Featured Alum: Kersha Richard ’21
I am a Jamaican-American first generation alum married mother of two daughters, Shantae and Somer. As an adult learner, I started my academic pursuit at Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York and graduated with Honors with an Associate degree in Science, Psychology in 2019.
Upon graduation from MCC, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in psychology at SUNY Brockport, Honors College. While at Brockport, I interned at Monroe County Department of Probation and was a featured intern on the Psychology department Facebook page. I presented my Honors thesis at Brockport on Scholar’s Day, 2021. I worked hard, making the President’s List in Spring of 2020 and 2021 and procuring a spot on the Dean’s list for all other semesters. All the while, working nights as a mail handler at the United States Postal Service (USPS) to be able to fund my career goal of becoming a counseling psychologist.
Upon completing my Bachelor’s degree, and after being rejected from a PhD counseling psychology program, I decided to pursue a Masters in Social Work. In May of 2021, I graduated with my Bachelor’s in Science Degree, Magna Cum Laude; in May of 2023, I graduated with my Masters in Social Work, 3.92 GPA.
I was awarded the 2021 Adult Psychology student of the year, 2021 Thomas C.’ 63 and Judy Diederich Scholarship and Karen Schuhle-Williams Exemplary Adult Student Scholarship for two consecutive years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 from the Brockport Scholarship foundation. I was also awarded the Outstanding CSTEP Scholar Award at the SUNY Brockport award ceremony in April of 2022.
During my graduate years, I received multiple scholarships from the Rochester Area Community Scholarship Foundation. For two consecutive years, 2021 and 2022, I was awarded the Clarke Family Scholarship. Additionally, I received the “Do it 4 Ur Kids Scholarship” from same foundation in 2022. During this time I interned at Monroe -2 Boces in Spencerport, New York as a School Social Worker, and as a Housing Specialist and Housing Stability Coordinator at Person Centered Housing Options in Rochester, New York.
Please describe your path from SUNY Brockport to your current position.
After graduating from SUNY Brockport with a Master’s degree in May of 2023, I started my career path as a Behavior Specialist at Empowering People’s Independence (EPI) in Rochester, New York.
During the final year of grad school, cohorts started to apply for positions and were getting job offers, so I thought I would give it a try. The week before graduation, I received a call from the hiring manager at EPI to come in for an interview. During the time of the phone call, I was in the middle of completing final assignments and asked to be interviewed after finals week. The Monday following graduation, I interviewed and was offered the position as the Behavior Specialist. This position was ideal for me. Both my undergraduate degree in psychology and Masters in social work would be used effectively in this position.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned while at SUNY Brockport?
As an adult learner who is married with two children and employed as a Mail Handler for the USPS, balancing time and prioritizing tasks and assignments were important. I had to learn to balance work, life and school. Another important lesson learned while at SUNY Brockport is not to be a perfectionist. I am an overachiever and A’s were my goal in every course. While at Brockport, one of the most valuable lessons I learned was not to focus on A’s, but to understand the content in the course. In psychology, it’s not about remembering the material line for line, but to understand the concepts well and to apply them when questions are asked in a scenario form. Please focus on the content and spend time understanding the concepts, you will eventually get an A in the course.
What is your favorite memory from your time at SUNY Brockport?
My favorite memory at SUNY Brockport was being able to go to my professors after an exam. My visit was always to determine why my answers were incorrect and I listened carefully to the reasons behind the correct choice. This technique helped with understanding the questions and learning the concepts to know what answers were expected.
What advice would you give to current SUNY Brockport students? Any special advice for our psychology majors?
My advice to current SUNY Brockport students is that most opportunities come but once - seize it. You cannot get back wasted time, so use your time wisely. Have a goal and work towards it. Pursue your passion. The joy you get from the career you are pursuing will surpass the importance of money. Money is important, and you need it, but you cannot buy happiness and/or the gratification you receive when you see the lives of individuals you serve transform because of your impact.
What learned skills and/or experiences from your time at SUNY Brockport were the most transferable or useful in your current position?
The courses, Applied Behavior Analysis, Principles of Psychology, Learning, Social Psychology, Clinical Psychology, research experiences, Human Behavior and Social Environment, and Social Work Assessment and Brief Interventions were all transferable and useful in my current position. The content learned in psychology courses was both relevant and applicable to my new position as a Behavior Specialist. Additionally, the person-centered perspective, viewing the person as a whole, and social work course have been invaluable when writing Behavior Support Plans.
I often struggled with the frustration of working on group projects at Brockport due to at least one team member who would fail to do their part. I learned that collaborating with peers in a group project teaches you how to work with a diverse group of individuals such as those who you are sure to encounter as part of the workforce. I learned that it’s not about who does what, it’s about getting the job done and not expecting to be highlighted for your efforts. My greatest reward is seated in the service I provide to the individuals I meet daily.
Please describe any challenge/obstacle you faced while at or since leaving SUNY Brockport and how you overcame/dealt with it.
Lack of sleep!!! Working nights and attending classes during the day left little time for sleep. Quickly recovering from nodding out during class made me realize that, regardless of the sleepless nights, I was determined to complete my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in 4 years, and with the help of the Lord, Jesus Christ, I achieved my goal.
Another challenge I encountered was financing my Master’s degree. Thankfully, kind donors from the Brockport Scholarship foundation and the Rochester Area Community Scholarship fund made it possible to graduate without student debt. I am forever grateful to these donors, and for the recommendations for the scholarships from Ms. Helen Cheves from the CSTEP/ McNair program, and from Dr. Jan Gillespie and Dr. Jennifer Ratcliff, both from the psychology department.
As a transfer student from Monroe Community College, it was challenging to get into a research lab at SUNY Brockport. However, after sharing with Dr. Mary Tiede, one of my psychology capstone professors, Dr. Tiede gave me the opportunity to get a semester of research experience, thank you Dr. Tiede.
Applying for PhD in counseling psychology at another SUNY College was very challenging because of the lack of research experience. Even though I had a 4.0 GPA at the time of her application, research experience outweighed the academic performance, and I was not accepted in the program. I have decided to pursue research opportunities prior to reapplying to other PHD programs.
I am forever grateful to Dr. Peggy Lane, SUNY Brockport MSW department, and Dr. Jan Gillespie and Dr. Laurel McNall, from the psychology department, who always provided recommendations for the PhD programs.