Grad Student Spotlight: Q&A with Jennifer Reimer
Where are you originally from? Where did you complete your undergraduate education?
My childhood was spent moving around from Georgia, Washington, and ultimately Arizona where I spent most of my primitive years. At age five, my family moved to Palmdale/Lancaster, CA to be close to Edwards Air Force Base. After completing my associate degree at a community college in Lancaster, I transferred to UC San Diego to complete my undergraduate degree in psychology.
What made you select Cal Poly, SLO? Had you been to the campus and/or the area previously?
In choosing Cal Poly, my decision was based on the merits of the program. Coming from a research-oriented school, I didn’t receive much training on interacting with clients or how my own unique experiences impact therapy sessions. The MFT program utilizes its Learn by Doing philosophy by providing extensive clinical opportunities as we progress through the program. This aspect was highly appealing as we gain two quarters of experience in the on-campus counseling clinic and a year training at a site within the community.
As a child, I visited Cal Poly a few times while my aunt attended the school. I looked back fondly on finding sand dollars at Avila Beach and walking around the campus with her.
What has been your favorite part of living in SLO or the area? Least favorite?
Living in SLO, I’ve been grateful for the experience of living in a small town. This has also helped my own understanding of how people are impacted by living in a smaller area and how this influences a population's needs and views toward counseling. Another bonus to SLO is the weather, too!
I think an area for SLO to improve is the lack of diversity and minimal attention to other cultures. It does not reflect our nation’s vast population and feels different from other cities I’ve lived in. Being on campus, I think there’s a larger push to be inclusive; however, off-campus it is a challenge to see similar efforts.
Tell us about your experience in the MFT program. What is the most important thing you have learned and why?
Cal Poly’s MFT program has been a new and exciting experience. Our cohort is comprised of 14 students, so you get to know and care for each member of the group. When reflecting on the many hurdles we’ve overcome, having a tight-knit group to rely on and consult with has been infinitely helpful. It has been beneficial to recognize that you share the same stress and accomplishments as 13 others. I imagine that compared to other programs, the MFT facilitates a unique cohesion among members and makes it difficult for any one person to feel alone in the experience.
Whether you’re inspired by Dr. Sweatt’s emphasis on context, Dr. Estrada’s love for the process dimension, or Dr. Moreno’s utilization of all that is Yalom, our professors have served as endless resources for support and encouragement. In navigating this program, I have always felt pushed (in a good way!) to continue building my own skills as a therapist. Faculty represents an assortment of therapy styles and interests, which has provided a well-rounded education as well as a place to go when you find your passion.
The most important thing I’ve learned in my two years has been the necessity of being flexible. In our profession, I believe this is valuable, as when working with people things rarely pan out as intended. Either you can respond to unexpected situations with stubbornness or take things in stride and shape the situation into learning opportunities.
What has been the most challenging part of the MFT program for you?
The most challenging part of the MFT program has been trying to maintain my own self care. This program can be emotionally draining when evaluating how the material applies to yourself while simultaneously keeping up with readings and papers.
A large part of this self care for me has been maintaining a detailed schedule and taking time for myself that isn’t school related. This latter goal is difficult when your experiences for two years revolves around the program; however, by setting time aside to go to the beach or get dinner with friends, it decreases the stress from the program while strengthening bonds within the cohort.
What do you plan to do next in terms of education and/or career?
After completing Cal Poly’s program, I hope to pursue a doctoral degree in Clinical/Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in cultural and community psychology. Pursuing further education in the multicultural realm would allow me to better serve our nation’s population while striving to decrease our field’s past tendency in exploiting minority groups.
What do you like to do for fun, in your spare time?
I think that when I have the time to enjoy the small things in my life, I am the happiest. Personally, this includes reading a good book, eating food (my biggest hobby), taking nature and animal pictures, and spending time at home with my husband and dog.
What advice would you give to a prospective graduate student in psychology?
Regardless of where students continue their education in psychology, becoming involved in the school or with faculty is beneficial to discovering their passions within the field. Working in mental health can be emotionally taxing, therefore finding an area that stimulates your interest is crucial. It’s been helpful to know our faculty on a more personal basis. Not only have they been an immeasurable resource for support, they have been a prime example of what the profession looks like outside of graduate school.
This program can easily be perceived as a hoop to jump through to getting licensed as a marriage and family therapist. I think that by approaching it with this mentality, people often miss out on the multitude of opportunities outside of class and working with clients. Taking advantage of opportunities such as being a part of committees, working for professors, talking to advisors about their career paths, and attending extra trainings has helped enrich my experience of graduate school while attempting to fully immerse myself into this wonderful profession.
Tell us something about you that few people know.
What first comes to mind is the fact I was a HUGE tomboy and dork growing up. My interests included anime, dirt bikes, video games, and Harry Potter (the last two are still true). I was less interested in appearances until around 13 when I finally tossed my big puffy shoes. My interests have changed, although I’m not sure they’re any less dorky!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 20? 30?
In 10 years, I imagine being done with my doctoral program and finding my niche within the field of psychology. I love the idea of continuing my education not only to provide increased opportunities in the field, but also because I feel the greatest fulfillment while learning and pushing myself to do more.
What continues across my vision of the future is the freedom to pursue my passion and ability to contribute to the conversation on mental health. Whether it’s working individually with clients, helping to train the next batch of professionals, or striving to improve service in our nation (or a combination of the above), I envision continuing to participate in bettering the available resources and perceptions of mental health.