How did you become interested in Personality Assessment?
I didn't know what I wanted to do when I graduated from college. I traveled abroad for some time, but felt an urge to go to graduate school. I was accepted in a master's program at Eastern Michigan University, where I enrolled hoping to figure out whether I wanted to focus primarily on practice or research. I learned that I am really passionate about both, and with the help of my graduate advisor David Richard also narrowed my interests to assessment psychology. I applied to work with a number of assessment psychologists, and was lucky enough to be accepted at Texas A&M to work with Les Morey. I have never looked back.
Tell us about your current job. We are interested in hearing about the different things that people do who work in the area of personality assessment.
One of the benefits of a PhD in Clinical Psychology is that it allows you to do so many things. In my particular job description, these things are divided among three domains: Research: I work closely with collaborators and students to design and conduct studies, write papers, write grants, and discuss recent findings at professional meetings. Teaching: In the MSU clinical doctoral program, I teach personality assessment, supervise students' clinical work, serve on student committees, and work with my colleagues to maintain and improve our training. I teach courses such as introduction to clinical psychology and a seminar in interpersonal theory. I also edit and write academic and clinical books and give workshops. Service: I work on department committees and serve on various boards and committees for professional societies. I review papers and grants and serve as an action editor for professional journals. I provide assessment and treatment services for patients in the MSU Psychological Clinic. I also currently serve as director of the clinic.
What are the most interesting and/or meaningful aspects of your job?
The primary motive for most of my friends and families to work is to pay their bills. Some of my friends and family are unable to find work, or really dislike their jobs. In this context, I regard the opportunity to pursue solutions to clinically important problems with my students and colleagues as a rare privilege. I get pleasure from thinking about interesting things with interesting people. I get fulfillment from student development, patient improvement, and scientific advancement, and most of all, from the relationships that I develop with the people with whom I work. And I get to work on a beautiful campus full of vibrant optimists with open minds who are there, for the most part, to learn and share what they know about the world around them. I would happily do my job even if I didn't need the money.
Tell us how you initially learned about and joined SPA.
I was introduced to SPA by my doctoral advisor, Les Morey, and became a member in order to attend my first meeting in 2005 in Chicago.
How has SPA impacted or benefited you or your career?
I have been to every meeting since 2005. I have developed numerous professional and personal relationships with SPA members and have learned a tremendous amount about personality assessment, clinical science, and professional development. I think what I like best about SPA is that it is a big tent, unlike most conferences I go to, practitioners and researchers from different theoretical perspectives fit comfortably. This big tent is great for students with broad and diverse interests, as is the collegial and very supportive atmosphere of SPA. More concretely, SPA has been helpful to me and many other developing assessment psychologists, through travel grants to attend the meeting, volunteer opportunities that allowed me to attend a number of workshops, the opportunity to serve as a SPAGS and SPA board member, and the Exner and Beck awards. Overall, SPA has played a critical role in helping me establish my professional identity and it is through SPA that I have forged some of my most important and meaningful professional relationships.
As we look forward to SPA's 100th anniversary in 2038, what do you think is important in order for the field of personality assessment to thrive and to benefit others?
I wrote an exchange column related to this question recently. In that column, I suggested that SPA, and personality assessors more generally, are in a uniquely strong position to influence the future of mental health research and practice, because of issues such as progress in reimbursement for assessment services, progress in developing guidelines for effective assessment and assessment training, evidence for the clinical benefits of assessment, the increasing recognition of the importance of personality for mental health assessment, the development of dynamic models of personality assessment, and the increasing popularity of transdiagnostic treatment perspectives. I also argued that there are specific things we can do to take advantage of this opportunity. These things include caring more about people and constructs than tests, focusing on the practical utility of assessment, expanding the influence of personality assessment, being open to novel technology and assessment materials that are in the public domain, reaching out to and educating the public, and preserving and enhancing assessment training.