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Student Profiles

Jonathan Coupal — Psychology Major

Portrait of Jonathan Coupal in military uniform

Jonathan is a psychology major with a philosophy minor. He came to SUNY Plattsburgh from Rouses Point, NY. He is also pursuing a career in the Army reserves, with hopes of becoming an ammunition warrant officer. Jonathan plans to use his psychology degree to become a high school counselor as well: "I’ve always been interested in helping people, and doing so involves understanding the way people think. I plan on becoming a counselor and I figured having a background in psychology would make me a better one." He hopes to be able to help high school students to think for themselves at an early age. He plans to pursue graduate school after graduation in order to achieve his goals.

Favorite Class

So far his favorite class has been general psychology. "I liked it most because not only were we learning the basics, but my professor (Dr. Mansfield) was teaching us through example — specifically when we talked about how we learn and retain information. He set up the course so that we were constantly involved in the material without making it difficult." He felt that he obtained a solid understanding of the material, while also enjoying doing the classwork.

Getting Involved

Jonathan took advantage of opportunities to gain practical experience outside the classroom. He conducted research with Dr. Mansfield that explored ways to abbreviate written text to assist people with impaired vision. He was also a teaching assistant for the general psychology lab. Although he has previously taught classes in the military, he found it exciting to teach civilians as well. He especially liked getting to know the students better, beyond the friendly passing "hello." Jonathan’s involvement in these experiences were valuable to him. "Getting more involved in school acts as its own self-motivation to do better. You want to try your hardest and tend to put that little extra effort in to your work."

Supportive Faculty

The thing Jonathan appreciates most about the psychology program is the faculty. "I have a very demanding schedule with many moving parts. It’s nice having professors that work with you and help accommodate the many hurdles life likes to throw at you." He hopes that new psychology students will try to get to know their professors and be willing to ask lots of questions. "The better you get to know your professors the more likely they’ll be able to help you and asking a question now means a better understanding later."

Venessa Gaston — School Psychology Graduate Student

Portrait of Venessa Gaston

Venessa is a graduate student in the school psychology graduate program. She is originally from the Bronx, NY.

Strong desire to help children succeed

"As a young adolescent growing up in NYC, I attended various public schools and witnessed many students "falling through the cracks". These students fell behind when everyone else was moving forward, and completely lost hope for a successful future academically. This eventually led to them dropping out of school which I felt could have been prevented. I believe that they needed support within the school, but as a student I had no idea that these support services were even available. If these students had a positive role model to help them throughout this difficult time, who knows what they may have accomplished and overcome? I decided to pursue a career in school psychology because I wanted to be that person that students depend on to help them undergo difficult moments in their academic endeavors. I want to make connections with students, and be that person that keeps them coming back to school when they have given up. My goal is to help children overcome any obstacles they may face, and then watch them succeed."

Hands-on experience right from the start

"In the school psychology program at SUNY Plattsburgh, the amount of experience gained working in different schools is extremely beneficial. You gain practicum experience working directly with the school psychologist of a specific school you are assigned to, which begins your first semester. This experience is not offered in many schools, which I think is essential in becoming a successful school psychologist. Also, being taught by professors who are school psychologists themselves is a major strength of this program because they are knowledgeable about what occurs within the schools, and they base their lessons off of their own daily experiences. The professors try to prepare us as much as possible by giving us real life scenarios that they’ve encountered, as well as challenging us with complex situations that we may face as school psychologists. Overall, this program truly prepares each student for becoming exceptionally experienced in the field before entering their internship."

Advice for new students

"I would definitely advise new graduate students to take advantage of their practicum experiences. Try everything and anything that your supervisor will allow you to participate in, because these experiences will help during your internship. Also, practicing effective communication skills is important. Whether it’s at your practicum site communicating with the staff, at school with your professors, or even just communicating with your cohort, I believe these skills are essential. It is always great to have support in various places, especially within the classroom. I absolutely love my cohort and constantly having the support of those undergoing the same process is encouraging."

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