World Traveler, Psychological Scientist

June 14, 2016

Emily Dean ’15 is a true liberal artist: humanitarian, psychological scientist, and world traveler. This fall, Emily will combine her interest in psychology, desire to help others, and passion for the Spanish language and culture as she begins her graduate education in school psychology.

Emily, a psychology major and Spanish minor from Muskegon, Michigan, became interested in psychology after completing the introductory course during her first year at Denison. Gradually, she became excited about using psychology to understand and help children and adolescents in need, especially those with developmental and learning problems. During her junior year, Emily received an Anderson Summer Science Fellowship to complete research on children and adolescents with learning disabilities. Emily presented the results of her research at a professional conference in Chicago and published them in the Journal of Learning Disabilities with her advisor Dr. Robert Weis.

“The summer research experience was crucial in several ways,” Emily explains. “I became fascinated with what I was learning about academic accommodations for people with learning disabilities. We found that mental health professionals often recommended accommodations indiscriminately, without tailoring them to individuals’ areas of disability. Here was this huge issue in our educational system, one stemming from good intentions but presenting tricky questions of ethics and equality, and no one seemed to know about it. I knew there had to be more issues like this, and that I had to be involved in children’s educational experiences in some way.”

Emily had recently returned from a semester studying abroad in Toledo, Spain. She tried to find a way to combine her love for psychology and Spanish. “The mentorship I received that summer played an important role in deciding which career to pursue. The beautiful thing about the mentorship here is that your professors know you so well that sometimes they realize what you’re passionate about before you do. Dr. Weis had listened to me talk about how much I absolutely loved my time in Spain, and how much I enjoyed my various experiences working with children. He suggested I consider school psychology, which is a great fit for me.”

School psychologists seek to improve the educational experience of children by working with students, parents, and teachers to overcome challenges presented by academic, socio-emotional, or behavioral problems. “So many students struggle in school because of things like undetected learning disabilities, or because parents want to help them, but are not sure where to start. These challenges are even greater for students with Spanish-speaking parents, because of the additional obstacle of a language barrier between parents and school personnel.”

Emily hopes to begin addressing this obstacle by working as a bilingual psychologist in an elementary or secondary school setting. Emily will begin the Educational Specialist program at Ball State University this fall.

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