Adventures Near and Far Reflect Students’ Powerful Sense of Mission

November 01, 2012

Eden Gudonis, MA/CAGS School Psychology student with children from Bhaktapur, Nepal.

It's called the "New Youth Children's Development Society," but the truth is, it's a home for 50 young people ages 3-18 in Bhaktapur, a remote town outside Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. Some children are left there by their parents because they are too poor to care for them. Eden Gudonis, School Psychology MA/CAGS student, spent last summer being "doctor" for the children she describes as having nothing. "The experience absolutely changed me. I take nothing for granted now," she says. They live without regular electricity, water, food or even parents. Consistent with her own parents' influence and lessons learned at William James College, Eden is eager to continue to help those who are less fortunate. Her desires to travel, to serve and to nurture power her eagerness to return to Nepal. "I want to do more work overseas," she insists, and hopes to return to the children in Bhaktapur next summer.

"I really tested myself, my independence and my limits. The whole trip was overwhelming and I'm so thankful for my loving parents and the support of my faculty. I feel like I can do anything now." Eden especially credits faculty Vega and Ecker as "inspirational models who do good work." On a steady diet of only rice and cabbage, with milk, meat and eggs only once a week, along with contracting an unknown illness that brought on hallucinations, fatigue, fever and diarrhea, Eden lost 30 pounds, but it didn't dampen her enthusiasm one iota. "I love working with children," she says. At a farewell ceremony, one child extracted his own molar, hoping it would prompt her to stay and take him for treatment. "I'll never forget it," she says. 

Many William James College students are eager to become skilled professional psychologists, trained to change people's attitudes and outlook. Stephanie Matos-Tabashneck, Clinical Psychology PsyD student, likes to work at changing the system. Having won a Rosenblum Fellowship from the Massachusetts Psychology Association, Stephanie learned how to influence policy and advocate for patients' entitlements. Working specifically on the Continuity of Care Bill designed to enable patients to stay with their therapist even if their insurance changes, she gathered supporting stories from psychologists. "The relationship with a therapist is too important to interrupt," she explains, "you could switch eye doctors or dermatologists, and the end result might not change, but in therapy the therapeutic relationship is integral to the success of treatment." 

Next year, Stephanie will work on an APA internship at Spring Grove Hospital in Baltimore, MD with people who have major mental illnesses. "I want to work with a forensic inpatient population," she says, "and also work on policy. This past year, I gathered background information for risk assessments, used by those determining what privileges patients should get and their danger to themselves and to society. In the future, I want to be the person who makes those decisions," she says. "I like working at the intersection of law and mental health." Stephanie prefers the fast, unpredictable pace of psychiatric hospitals. "The setting challenges me. You have to adjust your sense of change, see their humanity and consider things like maybe it's a person getting out of bed in the morning or just showing up for therapy. You learn to value the little steps." Stephanie, now based in Virginia, loved her William James College experience and the faculty she says are "phenomenal. My classmates have been wonderful and my personal and professional growth would not have happened without the support I received there." She is eager to continue her advocacy work, she says, because "psychologists should be advocates for the policies that directly affect our profession."