Alumni feature – Lonnie Sears, PhD

Lonnie SearsI am a Psychologist and Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Louisville, KY. My primary area of interest is autism and I am involved in clinical services, research and teaching in developmental disabilities at U of L.

My time at Goshen College set my career path as a result of a practicum at ADEC where I became interested in developmental disabilities. More importantly, Duane and Vic helped me think about how faith relates to psychology and my work. I also appreciate the critical thinking skills that were emphasized leading to an appreciation of “evidenced-based” practice in my work as a psychologist.

Alumni feature – Natalie Schmucker

Natalie Schmucker image_final Attending Goshen College, I received an education that supplemented my parents’ raising of me that promoted the way of peace and the importance of helping others.

Since graduating from Goshen, I have sought opportunities to live out the values of the Mennonite church – community, non-violence, justice, relief and development – through various Mennonite volunteer programs.

With Mennonite Central Committee in Mexico, I woke to the daily struggles of the marginalized while working in a squatter’s community along the railroad tracks. In Colombia I witnessed the challenges and triumphs of grass-roots community organizing while volunteering with SembrandoPaz, a partner organization of MCC.

Through Mennonite Voluntary Service, I began work in refugee resettlement, and have continued this work for the past three and a half years. Teaching a client the bus route to ESL school brings me joy; helping a family evaluate options in a domestic violence situation gives me hope; watching a pre-literate client with no work experience surpass his employer’s expectations makes me proud.

During my time at Jubilee Partners, an intentional Christian service community that hosts refugee families for their first two months in the country, I experienced a different model of social service: a model that focused on personal relationships. I taught newly arrived families English daily; I visited them in their homes for meals and attempted conversation over language barriers; I played volleyball and rode bicycles with them.

Many of these relationships continue since I now live in Clarkston, a small city outside Atlanta that has been deemed the most diverse square mile in the United States and is the final stop for families that spend time at Jubilee Partners. These friends are now my neighbors, the people I turn to when I need to do laundry or need an extra cup of oil. I am currently serving through AmeriCorps at a refugee resettlement organization here in the Atlanta area and planning to go to Georgia State University in the fall to pursue a Master’s of Social Work.

Through my undergraduate studies in psychology at Goshen, I developed an understanding of the cyclical natures of mental illness and substance abuse and the ways they affect family systems. My liberal arts education, and Goshen’s emphasis on SST and intercultural dialogue, provided me with an understanding of cultural differences that is essential for being effective in the social work field. I have seen how direct service and local projects impact global trends, and vice versa.

My undergraduate education prepared me to think critically, and my volunteer and professional experiences have
challenged me to put theory into practice. I am now pursuing graduate study in order to gain specialized training and tools to be even more effective in the work I am committed to.

Alumni feature – Greg Koop

Gregory Koop

Following my graduation from Goshen, I completed a year with Mennonite Voluntary Service in Tucson, AZ. At the time, I was fairly certain that I would not pursue further work in psychology—instead preferring law school or perhaps graduate work in my second major, history. My main duty at my service location was to lead what one might call “short term SSTs” into the borderlands region of Arizona and Sonora. However, a secondary responsibility was to design and complete internal projects for the organization, and I inevitably found myself utilizing the skills and empirical outlook that I developed as a psychology major at GC.

For example, I became very interested in assessing the learning outcomes for participants on these trips, and spent a significant amount of time analyzing feedback forms. In short, during my time in MVS I quickly came to realize that I missed empiricism and that given my skills and interests, graduate work in psychology would be a good fit.

I was fortunate to end up at Miami University in a lab focusing on judgment and decision making research. My work there examined the cognitive and environmental factors that influence the development of preference. Far from being dispassionate, rational actors, our research demonstrated how external factors (e.g., how choice options are described) and internal factors (e.g., goals or fears) drastically impact choice behavior.

At present, I am working in a memory-modeling lab at Syracuse University, and similarly examine how people evaluate mnemonic evidence en route to making recognition decisions. I am certain that without the critical thinking skills I acquired as an undergraduate psychology major, I would not have had the opportunity to present my own research at both national and international scientific conferences. The small classes and personal instruction I received at Goshen was ideal preparation for the collaborative nature of psychological research throughout the remainder of my career.