than a quick, straight sprint.

What learned skills and/or experiences from your time at SUNY Brockport were the most transferable or useful in your current position?

For me, the courses and experiences at SUNY Brockport were invaluable in helping me to learn how to flexibly solve problems. Through the different experiences inside and outside the classroom, I learned the value of understanding and incorporating different perspectives and sides to problems into possible solutions. Learning how to think openly and critically is fundamental to characterizing and solving social and physical problems in inclusive ways. It’s a key means toward trying to contribute to a better world.

Anything else you would like to share?

I just want to thank all of the faculty who were so helpful to me when I was at SUNY Brockport and beyond. The list is by no means exhaustive, but there were a number of people who were influential in my time at Brockport including Professors Appelle, Davidson, Fink, Gravetter, Griffith, Hjelle, Pinckney, and Vasta in Psychology, Professor Lashbrook in Sociology, and Professor Northrop in Computer Science. As a clear sign of my old age, all of the people I mention except Professor Lashbrook are no longer at SUNY Brockport.

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Posted: November 15, 2021