Melissa Leone is a student in the school psychology program. She is also a graduate assistant in Office of Academic Support.
When it comes to searching for graduate school, it can be somewhat of an intimidating and daunting task for an undergraduate student attempting to balance school, work and a social life. As a Niagara University undergrad, I was instantly drawn to the idea of continuing my education here.
As I began to look into local graduate programs, I immediately felt a connection with Niagara’s brilliant and warm graduate professors. I had many questions that needed to be answered such as “Is school psychology the right path for me?” “How much support could I expect Niagara give me?” and “Will Niagara set me apart from students in competing programs?”
With questions, I turned to the program's associate professor Dr. Lisa Kilanowski. I was so impressed with her experiences, educational background and field work. She was quick to answer questions and was patient when my family and I sat down with her at a Graduate Studies Open House. I was so grateful for the time and knowledge that she was willing to share with me and my family. Niagara’s school psychology graduate program soon began to feel right.
In an effort to keep an open mind, however, I continued to explore other career options and graduate programs. With more questions and thoughts about grad programs, I was introduced to Dr. Shannon Hodges, a professor of counseling at Niagara and the coordinator of the clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) Program. I so much appreciated his approachable warmth and humor and me to apply for and pursue a graduate degree in CMHC at Niagara. With this new information, I expressed to him my interest in school psychology and he happily went into detail regarding the two programs unique connection. Hearing how much counseling experience I would be able to receive with Niagara’s school psychology program in comparison to other programs only further brought me in.
In order to get a better grasp on what would occur during my second year of the program, I also sat down with Sue Rajnisz, Niagara’s field placement coordinator and instructor for the counseling and school psychology graduate programs. Having worked previously as a school psychologist, she was excited with my enthusiasm for a career in school psychology and provided me with references, guides, and a program outline.
Needless to say, these three individuals greatly impacted my decision to come to Niagara to pursue school psychology. I was greeted with so much warmth and one-on-one attention that I knew Niagara was the appropriate place for me to continue my education. Even more impressive, Niagara University is one of the few programs in the Western New York region that has National Association for School Psychologist (NASP) accreditation! NASP program approval/national recognition is an important indicator of quality graduate education in school psychology, comprehensive content, and extensive and properly supervised field experiences and internships, as judged by trained national reviewers.
Currently, I am in my second year of Niagara University’s school psychology program and could not be any happier with my decision. Dr. Kilanowski’s passion for the field has only further motivated me to work hard and value my educational opportunity. Through Niagara's program, I have had the ability to observe and work with students who have different levels of functioning (within multiple school districts), provide Aimsweb screening to the Lewiston-Porter Central School District, function as a practicum student in the West Seneca Central School District, work on research-based case studies, provide individual and group counseling, administer intellectual assessments, write psychological reports, and much more!
Dr. Kilanowski is also further preparing me and my cohort for next year where we will work full time in a school district as a school psychology intern. As per Dr. Kilanowski and former students’ reports, these internships are extremely competitive; however, I am excited for this new challenge as I have been prepared for it with mock interviews and other professional development opportunities.
Any student who may be interested in Niagara’s school psychology program, I encourage you to attend a graduate open house, or schedule an appointment with Dr. Kilanowski. Like me, you will soon be convinced that Niagara is the place for you to earn your degree and better prepare for a future career.
For more information on the school psychology program, contact Dr. Kilanowski, the program advisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 716.286.8797.