Class of 2013 Faculty Development Fund

Dr. Michelle Clark
Department of Psychology
College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences

A class gift is a student body’s way of not only leaving behind a campus legacy, but also of thanking the University and faculty for classroom and life lessons learned. Many gifts are often tangible items such as furniture, artwork or lab equipment. For the Class of 2013, however, the goal was more lofty: a gift that better reflected their CNU experience and their embrace of leadership, scholarship and service, something that would recognize in others what the students had learned to find within themselves.

The Class of 2013 collected a record amount of support from their peers, parents and friends and created the Class of 2013 Faculty Development Fund. This fund recognizes one faculty member from each college each year who distinguishes him or herself in student mentoring and excellence in service to the campus community, as well as for a proposal for an upcoming mentorship opportunity beyond the classroom.

Clinical psychologists practice in many ways, from first-line work with people with serious illnesses, such as intake of mental health patients at hospitals, or crisis work in the community with police or government agencies, to one-on-one therapy with patients with less severe mental health issues. Those who earn advanced degrees become doctors who treat patients and do psychological testing.

Dr. Michelle Clark’s goal is to improve the admission rate for CNU students in graduate programs in clinical psychology and related fields.

This fall, Clark will form an advisory council of students to assess the resources and experiences desired by top programs, with an eye toward establishing a separate student task force that will implement the advisory council’s recommendations by hosting career fairs, speakers and graduate admission representatives, among other activities. She looks forward to mentoring and guiding the students as they lead the initiative. “We have students here who are genuinely invested in being a part of something bigger. They’re so enthusiastic and reliable that it’s not hard to partner with them in things,” she says.

Not so far removed from her own experience applying to graduate school, Clark remembers the challenges she faced in making the transition. She’s uniquely equipped to assist students take the next step, crucial since advanced study and licensure is often required to work in clinical psychology. “The biggest barrier for students is not knowing what types of things will look good on a resume for clinical psychology programs, and not having those experiences because they can be hard to get as an undergraduate,” Clark says. “With some innovation we can make them happen.”

Although Clark is in her first year on the Psychology faculty, she’s no stranger on campus, having worked for four years at University Health and Wellness as a clinical psychologist, one of only two at the University. During her time as a counselor she helped found a CNU chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in partnership with the Hampton Roads chapter, and still serves as the group’s adviser. NAMI raises awareness of mental health issues and advocates for access to services, treatment, support and research.