One of the highlight annual events of the academic year at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology is the gathering of family and friends at the start of the fall semester where faculty, staff and students from the school come together to welcome the incoming first-year students and their families.
This year’s meeting on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, was especially poignant given the pandemic challenges faced by the University over the last 20 months.
Dr. Leslie Halpern, dean of Ferkauf, kicked off the event with a heartfelt welcome to one and all. “Ferkauf has long history of preparing students for careers in mental health that are focused on promoting the well-being of others, going back to the 1940s,” Dr. Halpern noted, adding that because COVID-19 heightened stress, anxiety and social isolation among people from all walks of life, “now especially, the need for mental health providers has never been greater.”
“You are a select group of students,” Dr. Halpern said with evident pride, “and by having chosen Ferkauf, you now join our family as well as thousands of our alumni.”
After Dr. “Lu” Steinberg, chair of the Ferkauf Board of Overseers, added her words of praise and appreciation, four current students stepped up to speak to the new cohort about the pressures and pleasures of studying at Ferkauf.
Keara Mageras, a fourth-year student in the Clinical Psychology Psy.D. Program, recalled that when she first got to Ferkauf, “I knew I wanted to be a psychologist [and] be a part of a community. Beyond that, I needed to figure it out on the go. And I’m lucky because Ferkauf has offered the perfect place to do that.” Although, as she noted, feeling insecure and anxious is a rite of passage as a graduate student, “I must admit that with each new experience, I was surprised by how empowered and prepared I felt to tackle the next step of the journey. I can confidently say: trust the process. You’re in good hands.”
Daniel Best, a second-year student in the M.A. in Mental Health Counseling, recalled the uncertainties he felt moving from his home in Canada to come to a school in the United States during the pandemic. But he found, when he got to Ferkauf, that “I immediately knew that I was in good hands.” He especially appreciated how Ferkauf gave him both a solid grounding in theory and multiple opportunities—through internships, teaching and therapeutic practice—to put that theory to the test. “Thank you to Ferkauf for helping shape who I will become as a future psychologist.”
Sheena Starr, a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology (Health Emphasis) program, found that the gantlet thrown down by the pandemic brought out the best in the school because that “best” was always in the Ferkauf community: “we responded quickly and transitioned to remote learning; we resumed class and supported each other; many of my peers and alumni volunteered for the COVID-19 hotline to support our community: we were together, even when we weren’t.” Her counsel to the new students came straight out of that experience of what she called “the importance of human connection”: “reach out to each other, support each other, learn from each other [and] extend the dialogue of how to increase access to care, social equality, and overall well-being within our communities.”
Roseanne Milman, a fourth-year student in the School Clinical Psy.D. program, spoke of how the “compassion, empathy, and guidance that all the faculty provided” helped her find the training she required to develop her clinical interests and meet her needs as a clinician. “Our faculty members continue to be an integral part of our training, and I am confident that my experiences in this program will be mirrored for all the new graduate students here today.”
The day ended with two sample classes, and participants could choose which one to attend. Dr. Kenneth Critchfield taught about love and psychotherapy, and Dr. Jonathan Feldman took the attendees through how to prepare to see a patient for the first time.