Kelsey Laxton

What are you doing now?

I'm a graduate student working towards my doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas ( While this program is an APA-Accredited program in general clinical psychology training, the program and its faculty place a heavy emphasis on the role of psychology and clinicians in the forensic and criminal arenas in both research and practicum work. With SHSU's excellent internship match rates, I hope to be able to gain an APA-accredited internship with the Bureau of Prisons and to later turn this opportunity into a career opportunity. Ultimately, I would see myself as a practicing psychologist in a correctional or rehabilitative setting (with adolescent or adult offender populations). Later in life, I think I could see myself becoming an academic as a professor, but we'll see

How did UTM Psychology Program help you achieve what you have become?

Although I'm just in my first year of graduate study, I feel that the UTM psychology program, UTM as a whole, and the Martin community played a large role in where I am today. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have gotten accepted into a doctoral program straight from undergraduate study without the help, advice, and mentorship from select faculty at UTM. First of all, Dr. Angie Mackewn prepared me as well as I could have asked for graduate study. Her experimental psychology course (through all our trials and tribulations) helped me build by repertoire of research skills, and her advice and assistance through it all have sincerely made my doctoral-level experimental class and my research experiences here at SHSU that much easier. Also, Drs. Colin Key (no longer teaching at UTM) and Michelle Merwin played instrumental roles in my research experience, allowing me to help with all stages of the research process, from IRB writing, to data collection, to data analysis, and even manuscript writing. These faculty members also gave me welcomed advice during the graduate school application and interview process that was invaluable and much appreciated. Additionally, my student life at UTM as a whole prepared me for the inevitable time management crisis that graduate students encounter. As an undergraduate at UTM, I balanced Greek life as an Alpha Delta Pi, various executive council positions in multiple student organizations, including Student Government and Psi Chi, and held a job as well as course work and research. So, I was pretty accustomed to using my time wisely and being busy all the time (not to mention the lack of sleep!). But, it all paid off. Once the semesters started getting pretty busy with coursework and research, I felt well-equipped to handle it (with the help of my planner, of course!). My positions in these student organizations also gave me experience with legislative processes, which have been valuable in my program in particular because we make it a point to be involved in Texas legislative processes relating to psychological issues. My leadership experience as a student at UTM has given me the confidence to help plan major events for our department here at SHSU, such as interview weekend for incoming applicants. I even plan to attempt to be elected as the Student Representative to the faculty and/or an executive council member of the Graduate Psychology Student Organization in the coming semesters. The community of Martin, specifically the Children's Treatment Center for Autism and other Developmental Disorders and Dr. Gary Brown (former UTM faculty member), provided me with priceless experience providing applied behavioral therapy to children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders, which will undoubtedly help me as I begin applied practicum work here at SHSU. Overall, it has been comforting in my first year of graduate study that I feel as though I was sometimes more prepared even than students who came in with Master's degrees.

What advice would you give to students who are thinking about becoming UTM psychology majors?

If you are thinking about becoming a UTM psychology major, it is a very rewarding program with faculty members who are willing to help you if you are willing to help yourself. Psychology is a challenging field, so it follows that the major curriculum and expectations are challenging as well, but if you are looking for a program that will prepare you well for life after UTM, psychology is a good fit. Psychology is a field that, nowadays, almost requires a graduate degree of some kind, and the UTM department does an excellent job at preparing its students for graduate-level work, both course-related, research, and practically. However, keep in mind the importance of being assertive and seeking out your own opportunities. As with any college program at UTM, it is what you make it – so make the most of it!

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