Masters Graduates

Spotlight on Success

Jerlyn Tolentino

Jerlyn Tolentino, M.A. (Behavioral Neuroscience Emphasis) – I am a Clinical Research Coordinator for the Gleeson Laboratory for Developmental Neurogenetics on the University of California , San Diego campus. The laboratory is focused on the identification of the genetic causes of recessive neurological impairments and brain malformations, such as mental retardation, epilepsy, microcephaly, and lissencephaly. My role is to identify children with these conditions and to obtain their clinical and radiological information in order to confirm the diagnosis and manage a clinical database of over 900 patients. I am also involved in the isolation of DNA from blood or saliva samples, as well as the preparation of NIH grants and manuscripts for publication. The Master’s program at San Diego State University prepared me for my role as a clinical coordinator because classes such as Advanced Neuropsychology and Development of Language provided me with a solid background of the brain and the developmental process. Additionally, my research assistantship in Dr. Paul Gilbert’s lab provided the valuable experience of managing and coordinating a clinical study independently.
LaurieBrenner Laurie A. Brenner, M.A. (Behavioral Neuroscience Emphasis) – I entered the Clinical Psychology program at the University of California , Los Angeles (UCLA) in the fall of 2006. I am specializing in pediatric neuropsychological assessment and the neuroscience of developmental psychopathology, with particular emphasis on visual attention in autism, ADHD and 22q Deletion Syndrome. An additional focus for me is the use of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for anxiety disorders.One of the primary ways in which the Master’s program at San Diego State University (SDSU) prepared me for doctoral work in clinical psychology was by giving me the support and training necessary for independent research. The experience I gained at SDSU in design, implementation and analysis of a research project has contributed to my efficiency and productivity as a doctoral student. Also, the many opportunities at SDSU to meet and speak with professors, students and professionals doing both research and clinical work helped me to focus my interests and to determine the best way for me to achieve my career goals.
NicoleCrocker Nicole Crocker, M.A. (Behavioral Neuroscience Emphasis) – I am currently a first year doctoral student in the San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. I work under the mentorship of Dr. Sarah Mattson studying the cognitive and behavioral effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs and toxins. I am broadly interested in the neurobehavioral mechanisms underlying various developmental disorders and hope to remain in the field pediatric neuropsychology throughout my career.Before entering the joint doctoral program I completed a Master’s degree in psychology at San Diego State University. My experience as a Master’s student was invaluable in helping shape my research interests and career goals as well as providing me with the appropriate research experience needed to be accepted into a doctoral program. The time spent in my research placement and the process of writing my Master’s thesis was incredible preparation for the future challenge of doctoral work and I feel as though I could never have been as well equipped for graduate study had I not completed the Master’s program at SDSU.
NatalieBohlmann Natalie Bohlmann, Ph.D. (M.A. Developmental Emphasis) – Based upon the work I completed for the Master’s thesis, I conducted a follow up study- the Master’s thesis in conjunction with the follow up study were published Ref: Bohlmann & Fenson, (2005). The Effects of Feedback on Perseverative Errors in Preschool Aged Children, Journal of Cognitive and Development, 119-131.With the completion of the Master’s degree, I was accepted into the Doctoral Program in Developmental Psychology at UC Berkeley where I was from 2001-2007. I was a recipient for the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award for 2003-2004. I completed my dissertation work in 2007 entitled: First grade children’s self-judgments of their mathematics ability: The role of cognitive development and classroom environment. This study was presented as a paper at the American Educational Research Associations Annual Meeting held in New York , in March of 2008 and has been submitted for publication.

I currently hold a position as an Assistant Professor in the College of Education , Dept of Educational Theory and Practice at Montana State University- Billings.

Lynda Brooks Lynda Brooks, Ph.D. (M.A. Developmental Emphasis) – I am a licensed clinical psychologist with Psychiatric Centers at San Diego (PCSD). My areas of expertise are playtherapy with children, cognitive-behavioral therapy, couples and family therapy, parent education, as well as, clinical hypnosis. My Masters in Developmental Psychology (1996) from SDSU prepared me for working with children and families. The research projects I was involved in at SDSU were invaluable in helping me obtain my doctorate degree by providing a firm foundation in all the facets of conducting research (journal reviews, data collection, statistical analysis, etc.). The mentoring I received by the faculty at SDSU, especially my chairperson, Terry Cronan, Ph.D., provided the support and encouragement I needed in reaching my goals. As a “mature” woman, returning to school after raising my family, it was difficult to navigate the college system. Without the guidance of faculty and peers at SDSU, my success would not be possible.

Yuri Kashima, M.A. (Developmental Emphasis) – Currently I’m a grad student at Indiana University (Bloomington) studying to get my PhD in School Psychology.  I’m now in my second year, and am enjoying taking courses, getting hands-on experience in the schools through various practicum placements, and working at an education policy center on campus. My days are super-busy (especially now that I have a dog!), but I feel that I came into the program prepared, mainly because I knew to some degree what to expect out of graduate school. My experience in the psychology program at SDSU has helped me the most in preparing me for a PhD program. It was at SDSU where I got to really experience what being a grad student was like, from the types of research opportunities you can have, to realizing what hard work and commitment it takes to attaining a graduate degree.

  Pancho Aguirre, M.S. (Industrial/Organizational Emphasis) – I currently work for the Commonwealth Bank, ,  in Sydney, Australia.  The biggest bank in Australia with ~ 9 million customers.   I’m the Research & Analytics Manager in the Customer Analytics and Modeling Team for the Marketing and Communications Group.  In my almost two years here I have:

  • Initiated, coordinated and managed an employee retention initiative for a large business unit for which I leveraged employee data and developed a statistical model to predict the likelihood of an employee leaving the bank
  • Used employee surveys to discover root-causes of low job moral and designed remedial strategies and tactics
  • Proactively advised and influenced senior management in relation to employee selection, job performance, employee satisfaction and employee retention best-practices
  • Developed, managed, implemented and supported bank-wide data-driven marketing strategies and campaigns for the Insurance and Home Loan Portfolio which generated $7 million of incremental revenue within six months
  • Developed strong business relationships with clients by presenting supporting empirical evidence and using advanced statistical analysis, to influence and drive change on the implementation and adoption data-driven marketing strategies and initiatives
  • Prepared and presented business strategies and recommendations to senior management to implement data-driven initiatives
  • Mentored, trained and coached fellow team members on best statistical practices and business strategies

My MS I/O Psychology at SDSU prepared me extremely well for my professional career on :

  • Theoretical and practical aspects of personnel and organizational psychology, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, person-environment fit, measurement equivalence and organizational citizenship behavior research
  • Critical thinking
  • Theoretical and practical experience on advanced statistical methods and techniques
NoraGraceAwkerman Nora Grace Awkerman, M.S. (Industrial/Organizational Emphasis) – After graduating from SDSU with a M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, I moved to the Washington , DC -Metro area and work as a Senior Research Associate at PDRI, an I/O consulting firm. In my work with PDRI, I primarily work with large government agencies conducting job analyses, focus groups, needs assessments, customizing training solutions, and developing organizational interventions for a range of organizational issues. I attribute the balanced I and O perspectives taught in SDSU’s program, the internship, thesis, and lab experiences, and the dedicated faculty to my success in the workplace.
 Keren Brooks




Keren Brooks, M.S. (Industrial/Organizational Emphasis) – Co-Owner and Chief Research Analyst CoBro Consulting, LLCI was a student in the Applied Psychology program from August 1999 through December 2001. Though my emphasis was in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, the class I took most to heart was Program Evaluation, and that is where my career has taken me. While finishing work on my thesis, I was hired as an institutional research analyst for a local community college district. The position involved evaluating the district’s educational programs, often through quantitative analysis (e.g., student enrollment and success data) but also using qualitative data where possible (e.g., surveys, content validation of placement tests). Our office was also usually involved in strategic planning, which drew on some of my I/O background as well. The I/O background provides an understanding of how many organizations work, which imparts a perspective useful in nearly any decision you might make on the job, regardless of the job.Through that research position, I became aware of federal education grants and the role program evaluation increasingly plays in their attainment and implementation. My supervisor in the office (also a former Applied Psychology program graduate), another staff member, and I decided to start a side consulting business doing evaluation for these types of programs, as well as other evaluation projects that have come our way. Eventually we had enough business to transition to full-time. While I don’t think there is anything that can truly prepare you for starting or running your own business, the I/O background again came in handy with an understanding of organizational structures and best practices.

In my experience with meeting and working with other professionals in the field, I believe that the SDSU program is one of the best master’s level programs out there. It is extremely challenging, with a stronger focus on quantitative methods than many other programs. There are some skills you can learn on the job or through professional development, but I don’t believe that statistics, measurement, or research lend themselves to that mode of learning as well as other topics. The model and structure of the SDSU Applied Psychology program definitely helps us be more competitive in the workplace.









Steven Yoo, M.S. (Industrial/Organizational Emphasis) – I graduated from SDSU with a degree in I/O. Moved to Korea and started working at Samsung Electronics Leadership Development Center (SLDC). SLDC is part of the corporate Head Quarters’ Human Resources Department and we are responsible for Leadership Training for all 100,000 Samsung Electronics Employees (Starting from New Employees all the way to the Executives). I started out doing implementing New Employee Orientations and moved on to developing the Coaching Program for the Mid-Level Managers. I designed the program, trained the Senior Managers who were going to be facilitating the program (both in Korea and all over the world!), and was responsible for Key Talent Management of Senior Managers who were going into the selection pool for Executive promotion.Now, I have changed my position to SK Holdings – working in Seoul , S. Korea. There are plenty of ideas about this job, but nothing is set about my Roles and Responsibilities. That is what I like about this job. No one in Korea has ever done this before and I am the first one in a major corporation who is responsible for this line of work. The opportunities are endless. Currently, my job has three aspects: Global Communication (telling all of the SK employees about the upcoming changes in their work – that is they are going to be working with people from all over the world); Soft Landing of all international assignees (Expats, Inpats and locals) to help in making their transition easier when they go over seas (it is my job to make sure that they have a smooth transition); and Developing and Implementing a Cross-Cultural Training for all SK employees.

At the end of July 2008, the Academy of Social Sciences ranked Seoul 12th in global urban competitiveness (after New York , London , Tokyo , Paris , Washington , D.C, Los Angeles , Stockholm , Singapore , San Francisco , and Chicago), so we are now dwelling in a highly regarded city. SK is the third largest conglomerate in the Republic of Korea (ROK), following Samsung and Hyundai Motor Company. LG is actually smaller than SK. Of the three, SK is the most highly respected for its corporate culture and work life. Recently, the chairman of SK had formed a new department called Global Talent Management to help facilitate the preparation of SK for Globalization. I am a part of this team as a “Cross-Cultural Specialist.” My Boss is an American Woman (Harvard PhD who has over 25 yrs of experience in Change Management) and she is one the first Non-Korean and Woman Executive in Korea – telling you this is some major changes for Koreans! I am excited and thrilled to be working here.

How did SDSU prepare me for this? I’m gonna be rather frank here. Dr. Hattrup’s  theoretical background and his knowledge of the literature gave me the solid foundation to address most of the issues that come up at my work with something to back up. I hated reading all the articles he assigned… and there were many days when I thought, when will I use this? I’ll tell you that I use it. and I use it a lot!. Dr. Prislin’s teachings in Cross-Cultural issues is the bases of my current work here. I guess the question would be – what don’t I use from her teachings? Dr. Matt’s class in Psychological Measurements – Testing and Measurements are not limited to Research. They are the back bones of “numbers” that convinces the Executives that rather than spending $40 million on off line recruitment, they should spend $50 mil on on-line right now and get 4 times the return. The various people that I’ve met at SDSU and all their eccentricities gave me the practical skills in dealing with people that I did not understand in the beginning.

StephenTally Stephen Tally, Ph.D. (M.A. Learning and Cognition Emphasis ) – I am an SDSU alum for both my B.A. and M.A. in psychology. I can honestly say that entering the Master’s program at SDSU was one of the best decisions I have ever made. After completing my B.A. in Psychology at SDSU in 1994, I entered into the SDSU Master’s program to help prepare me for a research career, and also make me a more attractive candidate for top doctoral programs. The M.A. program at SDSU provided statistical and research methods training on par with that found anywhere, even in doctoral programs. When I entered the doctoral program at the University of California , Irvine , I found my training and background in methods and statistics as a result of the SDSU Master’s program far exceeded that of most other incoming students. As a result, I was able to waive many of the required statistics and methods classes, substituting more advanced seminars. I additionally had no problem selecting the lab of my choice to work in, and was in demand to T.A. higher level methods and statistics courses. I also found the mentoring I received was outstanding, and I still maintain both personal and professional relationships with my mentors from the Master’s program.After completing my PhD, I accepted an offer to work as research director of a commercial research firm where I remained for 3 years. However, a desire to conduct more rigorous academic research led me to a position at the University of California , San Diego , where I am presently manager at the Health Services Research Center . In addition to my duties at UCSD, I will be teaching introductory statistics at San Diego State University in the Spring 2009 semester.
  Janet Collins, Ph.D. (M.A. Physical and/or Mental Health Research) – The Master’s program in psychology at SDSU was a great experience, especially with the good fortune to work with Dr. Al Litrownik. I especially appreciated the clinical and research experiences that surrounded the academic program.  These opportunities helped me understand my own strengths (and weaknesses) and the directions I might head to best pursue my interests. After SDSU, I continued my graduate training at Stanford earning a Ph.D. in educational psychology, with Dr. Albert Bandura as my dissertation advisor.  From there I worked in educational measurement with Dr. Jim Popham at UCLA and then was recruited by CDC into the Division of Adolescent and School Health.CDC has offered me incredible opportunities conducting public health research and programs around the world.  In 2004, I was selected as Director for CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.  My Center is responsible for public health programs to reduce the leading causes of premature death and disability including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and the underlying risk factors of tobacco use, poor nutrition, and physical activity, and obesity.  I am the first behavioral scientist (i.e., non-physician) to rise to the rank of Center Director, and currently manage an annual budget of nearly $1 billion and a staff of approximately 1,500 employees across ten scientific divisions.

Psychology has proven to be a great foundation for my work in public health.  Issues of motivation, cognition, behavior change, program evaluation, and research methods are my daily fare.  The SDSU psychology department served me well in helping me sort out my interests and build a strong foundation for my later work.

JonathanMartinez Jonathan Martinez, M.A. (M.A. Physical and/or Mental Health Research) – In 2005, I began the masters program in psychology at SDSU. I had been unsuccessful in my past applications for doctoral programs in clinical psychology and was a bit discouraged with entire process. Pursuing a masters degree in the psychology program at SDSU offered me the ability to 1) take excellent graduate coursework in psychology and statistics, 2) obtain quality research experience, 3) develop a thesis and other research papers for publication, and 4) help make important connections with professors and leading researchers in the field. Under the guidance of my advisors, Drs. May Yeh and Elizabeth Klonoff, I developed several research proposals with the common objective of examining mental health, service use, and outcomes for ethnic minority youth. I also enjoyed an active social life outside of school, and developed many friendships with classmates that I still keep in contact with now.

In my second year at SDSU, I applied again to doctoral programs in clinical psychology, armed with the new skills and accomplishments I had gained from my masters studies. I was accepted into several top doctoral programs in clinical psychology, and I know that my training at SDSU was integral to this success. Currently, I am a 2 nd year student in the clinical psychology doctoral program at UCLA. Under the guidance of my advisor, Dr. Anna Lau, I have developed a research proposal to examine how sociocultural factors contribute to documented racial/ethnic disparities in the utilization of child mental health services. My research proposal, along with the many experiences I received at SDSU, enabled me to obtain a Ford Foundation Fellowship from the National Academies. I look forward to the years ahead as I continue to develop my skills set as a researcher and a clinician, and I will always think back fondly on the wonderful experience I had in the psychology masters program at SDSU.

  Amanda Morrison, M.A. (M.A. Physical and/or Mental Health Research) – I am currently a first year student in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at Temple University . My adviser is Rick Heimberg, a leading anxiety disorder treatment outcome researcher specializing in social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.The Master’s program prepared me for my current life in MANY ways. First and foremost, my adviser provided me with a multitude of research and clinical experiences that without which I would not be where I am today. Through participating in his lab I was able to prepare and present several posters at national conferences, publish a couple of manuscripts, and gain valuable research experience, such as designing and implementing my own studies as well as working on larger, grant-funded studies. These experiences helped me to both narrow down what I was interested in pursuing and become intimately familiar with the current research being done in my area of interest. I also gained valuable clinical experience which helped to round out my application to graduate schools. I feel I also have an edge in my current status as a first year graduate student because of the classes and workload I undertook in my years as a master’s student. Finally, I was privileged to take classes with and collaborate on eesearch with several faculty members who are leading researchers in their own fields. Their mentoring has helped me in numerous ways, including writing letters of recommendation for my applications to graduate programs.


Eva R. Serber, Ph.D. (M.A. Physical and/or Mental Health Research) – Eva is a staff psychologist at The Miriam Hospital and an assistant professor (research) of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. She received her PhD in clinical psychology with a specialization in health/medical psychology from the University of Florida. She completed her predoctoral internship at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, and her postdoctoral fellowship at Brown Medical School. Her primary research interests are in psychosocial and behavioral cardiology, optimizing medical, psychosocial, and behavioral interventions, and enhancing quality of life, particularly among cardiac patients with biomedical devices (e.g., implantable cardioverter defibrillator [ICD]). Dr. Serber’s research interests are in examining clinical interventions and how they influence cardiac pathophysiology, such as autonomic function in relation to arrhythmias, or progression of cardiovascular disease. For example, she is currently funded by NHLBI to examine the effects of an exercise intervention versus a heart healthy education intervention on parasympathetic activity and regulation, and frequencies of arrhythmias and ICD therapies, and psychosocial well-being among a sample of cardiac patients with ICDs. In both her research and clinical patient care, Dr. Serber’s overarching goals are to improve treatment of cardiac patients, thereby improving their quality of life.Attending San Diego State University for a master’s degree in pre-clinical psychology was incredibly formative, building a foundation of research skills that helped me be successful at the University of Florida . During the master’s program I learned every aspect of working on an NIH-funded grant through my Research Assistantship with Terry Cronan, Ph.D. For example, I was involved in data collection, managed data entry into large databases, assisted with statistical analyses, was co- and first-author on several manuscripts, including my thesis, and contributed to intervention development. The SDSU master’s program opened up my eyes to clinical research and started me on the path to where I am today.
Cindy Huang Cindy Huang Vissering, M.A. (M.A. Physical and/or Mental Health Research) – After graduating from SDSU, I started the Ph.D. program in Counseling Psychology at the University of Oregon . My current research interests include cultural factors, such as ethnic identity and acculturation, and their impact on the mental health of ethnic minority youth and adolescent populations. The research training and mentoring I received from SDSU were invaluable to my development as a psychologist-in-training, it prepared me for acceptance into a doctoral program, and has thoroughly prepared me for the demands of doctoral studies!




Elizabeth Jacobs, M.A. (Social Emphasis) – After completing my MA at SDSU, I began my doctoral training in applied social psychology at Loyola University Chicago. Broadly, my time in Chicago has been spent researching two separate but related content areas. First, my work with Dr. Scott Tindale has investigated group-level problem solving, decision-making, and performance in complex probability situations. Second, my own work investigates group-level social justice processes. The decision to begin my development as a researcher at SDSU as a Master’s student with Dr. Radmila Prislin was the most important of my professional career. My rather extreme interest in philosophy provided me the necessary raw materials (drive, curiosity, and determination) to be an excellent social psychologist. I lacked at least two necessary skills, however. First, I was without any real experience in a research environment. Second, whereas I possessed strong writing skills, I did not have the theoretical knowledge to construct and test ideas in a logical and disciplined way.Orienting to the research process was relatively easy due to SDSU’s mandatory Research Orientation class. In this class, new graduate students hear professors give talks on their own graduate school experiences – these speakers also give tips on how to develop an effective research program. Students in the class listen to lectures about the logistics of coming up with testable research ideas, as well as learn how to navigate the publication process. Most important, however, is that the class offers students a timeline of tasks to complete to ensure that they have a final thesis at the end of two years. This timeline is followed by the graduate advisors, and every effort is made by the faculty and staff to keep new graduate students on track. I can say from experience that SDSU is unique in this respect – the terminal Master’s program allows for the faculty and staff to devote their attention to the success of their Masters students. This is important because in a combined MA – Ph. D program, MA students do not have the benefit of such one-on-one attention. Thus, many new MA students compete with doctoral candidates for their advisors; as a result, they struggle mightily to get their theses completed on time, and often fall through the cracks of the program entirely.

In closing, I enthusiastically recommend the California State University system in general, and SDSU program specifically, to all undergraduate psychology students who want to earn doctorates, but lack the requisite research and/or academic skills to be competitive in a Ph.D. program. My experience in San Diego is one that I will never forget, and one that continues to shape my professional development.

VanessaSawicki Vanessa Sawicki, M.A. (Social Emphasis) – In 2007, I received my master’s degree in psychology at SDSU. Currently, I am doctoral student at Purdue University working with Dr. Duane Wegener. My research broadly centers on attitudes, persuasion, and social cognition. Specifically, I seek to examine the variables that affect the amount as well as the nature of information processing. Some recent topics of interest include the role of ambivalence and confidence in selective exposure as well as the moderating effects of attitude strength in dissonance reduction.My experiences at SDSU not only helped me achieve my goal of acceptance into a Ph.D. program, they also gave me the tools I need to succeed at Purdue.  Working with Dr. Radmila Prislin provided the groundwork for my career in research by offering hands-on experience in every step of the research process. In addition to my master’s thesis, I was involved with a variety of projects that resulted in several conference poster presentations as well as a manuscript that is currently under review at a top social psychology journal. It was this experience in Dr. Prislin’s lab that not only gave me the skills I need to succeed as a researcher but also made me highly competitive as a doctoral applicant. In addition to the invaluable research experience, I also gained experience as a teacher and as a graduate student. All 4 semesters at SDSU, I taught PSY 271, instructing undergraduates about statistical analyses in SPSS. Meanwhile, as a student, I took seminar classes that broadened and enhanced my knowledge of general psychology as well as advanced statistics.  In fact, several of my courses, especially statistics, transferred over at Purdue. All in all, going to SDSU was one of the best decisions I have ever made. For anyone who is considering a Ph.D. program but wants to gain research focus and experience, I strongly recommend applying to the psychology masters program at SDSU.