Dec. 2, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
As a graduate student in Sam Houston State University’s school psychology program, Lopa Paul has attended and presented at several conferences as part of her professional development.
She hadn’t planned on attending the Texas Association of School Psychologists conference in Austin this year, however, because it conflicted with a class she teaches for the department.
But it was important for Paul to attend, because she was to be recognized as the 2010 “Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year” award during the conference.
“My professor, James Crosby, called me the Saturday before, saying I should cancel my class on Thursday,” Paul said. “He and my practicum supervisor Jesse Saldana, who works with Katy ISD, had both nominated me for the award but didn’t let me know.”
During the ceremony, Crosby presented her the award, which is given based on a student’s performance in a variety of areas, including psychological service delivery (via practicum experiences), service to the profession/community, leadership abilities, academic performance and research activities, according to Crosby.
“Lopa excels in all areas,” he said. “She is a perfect example of the kind of student that a professor wants enrolled in his/her courses: first to arrive, last to leave, asks engaging questions, and is excited about the future of the profession of school psychology.
“Further, she wants her peers to succeed. She organizes study sessions, asks tough questions of faculty as a representative of her peers,” he said. “Finally, she is highly active in research and has significantly contributed to several faculty projects.”
A master’s student from India, Paul came to SHSU after earning her bachelor’s degree from Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio.
She started out on a pre-medicine track, planning to attend medical school (to which she was accepted) but encountered financial aid issues as an international student and went to work in a laboratory for Colgate-Palmolive instead.
“I realized it was a dead-end road and didn’t find it was very stimulating, and I didn’t see myself doing that very long, so I began applying for graduate school,” she said. She chose SHSU because her fiancé was working in the Houston area.
Having taken the prerequisite chemistry and psychology courses as an undergrad, Paul said she felt herself drifting more toward psychology.
“The very first time I took psychology it was an intro to psych course, and I accidentally, just because I wanted to take one course, took abnormal psychology,” she said. “This was when I wasn’t even contemplating majoring in psych. It’s just something that’s very interesting to me and is mentally very stimulating which is why I’ve carried on with psychology.
“Now I’m applying psychology while working at the schools,” she said of her decision to work in school psychology versus clinical psychology. “I’m enjoying every bit of it, not just knowing the background but being able to apply the theories and, as nerdy as it seems, just begin able to put it into practice.”
Currently in her “internship phase”—the third year—of the program, Paul is completing her internship with Klein school district in Houston. She also teaches social psychology and human sexuality for SHSU at the University Center in The Woodlands.
As an international student, Paul said there are several things that are memorable about coming to SHSU by way of India and then Ohio.
“I’m used to the northerners and I guess it was a stark change when I got here because the person who worked at the main department of psych office was the warmest person that I’d ever come across,” she said. “Since that experience, everyone I’ve met in the department has been incredibly welcoming.
“Because it’s a smaller group of people at the graduate level, I’ve had a great rapport with the faculty I’m working with,” Paul said. “I’ve worked on research projects with multiple people and all of them have worked out really wonderfully.”
Her ability to conduct research, including projects with Crosby and Ramona Noland, not only serve her in her future plans to enter a doctoral program but have also led to her receiving the TASP “Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year” award.
As the second winner of the award from SHSU in the last three years, Crosby said the recognition psychology students have received not only speaks for the quality of the program but of the students as well.
“Applications come from school psychology programs across the state of Texas and the competitiveness is heavy,” he said.
“Lopa’s receipt of this award is a testament to the superior quality of the school psychology students at SHSU,” he said. “This honor is bestowed upon programs that are producing students, and future practitioners, of excellence.
“The recent frequency with which our students have received this award is an indication of the hard work of a cohesive departmental faculty who strive to train the best in our profession. Each year, we admit a cohort of what we feel are among the strongest school psychology students from across the country. We have a history of positively impacting the greater Houston-area schools and communities and beyond.”
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