Office Hours: Courtney Louis
Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student at Michigan State University
B.A. in Psychology from Hunter College, City University of New York
What inspired you to attend grad school?
It fascinated me that I could be on the side of science that was innovative and creative, while simultaneously helping people understand their distress. I wanted to be one of those people who could contribute to a better understanding of psychopathology, and simultaneously help people recover. I love learning about the brain, and using a cognitive neuroscience to help inform what may be maladaptive within those who are anxious and depressed. Having the opportunity to do both seemed like an amazing thing. Critically, I did not want to solely deliver therapy, I wanted to be able to contribute to an understanding of mental illness. Therefore, graduate school seemed like a perfect fit.
Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?
My proudest grad school moment was getting through the first semester! Granted, I have only recently started my journey, but the first semester is truly a challenging one in a variety of aspects - you start a new school, start new classes, meet new people, move to a new town (in some cases), as well as start developing a sense of self as a researcher or innovative thinker. There is something to be said about making it through that. It creates a resiliency in you, that I believe should be appreciated.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?
"Make time for you." You have to take care of yourself. It is going to be hard; there is no denying that. But you cannot make it through, if you do not take care of yourself first. If you neglect to do that, you will not be functioning optimally, and that doesn't benefit anybody. Let's be honest, will it actually be the end of the world if you took an extra hour for some self-care? Probably not.
If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?
I don't know if there is a song that I can think of right now that ca describe my Black experience. But I love this song. It's just so affirming. Sometimes, you just need a reminder, especially on trying times. that you are, in fact, good enough. You have the potential, because you're here for a reason, and you should not be afraid to say that you are intelligent, and deserve to be here as much as everybody else.
What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?
My biggest obstacle was to be okay with not having all the answers right away. Grad school is a place of intellectual growth, and it is challenging. In schooling before this, you can always see the end - maybe its an exam, its a paper, its a class, etc. In graduate school, you will not have all the answers, and sometimes the finish line is a little blurry. Putting my trust in the process is quite necessary. I think the best strategies are to talk through your frustrations, and don't stay in your own head. Have an outlet - whether that be your friends, family, self-expression via art, anything. You need to be able to let it out, and press the reset button.
What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?
It has taught me that I am resilient. Anyone who can do this is resilient, and you just do not know how resilient you are until you get here. So if this is what you really want, you can do it!
If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself? Why?
"It will be okay, you do not have to have all the answers now."
Impostor syndrome is the real deal people. It will come, and sneak up on you at random moments. I think the first day is when you feel it the most. Everything is so brand new, and it can be very easy to think "Oh man, maybe I should not be here." But you will be surprised to know (or maybe not so surprised), that almost everybody feels it. Hone in that feeling of fear, and use it as motivation. If you think there is something that you need to know, because it will help you, then make a goal to learn it someday. But take your time, it will come to you. So many great researchers have changed their course throughout their careers, and that is after they have established themselves. You cannot plan research, or your innovation. It will unfold for you. That is just the way of the process. Trust your work ethic. It will lead you somewhere, but not a place you can predict. And that is okay.
How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?
Being in a research setting of clinical science that infuses cognitive neuroscience as a research framework is already a pretty finite group. Being a black woman within this sphere is challenging (why, hello there Impostor Syndrome). However, I know that I love what I am studying. I know that I want to make the connections between the brain and psychopathology, and so I know I should be here. If anything, being a black woman in this sphere gives me drive. We need more black women in science, and I hope to contribute to that.
How do you intend to use your degree in the future?
I hope to continue to contribute to research, and disseminate knowledge to non-scientific communities. I also want to be able to work closely with clients who are suffering. I would love to be involved on both sides of the spectrum - working directly with people to help them get better, and contributing to an understanding of anxiety and depression.
What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?
Is this what you really want to do? Because there will be trying and tough moments, but if you know this is what you want, then it will be worth it. It will give you something to hold on to during those rough times.
Feel free to reach out to Courtney: firstname.lastname@example.org