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_finalAttending 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 KoopFollowing 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.