Psychology and Child Development

College of Liberal Arts

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Where Are They Now?

Sabrina Alvaro (Child Development, ’15)

Sabrina AlvaroAfter graduation in 2015, Sabrina moved to Milan, Italy to work at British American Preschool as an early years teacher. She started her first year as a teaching assistant then became a Master Teacher. Children who attend this school primarily speak Italian but all teachers at the school are English language speakers from all over the world. The school follows a child centered approach to learning while simultaneously providing English language acquisition. Sabrina’s experiences at Cal Poly as a child development major helped her pursue her dreams and become a global citizen. She says “CD 230, CD 424 and working and interning at the preschool learning lab, and senior project all led me to where I am today. Preschool Laboratory will always be the class that changed my life; I found a passion for early years and how children that age see the world. This course connected theory covered in class to real life examples and was further reinforced by thoughtful discussions with professors and students. I gained a lot of skills by researching bilingual education for my senior project, and it is actually what led me to the school I'm working at right now in Milan. I will always be thankful for the support of my passions from child development faculty and the knowledge I gained from child development courses to come out of college feeling more than prepared and with something to offer to the world of early childhood education."

Anna Boyd-Bucy (Psychology, ’07)

Anna Boyd-Bucy

Anna completed the Master of Science in Psychology program at Cal Poly in 2007. She did her traineeship at Hospice of San Luis Obispo County. She began working for Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2005 as a match support specialist teaching volunteer training workshops, facilitating introductions and providing phone counseling support to volunteers and clients. Anna worked as program director, then development director, writing grant proposals and running special event fundraisers.

In January 2009, Anna became the executive director, responsible for leading the agency to ensure that their mission, strategy, values and goals are achieved. She has served on the Big Brothers Big Sisters Nationwide Leadership Council Fund Development Committee, representing agencies in the Western U.S., and the Small/Mid Agency Alliance Steering Committee, representing 240 like-sized agencies to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

Under her leadership, the local agency has served over 2,000 local youth and been recognized by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America five times for outstanding performance and growth, putting them in the top two percent of agencies nationwide. Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Luis Obispo County won Gold Standard recognition from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in 2015, and Agency of the Year in 2016. The honor of Big Brother of the Year for the State of California was awarded to local volunteers in 2014 and 2017.

Anna is a 2008 Cuesta College Women of Distinction Award honoree and was recognized in the Tribune’s 2014 Top 20 Under 40. She lives in Los Osos with her two young children. Anna used to enjoy gardening and reading before her children were born. She now stays up way too late reading up on issues relevant to her parenting woes.

Kelsey Buehler (Psychology, ’14)

Kelsey BuehlerKelsey Buehler is a medical student at Touro University, an osteopathic medical school located in Vallejo, Calif. Her school has a holistic approach, focusing on preventive care, patient education and public health. She hopes to practice either family medicine or psychiatry and work in a clinic for underserved clients. While attending Cal Poly, she minored in biology, studied abroad in Peru and completed her senior project on HIV medication adherence under the guidance of Dr. Julie Rodgers. Her experience designing and implementing her own project helped her to develop strong research and analytical skills that she hopes to utilize on her service and public health research trip to Tanzania this summer.

Kelsey feels that working as a physician combines her dual passions for working with others, while also challenging herself with a rigorous biochemical education. She has frequent practice patient encounters and knows that her background in psychology has strengthened her understanding of others and reinforced her listening and communication skills. During her time at Cal Poly, she completed multiple helpful courses including Helping Relationship, Abnormal Psychology and Psychopharmacology that inspired her to pursue psychiatry.

Danielle Burchett (Psychology, '06)

Danielle BurchettDanielle earned her Master of Arts in 2009 and Doctor of Philosophy in clinical psychology in 2012 with a concentration in assessment and a minor in quantitative methods from Kent State University. She is a licensed psychologist in California and assistant professor of clinical psychology at California State University, Monterey Bay. She loves teaching undergraduates in the CSU system — a goal she has had since becoming a Sally Casanova Pre-doctoral Scholar at Cal Poly. She also enjoys researching the usefulness of psychological tests designed to detect invalid response styles, an interest that grew out of her Psychological Testing course and psychological testing data collection with healthy older adults for Dr. Laver, as well as her senior project, where she developed and pilot-tested a forced-choice measure of fabricated incompetency to stand trial. Danielle felt well-prepared for a research-oriented graduate program thanks to an opportunity to strengthen her writing with a literature review project for Dr. Ryujin, completing Introduction to Clinical and Counseling Psychology with Dr. Breaux and earning a statistics minor. Other Cal Poly experiences that helped Danielle know that becoming a professor was a good fit included being a teaching assistant for Dr. Slem in General Psychology and Dr. Breaux in Abnormal Psychology, a recitation leader for the Summer Institute program, and presenting research at a student research competition. Learn more about Danielle's recent work at

Corrigan Speicher (Child Development, ’08)

Corrigan SpeicherCorrigan earned her Master’s in Education in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of Cincinnati in December 2015 and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in February 2016.

Corrigan is currently the supervisor of Western Psychological and Counseling Services’ Intensive Behavior Unit (IBU). She supervises a team who provide Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to children and teens with autism and other developmental disabilities who engage in severe aggression, self-injury and property destruction. Many of the clients in Corrigan’s IBU are in crisis and are currently unable to participate in less intensive ABA clinics or in the public school system. Her work focuses on behavior reduction and skill acquisition, so clients can be transitioned out of the IBU and back into traditional home, school and community settings.

Corrigan’s education in child development and psychology enables her to provide comprehensive therapy to all her clients and their families. Her knowledge of typical child development aids in identifying developmental delays and skill deficits in her clients and provides appropriate therapy to address their individual needs. The skills Corrigan gained and the mentorship she received at Cal Poly have made her the strong behavior analyst she is today. She shares, “Opportunities for hands-on experience in both the child development preschool lab and in the internship program greatly prepared me for my career working with children and their families.”

Jessica (Hammes) Elliott (Child Development, ’04)

Jessica ElliottJessica (Hammes) Elliott is an educational coach who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, step-daughter and dog. After Cal Poly, she went on to obtain two teaching credentials and a Master's in Education from Dominican University of California. She moved to Austin in 2007 for a teaching position and has spent the last 14 years in a variety of educational settings.

Elliott now works with a number of non-profits, companies, families and schools supporting their growth in serving and working with and for children. She has created a teacher mentor program, lectured at numerous universities on the topic of her thesis — how classroom structures affect student motivation — and serves as an adviser to Parenters, a local network in Austin offering services of guidance and support to parents in their homes. Each summer, she travels to parts of China to provide workshops and trainings for Tibetan staff, teachers and Montessori guides.

Elliott’s business, The Inspired Guide, is a program to support adults who work with children in the development of patterns of well-being, success, and overall happiness of children. It is a professional development program designed to strengthen the connection and community among adults based on research, science, and practical application. Eventually, it will have both online and face-to-face programs and will be used as an integral part of educational communities. She hopes one day to bring this interactive program to an international level, but for the time being her focus remains on developing it in Austin.

Elliott's praises of her experiences at Cal Poly continue on a weekly basis, even though she graduated 13 years ago: “The hands-on, learn-by-doing philosophy, along with the variety of internships starting my first quarter, allowed me to experience education and think beyond the ‘box’ to explore how I could use my skills to serve.” 

Tyler Johnston (Psychology, '07)

Tyler JohnstonTyler received a Master of Science in Counseling with a concentration in school counseling and marriage and family therapy from Cal State University, East Bay in 2011. While completing the master's program, he also earned a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) credential.

Since graduating, he has worked at a public high school in the East Bay as a school counselor. Tyler helps students with planning their courses, college advising, academic advising and provides short-term social-emotional counseling. He also works with students and families from a strengths-based perspective with the overall goal of supporting each student's academic achievement. Tyler is a member of the school's Challenge Success team, which is a program affiliated with Stanford University with the goal to assist schools in evaluating how they can better support student well being. The school is in its first year as an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme school, and Tyler is the counselor for the program.

He says, “I credit my internship during my junior year at Cal Poly in the Atascadero High School Counseling Center as a major influence in guiding me towards my career. Through my internship, I gained valuable insight into the role a school counselor has in working with students, families, staff and the community, which really appealed to me. I also feel the Adolescence course I took while earning my minor in child development helped me understand the teenage mindset and developmental stages. This awareness is useful on a daily basis in my job as I help my students navigate their high school experience and beyond.”

Susana Lopez (M.S. Psychology, ’06)

Susana Lopez

Dr. Susana A. Lopez is a licensed clinical psychologist. She received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Cal Poly in psychology in 2004 and 2006. She completed her doctoral studies in counseling, clinical and school psychology at UC Santa Barbara in 2014, with pre-doctoral training from USC/Children's Hospital Los Angles and postdoctoral fellowship training at UCLA Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior, where she gained additional clinical and research expertise in family based interventions, specifically military families (FOCUS) and families involved in the juvenile justice system (STRIVE/EXPORT). She is currently employed by UCLA as a Senior Research Associate and is the Director of Training for Project STRIVE. In addition, she has a part-time private practice in Atascadero, CA where she provides individual, couple and family therapy.

Her master's thesis at Cal Poly was the stepping stone for her doctorate work and dissertation. Her research focus follows that of her Cal Poly mentor, Professor Lisa Sweat, focusing on Latino psychology, immigration, resilience and multiculturalism. Dr. Lopez has a passion for working with youth and families at risk, particularly those with diverse cultural backgrounds, and she has gained expertise in youth development issues, parenting issues and building resilience to stressors and trauma. She enjoys working directly with the families and training other providers to deliver interventions in a culturally sensitive manner.

Nina Nasre (Child Development, ’13)

Nina Nasre

Nina is a senior media strategist at Adobe in San Francisco, Calif. where she plans and creates digital advertising campaign strategies for large companies. Nina uses her psychology background to predict a user's media consumption trend and find the best way to target a brand's specific target audience in order get the best return on investment for its advertising dollars. Remember the last advertisement you saw online? It was targeting you using data, ad formats, and other targeting methodologies in a plan that is optimized to hit the specific audience Nina's team creates.

In addition, Nina conducts internal employee training sessions, attends client meetings and manages a team of media strategists. She uses her child development and psychology background to find the best way to motivate, train and understand how to work with different kinds of people in a corporate environment. Nina feels that the classes that helped prepare her the most were The Helping Relationship and Developmental Psychology. Nina, knowing she wanted to get into a more corporate/business role, also took many business classes as electives, the most helpful being Employee Training and Development and Organizational Behavior. Although Nina is not directly working with children, she feels like her foundation in child development and psychology was crucial to her success and professional development in the corporate world.

Emily Patton (Child Development, ’14)

Emily Patton

Emily Patton has spent the last two years at Washington University in St. Louis earning her master’s degree in occupational therapy with an emphasis on pediatrics. She will begin her clinical rotations in June, first at an inpatient rehab hospital and second at a private pediatric clinic. Once in practice, Emily hopes to work specifically with children with developmental delays caused by any of the many debilitating conditions that affect children such as Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and Down Syndrome, to name a few. She is very much looking forward to her future as an OT and has her internship experiences at Cal Poly to thank for the introduction to the field.

Emily’s background as a child development major provided her with a substantial foundation both for her studies at Washington University, as well as for her future as a pediatric occupational therapist. While earning her master’s degree, she did research on the atypical movement patterns that some children with Autism display. The ability to call upon the skills she learned in courses such as Research Methods and Senior Project proved to be important in facilitating her work in this field. Having a background in child development and psychology has also been helpful in understanding typical pediatric development and how to speak and interact productively with children. Emily states, “My time at Cal Poly made me more qualified to work with children and also more confident in my abilities to make a difference in the lives of children and their families.”

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