On May 14 and 15, graduates from TC’s psychology programs will walk across the stage at Convocation, symbolizing the next chapter in their professional journeys. As these future changemakers embark on their careers in mental health and psychology, they will confront some of today’s most complex challenges, from crisis intervention to providing accessible mental healthcare to underserved populations.

We had the exciting opportunity to speak with five of this year’s graduates to learn more about their work and future aspirations.

How He Makes an Impact: Helping people reach their maximum professional potential. “I hope that my work will help employees and organizations improve daily so they can contribute to the advancement of Indonesia.”

As a Learning & Leadership Development Graduate Intern at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Willys revamped UNFPA leadership competencies and supported efforts. “I represented Indonesia in the UNFPA organization on a mission to ensure every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”

What Matters:  Understanding the reasoning and process behind effective learning programs. He hopes to deliver impactful capabilities development for employees, enabling them to contribute significantly to their organizations’ missions.

Willys tackles Indonesia’s workforce challenges amid a growing working-age population exceeding 144 million. Indonesia faces the imperative of nurturing skilled talent for its expanding digital economy, projected to contribute 7% to GDP in 2022 and set for 18% growth by 2030. However, the skills gap poses a threat, potentially displacing 9.5 million workers by 2028 if not addressed effectively. “If we fail to address this gap, an estimated 9.5 million full-time equivalent workers in Indonesia will be displaced by 2028 due to new technologies or talent from other countries.”

What’s Next: Willys plans to return to Indonesia and continue his career in the talent development field as a practitioner and consultant, supporting organizations in their pursuit of excellence.

How She Makes an Impact: Supporting organizations through transformational change and equipping folks with tools to navigate conflict with greater dignity and confidence. “I hope to bridge the gaps between mental health and organizational performance, ensuring sustainable organizational growth and heightened employee wellbeing,” explains Pond. “We must prioritize our shared humanity, dignity, and compassion to foster trusting environments and succeed as groups and organizations.”

What Matters: Analyzing how humans relate to each other while exploring ways to improve the systems and infrastructures we use to govern our lives. “I often reflect on how much future growth and change is in store for us. I wonder what humanity will look like years from now,” muses Pond. “How will we structure our societies? How will we preserve our planet? What role will technology play in our lives? What will we value most?”

What’s Next: Pond  plans to continue her work as an independent leadership coach and consultant, supporting organizations as they craft and implement equitable policies and infrastructure. “I’m delighted to support leaders and their teams as they build trust and enhance their conflict navigation skills with greater confidence, dignity and compassion.”

How She Makes an Impact: Leveraging her data proficiency to “contribute meaningfully to the justice system” through forensic psychology. While Dawar entered the field with a background in technology and consulting, she has spent the past year immersed in community work, engaging with asylum seekers and refugees in their psychological evaluations, interacting with individuals experiencing homelessness to offer them alternative housing solutions through SHAP, and helping facilitate art workshops for incarcerated women at Rikers Island through Columbia’s Justice in Education Initiative.

“These experiences have been both fulfilling and challenging,” says Dawar, who has also conducted research at the Child Protection Lab at TC. “Nevertheless, I wouldn’t exchange these experiences for anything else; I take great pride in the meaningful work I’ve been engaged in, and I’m committed to its continuation.”

What Matters: Supporting incarcerated individuals and those involved in the criminal justice system through psychological assessments and interventions. “I recognize the significant impact that forensic psychology can have on improving outcomes for both individuals and society as a whole.”

What’s Next:  While remaining committed to community involvement, Dawar will continue her work in the field and later aims to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, specializing in Forensic Psychology.

How She Makes an Impact: Addressing mental health assessment and treatment disparities within underserved populations, specifically those of African descent. “I aim to develop culturally sensitive and evidence-based strategies that promote mental health awareness, reduce treatment disparities, and increase access to mental health services,” adds Sulaimon. The evolution of her research interests has led her to develop a deep passion for girls’ education and women’s rights. Through this work and advocacy, Sulaimon now leads TC’s Feminist Circle, a campus organization that she founded, which allows for women to discuss their issues and advocate for educational rights.

What Matters:  Fostering equity is paramount for Sulaimon as she navigates her life’s purpose. “The disparities in the mental health system, especially for marginalized communities like African immigrants, alongside broader societal inequities for women and girls, inspire my commitment to change,” shares Sulaimon, who speaks the Nigerian language Yoruba. “I envision a system prioritizing health and mental well-being, regardless of identity or background.”

For Sulaimon, growing up in a multicultural country was the impetus behind her research interest. “My first thought after just one psychology class was, ‘Will the same psychological measures and treatments work for people with different cultural backgrounds?’ My goal is to examine the effect of ‘background’ on assessing and treating psychopathology.”

What’s Next: Gaining invaluable research and clinical experience in Nigeria before pursuing a  Ph.D. “I hope to garner clinical experience within Nigeria, allowing me to intimately understand the population I aspire to serve and further delve into the complexities of the mental health system in Nigeria.”

How He Makes an Impact: Conducting research to create meaningful policy change for LGBTQ+ groups. “I’m proud to be able to integrate my social justice values in my research and advocate to create more welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ folks,” shares López Molina, who also works with marginalized communities through his clinical work.

What Matters: Mental health support and how culture and societal systems contribute to mental healthcare disparities for marginalized communities. “My passion and curiosity for these topics, along with my research and clinical work with these populations, has motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. in counseling psychology.”

What’s Next: López Molina will complete his postdoctoral fellowship at NYU’s Child Study Center, focusing on providing gender-affirming care and Adolescent Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. “I’m excited about this next step in my career as I will continue to do meaningful work that aligns with my values and career goals.”

Programs: Adult Learning and Leadership Counseling Psychology Social-Organizational Psychology

Departments: Counseling & Clinical Psychology Health Studies & Applied Educational Psychology Organization & Leadership

Teachers College, Columbia University
525 West 120th Street
New York, NY 10027

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