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Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program
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Timothy J. Sullivan

Paterno Fellow
Major: Psychology, French and Francophone Studies
Minor: Dance
Hometown: Harleysville, PA

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I first learned about the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program through programming materials circulated in the College of the Liberal Arts. Though we may get many emails from the college, reading them actually pays off!

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

With the Alumni Mentor Program, I was paired with a mentor who has pursued a similar career trajectory as the one I would like to. Intentionally matched this way, the program has allowed me to gain first-hand knowledge and experience in a profession that is typically hard to get mentorship in. My mentor, a clinical psychologist with his own private practice, has been incredibly supportive in all of my academic, professional, and personal goals while simultaneously challenging me to get new experiences that will diversify my experiences. He is consistently available for meetings regarding my career goals and has even allowed me to shadow his practice for a day so I can see firsthand what his job looks like. Now, I find myself with an important professional and personal contact who offers invaluable guidance as I embark on making important career decisions.

How did this experience impact you academically?

Being involved with the Alumni Mentor Program has given me the opportunity to diversify my interests and to explore new horizons that I may not have otherwise considered. I weigh out course choices with my mentor and make sure that I am selecting an academic curriculum that will most benefit my career objectives later down the line. I know I can go to my mentor if I need advice as to whether or not a course will be useful to me beyond graduation. This approach has allowed me to take a more macro-level perspective regarding my educational choices as a whole, and therefore, has resulted in a richer and more diversified academic experience overall.

What are your career goals and plans?  How did this experience impact them?

I plan to pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology with a focus on researching posttraumatic stress disorder, violence, and associated interpersonal consequences. My mentor, through the Alumni Mentor Program, has provided me with a useful opportunity to discuss this interests and how he sees these issues come up in his private practice. Often during our meetings, I will ask about his current casework and he will explain the interesting or more intricate components of his work. While I intend to go into a more research-oriented career trajectory, my mentor's extensive clinical experience provides a new lens within which I can view my own objectives and research work now. Talking with him even lends to new and creative research ideas that I would never have formulated without the relevant experience that he has. My mentor's involvement, overall, has thus allowed me to consider alternative viewpoints in not only a professional, career-oriented sense but also in a conceptual manner.

I find that the differences between my interests and my mentor's career path are what were most valuable to me as a student.

Would you recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students?

I would most definitely recommend this experience to other Liberal Arts students. I think one of the worries that I originally had with this program was that I would not be matched with someone who is in a career that is directly related to what I want to do (particularly since psychology is such a broad discipline). However, I find that the differences between my interests and my mentor's career path are what were most valuable to me as a student. Discovering alternative viewpoints and other ways of achieving the profession that I eventually hope to have helped me to avoid one-track thinking that I think plagues a lot of Liberal Arts students that have versatile options post-graduation.

For more information on the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program, visit our website.
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