Wednesday, Feb 13, 2019
Daniel Rosa and Alicia Gialanella discuss their experience at Rider
Daniel Rosa grew up in Old Bridge, N.J., less than an hour from Rider University’s Lawrenceville campus. After staying in state to earn his bachelor’s in general psychology at Montclair State University, he is now enrolled in the school psychology program of Rider University’s Department of Graduate Education, Leadership, and Counseling. Alicia Gialanella originally hails from Pittsburgh, Pa. She attended Brigham Young University as an undergraduate, where she studied psychology and family life. After graduating from BYU, she headed back east, where like Rosa, she is pursuing an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in School Psychology from Rider. While their journeys are quite different, Rosa and Gialanella chose Rider for many of the same reasons. Here, the second-year graduate students discuss why they picked Rider and what their experiences have been like thus far. Why did you choose Rider? Rosa: When I was talking to my professors about graduate school psychology programs while I was an undergrad, they recommended Rider out of all the schools in New Jersey. They said one of the biggest benefits was that because it’s a small campus and the class sizes are really nice, there will be more of a direct connection between the professors and the students. Gialanella: I chose Rider because of the outstanding reputation of the College of Education and Human Services, and the school psychology program itself. Upon first exploring the program, interviewing here and visiting campus, it was evident that Rider is a supportive, knowledgeable community of faculty and students. I knew that environment would allow me to learn, grow, and develop into the type of professional I want to be in the future. The school psychology program’s exceptional track record of 100% Praxis passing and employment rates were reassuring statistics that made me confident I would leave Rider prepared to be a school psychologist and get a job upon graduation. What has your experience been like in the program? Rosa: I’ve been in the program for over a year, and it’s really met and exceeded my expectations in a lot of different areas. I like the fact that we have two directors for the program who bring two different perspectives to the table. Dr. Stefan Dombrowski has a more clinically-based mindset, while Dr. Karen Gischlar teaches from a behaviorally-oriented, systems approach, which she supports with examples from her background as a teacher and a school psychologist. The small cohort size is nice because you can get a lot of support from the other cohort members. The classes have been great, and the professors have been really outstanding. They’ve made the process of learning a new subject and new information really enjoyable. Gialanella: I have just begun my second year in the program, and so far my experience has been great. In just one year of being here, I have learned so much more about the field of school psychology and already have grown a great deal professionally. One of my favorite aspects of the program is the cohort model. Going through the program with the same eleven students has been an amazing support network that I have really valued. I’ve developed great friendships thus far and know that these relationships will be long lasting. Classes, while at times challenging, have been very informative and push me to think critically, especially the field-based practicum experiences. What advice do you have for prospective school psychology students looking for a program and considering a career as a school psychologist? Rosa: I think the biggest thing a prospective student should consider is the accreditation and the history of the program. One of the primary factors that attracted me to Rider was how highly the program is ranked nationally, and the fact that it’s certified by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). This was important to me in comparison to other programs in New Jersey that are really good but don’t have that accreditation, because having a degree from an NASP-certified school will allow you work as a school psychologist in most states. Gialanella: Visit campus, ask questions and really get to know the different programs you are applying to. Don’t just skim the website. Talk to current students, get to know faculty and get a real feel for each individual program. Everyone is different and has various types of learning and life styles. Do some self-examination and identify what is important to you in a program and seek out one that can best fit with your unique needs. In terms of the field of school psychology in general, I recommend shadowing a school psychologist in order to fully understand what the job entails before applying to programs. School psychologists engage in a wide variety of day-to-day activities, including assessment, consultation, counseling, and intervention. Be prepared to develop these different skillsets. Be honest with yourself and decide whether you are willing to dedicate the necessary time and energy to working with children and being an advocate for them, even at times when it may be trying or intimidating. The career can demand a lot from you at times, but if you decide it’s for you it is so worth it at the end of the day! What makes Rider unique compared to other schools you were considering? Rosa: I love the fact that Rider isn’t an enormous campus and the program itself isn’t huge. The cohort usually stays at around 12 people and that was really attractive to me, because you get a lot more attention to your work, and you’re able to really have a stronger relationship with your professors. The fact that each of my professors is only teaching 12 of us, and maybe another cohort, means that I get more one-on-one support, which was what really attracted me to Rider. Gialanella: My sister and I both started at Rider the same year, she as an undergraduate, I as a graduate student. We both love Rider’s intimate educational setting in which we have been able to develop personal relationships with our professors and peers, which we believe will extend beyond our time at Rider. Ultimately, no other university could compare to the community Rider offered. Faculty are dedicated to providing quality education, and their commitment and care shows in the classroom. My professors are very much not only teachers but also mentors! I know I can turn to them anytime I have a question, either with academic work or with general professional issues I am seeking guidance on.