January 27, 2022
Tara Duncan knew she wanted to do two things in college – play softball and study psychology. Finding an opportunity to do both at Shawnee State University, she knew she found the place for her to pursue her degree after her first visit on campus.
“I came on a visit to practice with the softball team and as soon as I stepped on campus, I knew I wanted to go there,” she said. “I didn’t need to see any other schools. I basically started my Shawnee career right then.”
The field of psychology always held an interest for Duncan. Knowing close friends and family members living with mental health disorders, it was important to her to be able to make a difference for patients in similar situations
“From a very young age, even before high school, I knew I wanted to study psychology,” she said. “Aside from that, I wanted to help families such as mine who have dealt with family members with mental health issues. It’s kind of evolved from there, but that’s definitely where it was rooted from – wanting to help people.”
After graduating from SSU in 2017, Duncan moved back to her hometown and began working with a team of professionals who work with severe cases of patients with mental health illnesses in the community.
“I was basically an in-home case worker,” said Duncan. “I was working with patients who were recently found not guilty by reason of insanity. It was an interesting and challenging job.”
Soon after, Duncan began applying to graduate programs in Florida and enrolled in a program to receive her Master of Education in Mental Health Counseling. During her program, she worked with women with eating disorders for about a year and half, finding the experience eye-opening. After graduating, she started working at the South Florida Reception Center, a prison in the area.
“I meet with inmates who have been referred for mental health and I screen them,” she said. “I look at their history, diagnose them, make sure they are taking medications, provide crisis intervention, and complete therapy visits. I make sure they get the mental health care they need.”
Looking at her career, Duncan is thankful for how the Social Sciences Department at SSU and her Psychology faculty members prepared her for graduate school and her work today.
“When I was in graduate school, I could tell I was ahead of my colleagues and I thank my classes at Shawnee State for that,” she said. “The professors there made a lasting impact on me as a person and on me as a professional. I’ll always remember every professor that I had there.”
To learn more about the Shawnee State University Psychology program, visit shawnee.edu/psychology.