By Marianne McCarthy
David Alaniz was accepted into the Clinical Psychology PhD program on his second attempt, and he’s really glad he wasn’t granted admittance the first time around.
“I thought I had what it took to do doctoral work,” said Alaniz, who knew he wanted to be a clinical psychologist but didn’t fully understand everything that’s involved, such as the importance of research, statistical analysis, and critical thinking.
“I didn’t know how a course like psychopathology would be delivered and what we might learn,” he said. “I was surprised that a course in critical thinking was really about writing critically.”
A case manager for Mental Health Systems, Alaniz works with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation helping reintegrate and re-socialize parolees who were incarcerated for anything from petty theft to murder.
Before he was accepted into the program, Alaniz enrolled in Fielding’s new Postbaccalaureate Clinical Psychology Certificate program to help him sharpen his skills. His first semester included multivariate statistics, and he had doubts he could do it.
“I had Dr. Bush for statistics, and he really explained the basics in a way that resonated with me,” said Alaniz, who immediately saw how statistics could benefit his work. He took what he learned back to his boss at Mental Health Systems and showed him how they could measure behavior. Now they are using a Likert scale system with support and risk factors to predict behavior of recently incarcerated felons.
“What I love about the faculty is how they work with students and give them opportunities,” said Alaniz, who participated in research for the program lead faculty member, Kristine M. Jacquin, PhD. “I was a lead author for a paper that was presented at a conference, and that was my first authorship. I’m also a certified research assistant now.”
All this gave Alaniz more confidence when he applied to the program the second time. Even faculty saw it.
“There was a change in David’s professional demeanor when he applied the second time,” said School of Psychology faculty member Dr. Debra Bendell. “He was realistic about his options and how difficult the program would be. However, he was optimistic based on what he had accomplished in the postbac program.”
“When David entered the certificate program, it was clear he had the passion for helping others, intelligence, and motivation needed to become a clinical psychologist. However, he was not familiar with the scholarly side of the field,” said Dr. Jacquin. “In a relatively short time, David gained the critical thinking, scholarly writing, and research skills needed to enter a doctoral program. I’m really proud of him. He will be a great clinical psychologist.”
Alaniz is the first in his family to pursue academics higher than an associate’s degree. He’s working full-time as well as helping raise a teenager as he continues his doctoral studies.
“I know that it’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m ready for the journey,” he said.