“Alyssa’s reliable, highly intelligent, creative, a problem-solver, and brings such fresh content and process ideas to work spanning the Colleges of Education and Public Health… I am nominating Alyssa as her work helps to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life of vulnerable children, adolescents, and young adults.” – Ebonee Johnson, PhD, assistant professor, community and behavioral health
Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Faculty mentor/advisor: Ebonee Johnson, PhD, assistant professor, community and behavioral health, College of Public Health
What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Counseling psychology doctoral program, 2025
Please describe your research: My work is focused on promoting mental and sexual health, substance use prevention, and well-being in students from kindergarten to college. A portion of my efforts are focused on working with K-12 educators in Iowa to help them practice creating relationships with students that foster trust and openness around issues of mental health. As a therapist in training, I am working to translate my developing expertise to help teachers communicate more effectively with students as well as build teacher insight around how their own mental health affects the classroom environment.
In simple terms, why does this research matter? This work is important because it centers the community and the voices of those who are affected by the interventions we are working to create. One of the coolest things about my work with Iowa educators is that we have built an advisory board made up of high school students to inform our perspectives on student-teacher relationships. Making changes based on what the students actually want and need should be the focus of interventions that enter the schools, and our efforts to do so make our project different. Mental health is important for everyone, so taking skills used by mental health professionals and combining those skills with knowledge about student needs seems necessary to help teachers be the best they can be when it comes to student mental health.
How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I joined Ebonee’s research team my first semester at Iowa.
How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved in research at Iowa has helped me to create a more wholistic view of what mental health and wellness look like. I am a better therapist because my involvement in research encompasses so many different issues and populations. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to contribute my developing therapeutic skills to research projects that impact many more people than is typical for an individual therapist.
What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I plan to practice therapy at a clinic after graduation.
Banner location: Downtown—Corner of Dubuque St. and Washington St.