A Transformative Career Journey (Part 2)

In 2013, we featured a blog story on Emma, a MS Psychology alumna who is pursuing a PhD in Psychology- Health Psychology program at Walden.  We recently reconnected with Emma and learned that she completed her CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) certification through Emory University’s Emory-Tibet Partnership and taught CBCT® to individuals in recovery, schoolteachers, parents of autistic children, and HIV+ clients participating in research studies. We asked Emma to share how she gained teaching skills and a deeper understanding of health and wellness issues through this transformative experience.

Emma B

Emma Brooks

Dina Bergren:  What is CBCT®?

Emma: CBCT® is a secular training method that uses several steps to cultivate compassion and is based on techniques from the Indo-Tibetan tradition. CBCT® was developed at Emory University by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD using meditative practices from the Lojong tradition.  According to scientific research, compassion can be developed as well as heightened.

Dina Bergren: How did you learn about Emory’s Tibetan Partnership program?

Emma: I learned about the Emory-Tibet Partnership program while completing a residency program in marriage and family therapy.  I expressed my interest in contemplative practices and Tibetan traditions to one of the on-staff licensed therapists.  She informed me about the work in this area taking place at Emory University.  I researched the program and registered for an 8-week training course in CBCT®.

Dina Bergren: What prior knowledge/experience helped you qualify for this opportunity?

Emma: My resume reflected my master’s thesis, The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Well-Being and Depression, and internship at Moore House School of Medicine where I worked on a field research study using Transcendental Meditation. I obtained this internship opportunity through networking while I was working on my master’s degree at Walden University. Also, I included my yoga teacher training experience, marriage and family therapy residence experience at the Link Counseling Center, and my introductory 8-week CBCT® course.  In addition, I listed my pursuit of a doctoral degree in Health Psychology and experience as a student researcher on a published research project at Walden University.

Dina Bergren: What instructional skills did you gain and how did you impact your clients? 

Emma: Well, I quickly learned that the presentation skills I used in the business world were different from skills in the teaching environment. My presentation skills shifted from PowerPoint discussions to experiential and lecture style presentations. I learned how to create lesson plans, improvise, find the right balance of instruction when co-teaching, and recognize the delicate dance between teaching and learning where the teacher is also the student.

As a CBCT® instructor, I enhanced my active listening skills as well as developed my ability to take pedagogy and apply it to everyday life situations. I learned that classroom management is a skill that is forever evolving because no two classes are exactly alike. It was important for me to understand my audience’s learning styles and identify what worked and didn’t work in the first session, while also being open to an organic process to emerge. Hence, I tapped into the intuitive aspects of the teaching process especially when lesson plans didn’t go as planned.

Dina Bergren:  What research studies did you conduct related to CBCT®?

Emma: I taught on two separate research studies which applied CBCT® to the following populations: parents of autistic children and HIV+ individuals. The studies reinforced what I learned during my coursework and experience as a student researcher at Walden University. As an instructor and educator, the experience allowed me to see the research process from a new perspective as I was playing one role within the research process protocol.  This experience felt different from my student research experience as the interviewer. Also, I was required to take the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training for the research study conducted by the Marcus Institute, which was very informative and helpful as I continued my dissertation research as the principal investigator.

Dina Bergren:  How did your work at the Emory-Tibet partnership influence your career journey?

Emma: This experience contributed to my dissertation progress and enhanced my teaching skills. I met many wonderful people, scholars, and physicians by becoming a part of the CBCT® community.  The CBCT® community provided me with an extended web of connections and expanded my awareness in unexplainable ways, and for this I am grateful.  I have no doubt that my future will be bright!

Written by Walden Doctoral Student, Emma Brooks
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Edited by Associate Director of Career Services, Dina BergrenDina

Career Shift from K-12 Education to Serving Clients with Severe Mental Illness



Kristie is a Walden MS Psychology and PhD in Psychology – Clinical Psychology alumna who started her professional career as a science teacher in the public schools.   How did her journey lead to a post-doctoral psychologist position at a county mental health clinic?  As a K-12 educator, Kristie taught many students, including developmentally and emotionally challenged children in special education.  She cultivated a passion for helping children with Asperger’s, Turner Syndrome, and other developmental disorders learn and thrive in the classroom.  This experience prompted her to enroll in the MS Psychology program at Walden and take steps to transition into a clinical psychology career.

Kristie’s MS Psychology degree provided her the fundamental knowledge of psychological theory which led to the PhD in Psychology- Clinical Psychology program.  To meet her field experience requirements, Kristie sought a practicum at a medical treatment center where she worked under supervision with clients in treatment for opiate dependence.  Kristie shared that she was nervous about working with this challenging population at first; however, after gaining confidence in her abilities and skills in assessment, motivational interviewing, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, she found the experience to be tremendously rewarding. Seeing clients with addiction heal and overcome personal challenges inspired Kristie to remain at the treatment center after her practicum ended.  She later advanced into a Supervising Counselor role and completed her doctoral internship at the same facility.

In 2016, Kristie earned her PhD in Psychology and advanced into a post-doctoral position at a county hospital where she is serving outpatient clients with severe mental illness including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and clinical depression.  Through her academic journey and career progression, she built knowledge and skills in risk assessment, crisis management, and therapeutic interventions to effectively treat a wide range of clients in multiple settings.  Her next step is to complete licensing requirements in the State of California and advance her career as a clinical psychologist.

What advice did Kristie offer Walden students who are considering social services careers?  She commented, “Do your research on what you’re going for.  Your career and education are not something you want to take lightly.”  Kristie suggested targeting entry-level positions such as “case manager” to gain experience working with children and adults in a variety of settings including housing programs, life skills training programs, and treatment centers.  She also recommended getting involved in a state psychological association and the American Psychological Association to meet psychologists, therapists, counselors, and other social services professionals; and attend professional development events.  Finally, she emphasized taking advantage of what Walden has to offer, including working with the Career Services department to learn how to market your professional skills and set attainable career goals.

We wish Kristie success as she continues to impact clients and improve county systems through her clinical expertise and commitment to mentally ill clients.

Interested in making a career transition into Psychology or a related field?

 Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services


Creative Networking Strategies for Landing a Field Experience Site

Jennifer Wisneski, a Walden PhD in Psychology ̶ Clinical Psychology student, landed a Field Experience site by connecting with a potential site supervisor through LinkedIn.  She is our guest blogger for this post.


Jennifer Wisneski


The Challenge of Finding a Practicum

As I completed my coursework for the Clinical Psychology PhD program and started working on my dissertation, I knew it was time to explore field experience requirements.  I started researching potential sites one year prior to securing a practicum and faced several challenges along the way.  In my small town, I found very few sites with a full-time psychologist to provide supervision.  Most psychologists I contacted worked in private practice or were close to retirement, neither willing to take on a student.  Other sites made it difficult to get past the clerical staff to speak directly to the psychology department.

With the increased need for mental health services, it was incredibly surprising to exhaust my list of prospective sites in a few short months.  I reached out to the Field Experience department at Walden, and they directed me to a website which manages a database of internships and allows students to apply for multiple opportunities.  To utilize the database search, I needed to create a profile and upload my resume.  After working for the same employer for the past nine years, I realized my resume was outdated.  I decided to contact Career Services for help.

3 Helpful Tips from Career Services

During my initial phone call with Career Services, I received a brief overview of available services and learned what to expect from career advising appointments.   The knowledge my career advisor managed to pack into the 45-minute session was well worth every minute!  Specifically, I gained the following three tips from my career advisor to help me in my Field Experience search:

  • First, I received many suggestions on how to improve my CV by using strong action words, being specific about my experience, and strengthening my accomplishments to showcase my level of professionalism in the human services field.
  • Second, my career advisor suggested I build a profile on LinkedIn. I was unsure about using LinkedIn, but I was willing to try anything to network while searching for a practicum site.  My career advisor taught me how to search for people in my field of interest using LinkedIn, which helped me make connections with potential site supervisors.
  • Third, I learned how to set up a career portfolio that I could bring with me to interviews. I developed a portfolio to showcase my accomplishments, professional interests, and samples of my work.

A Surprise Call from a New LinkedIn Connection

It was incredible how quickly opportunities opened up after a few sessions working with Career Services.  After I updated my CV and set up my LinkedIn profile, I started to connect with local professionals in the mental health field.  To my amazement, within days of establishing my profile, I received a phone call from one of my new contacts on LinkedIn.  She had just started in her role as Chief Psychologist at a local psychiatric hospital that week.  I had been trying to set up a practicum at this site for over a year with no success.  She told me the summary of my qualifications on my CV caught her attention.  Within two weeks, I met with her for an interview.  Referencing my portfolio during the interview made the process stress-free, and I secured the practicum position during the interview.

Ready for the Next Career Step

Having an updated CV, portfolio, and LinkedIn profile has allowed me to expand my professional network in many ways.  I interviewed with three other sites for practicum and now I have several sites to consider for internship.  This process has also improved my confidence and interviewing skills, and expanded my professional network.  In addition to establishing a plan to finish my field experience and graduate in 2018, I have a great outlook to the start of my professional career!

Written by Jennifer Wisneski, PhD in Psychology-Clinical Psychology student, Walden University. 


Finding Hope and Support Through Career Transition


Have you experienced an unprecedented event that permanently changed your life and career?  If so, you are not alone. Rhonda is an EdD alumna who had a successful career in education administration until a family member became ill.  To care for her loved one, Rhonda left her position as a Program Administrator and assumed the role of a full-time caregiver for several years.  During this time, Rhonda completed her EdD program and wrote a doctoral study on first-generation college students that identified hope as a critical factor in student success.  As she attempted to re-enter the workforce and find meaningful work, she maintained her sense of hope through advocates, friends, and the Walden community.  Her relentless commitment to following her dreams and sharing her vision with others resulted in a “perfect fit” position working for a faith-based nonprofit committed to stopping human trafficking.

How did Rhonda gather positive energy from others to find the right opportunity?

Finding Supporters and Job Search Advocates
When Rhonda made a long-term commitment to complete her EdD and make a difference in the world, not everyone in her life was supportive of her efforts.  To succeed in her doctoral program and job search, Rhonda decided to surround herself with people who embraced her vision, including dedicated friends and her doctoral study chair at Walden, Dr. Tom Cavanagh.  She also connected with Walden’s Career Services Center where she received networking tips, interview strategies, and job search tools that elevated her confidence.  She reached out to multiple nonprofit organizations and universities for informational interviews and became skilled in sharing her career goals with others.  Rhonda periodically updated her advocates on her progress and personal growth.  Her open heart and sincere gratitude motivated others to provide valuable leads, tips, and job search strategies.

Rekindling Friendship and Faith
One day, Rhonda was driving to another city for an informational interview.  While on the road, she remembered that a former pastor and dear friend lived a few miles away from her route.  She picked up the phone and invited him and his wife to dinner.  During the dinner, the pastor mentioned a nonprofit organization working to stop human trafficking.  Rhonda decided to reach out to this organization for an informational interview based on her interest in their faith-based mission.  Shortly afterward, she met with the organization’s founder and made such a positive impression that she was invited back for a series of four interviews and, ultimately, hired to develop curriculum and courses for professionals and agencies working to stop human trafficking in Thailand.  Rhonda’s new role allows her to live her mission and apply her writing and analytical skills to make a difference in the lives of women and children.  Currently, the nonprofit is exploring new ways to utilize Rhonda’s skills, including developing programs in the U.S.

What are Rhonda’s next steps?  She is looking for new ways to strengthen her connections with people and organizations she encountered through her career transition.  Ultimately, her mission is to generate hope for others who are facing challenges and searching for a more meaningful life.  She encourages Walden students who are in career transition to never let go of their dreams, find advocates who can generate ideas, and reach out to Career Services for help.  She said, “[Career Services] gave me the hope and encouragement I needed that led to the path I was destined to take.  I could not have reached my goals without this support.”

Are you in career transition?  The Career Services Center is here to help!

Need additional support through life transitions?  Reach out to Walden’s Student Assistance Program.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services


Steps that Led to Finding Higher Ed Adjunct Teaching Positions


Are you pursuing your doctoral degree with the goal of teaching in higher education?  Tarana, a Doctor of Business Administration student, shares with us what she did that led to two offers as an adjunct instructor― one at a community college and one at a four-year college. She had been applying for non-academic positions with no response, so she reached out to Walden Career Services and made an appointment.  She said by meeting with a Career Advisor, “I gained a wealth of knowledge on how to reduce clutter on my resume.”  She took the advice about her resume and applied it to her curriculum vita.  To “test out her newfound knowledge,” she applied for a higher education adjunct teaching position posted on a job board. She kept her CV focused on her expertise and experience “essential” to the position.  Within a day, she received an invitation to interview.  With one success, she was motivated to try for another position and her strategy worked again!

This is what Tarana discovered through working with a Career Services advisor:

Clean Up Your Curriculum Vita:

  • Use consistent and clear formatting throughout so that the document looks polished and professional.
  • Include a brief professional summary focused on relevant skills and experience.
  • Edit out irrelevant information. Irrelevant information distracts the reader from what is important.
  • Include “streamlined” statements that start with a strong action verb and describe your achievements and accomplishments.
  • Add special sections such as “Conference Presentations Delivered.”

Prepare for the Interview:

  • Research information about the student population and policies of the institution that affect classroom dynamics. Know the mission of the institution.
  • Review the job description and requirements and use them as your guide.
  • Prepare questions to ask during the interview such as “What student services are available to support students?”
  • Practice answering scenario type questions such as “What would you do if a student was caught plagiarizing?”

The time and effort that Tarana invested in strengthening her curriculum vita and preparing for her interviews worked! She received two offers and accepted both positions. Her final advice is to: “Take advantage of Walden’s Career Services, their advice is “absolutely priceless.”

We thank Tarana for sharing her story, and we wish her much success in her DBA program and her new adjunct teaching positions!

For more information on creating a curriculum vita and searching for a higher education teaching position visit the Career Services Center Doctoral Resources.

Written by Denise Pranke, Senior Career Services Advisor


Time Management Tips for New Doctoral Students

Cynthia Hickman, a Walden Alumni Ambassador, will be awarded her Ph.D. in Health Services, in January 2017.  She is our guest blogger for this post.


The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) journey is a gratifying experience that will mold your life and career. You must assume personal accountability to achieve a successful outcome. Commonly asked questions are, “What is the first step in the dissertation or Capstone process?”  “What steps do I take from there?”  Addressing these issues early can support your timely completion of your doctoral degree.

Here are three tips that supported my success in my Ph.D. journey.

1)    You must be proactive.

Controlling your Ph.D. journey begins with personal accountability, information, and the required tools associated with your academic program. As a new scholar-practitioner, you must act in anticipation of future program expectations and needs.

2)    Know the necessary documents for your program.

Every program has required documents, which are tools needed along your doctoral journey to be successful.  I advise you to read these documents early in your program. For Ph.D. programs, click here. For professional doctorates, click here.

At the start of my program, I printed:

  • the writing template,
  • the rubric,
  • the checklist for the research design under consideration,
  • the Institutional Review Board (IRB) application,
  • the Committee Member Nomination Form.

3)    Select Your Committee Early (6-month window). 

If you know your research interest, starting the selection process for committee members is a valuable and proactive step. Your prospectus course positions you to enter the dissertation shell with a firm blueprint for your study. Committee members are excited when scholars take this initiative.  It helps you decide how to develop the chapters that make up your dissertation.

I hope you find these tips helpful as you advance along your doctoral journey!

Written by Cynthia Hickman, Walden University Ambassador, Ph.D. in Health Sciences expected January 2017; M.S. Nursing completed December 2009 

For Writing Center resources and tips, please visit these links:

Doctoral Capstone Kits from the Writing Center

“Top 5 Things to Know Before Writing Your Dissertation“ Blog Post

Navigating Walden: An International Student’s Perspective


Michael Mba is a PhD in Public Policy and Administration student who lives in Nigeria and works as a policy analyst for the Central Bank.  As an international student with a passion for statistics, Michael also tutors Walden students as a Graduate Assistant in the Academic Skills Center.

How did Michael join the Walden community, engage in networking efforts, tap into career resources, and pay it forward by helping others achieve academic success?

When Michael became interested in pursuing a doctoral degree, he began researching online programs in public policy.  When he came across Walden, he requested information and was invited to attend a networking event in Lagos, Nigeria, where he met four current students who shared their experiences. He was impressed with Walden’s PhD in Public Policy and Administration program and decided to enroll.

Michael admitted that, when he first started his program, his main focus was on the rigorous coursework, challenging assignments, and time-sensitive deadlines.  Eventually, he began exploring resources and offerings beyond the classroom.  When he received an invitation to attend an International Networking Hour event, hosted by Career Services as part of the International Student Success Conference, he accepted.  Through this virtual networking event, he connected with other international students, including a Public Policy and Administration student from Ghana with similar interests in networking with fellow students in Africa and beyond.  He also learned about Walden’s Academic Skills Center (ASC) and met ASC staff members who were attending the event.

Chatting with others, Michael uncovered potential opportunities where he could apply his statistical skills. He visited the Career Services Center website and used the CV Guide to enhance and update his CV with current knowledge and experience.  He also explored the Careers at Walden page to research available openings.  When he came across a Graduate Assistant position in Statistics, he applied and was selected for an interview. During the interview, he impressed the interviewers with his extensive knowledge of statistics and use of SPSS, and was offered the position.

As a Graduate Assistant, Michael enjoys the challenge of explaining complex statistical concepts in simple terms.  Michael commented, “My duty is to make statistics look easy.”  So far, he has mentored over 60 students within the last three months from a wide range of programs and backgrounds including health sciences, psychology, management, education, business administration, and public policy and administration.

Michael’s journey from a prospective student researching Walden in Nigeria, to an active online learner exploring Walden’s many resources, to a Graduate Assistant dedicated to mentoring and tutoring others; has helped him “pay it forward” and share his vast statistical knowledge within a global learning community.  Through active engagement, he continues to forge connections and gain new perspectives for his own career success.

Are you seeking new ways to share your knowledge and skills with others?

Watch Social Change Series webinars for ideas on how to leave your mark and make a difference.
Watch Statistics in the Workplace to learn how to apply your statistical knowledge in multiple work settings.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services