Sometimes one conversation changes the trajectory of your life. For Eliza Koren ’21, an informational interview with Dr. Stephen Leff, the lead researcher in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia lab she worked in, put her on the path to pursue her Ph.D. in school psychology this fall at Lehigh University.
“I basically asked him, ‘How do I become you?”’and he recommended that I look into school psychology programs,” said Koren. “As soon as I looked into school psych, it became clear that it was the ideal field for me.”
School psychologists are licensed practitioners that focus on children, youth, families, and the schooling process. They work with both individuals, systems, and programs to promote positive learning environments and equal access to educational and psychology services.
Koren, a psychology major and a neuroscience and health studies double minor, wants to focus on designing, implementing, and assessing school-based behavioral interventions, or strategies and plans in the classroom meant to promote and prevent certain behaviors. In particular, she wants to work with programs that promote prosocial skills and socioemotional wellness.
Lehigh’s program allows for a specialization in socioemotional and behavioral wellness and direct experience supporting neurodiverse students with behavioral challenges, while still offering opportunities to do research with faculty.
While Koren learned about school psychology during her junior year at Haverford, she unknowingly had already been preparing herself for this career and program throughout college.
“A specific class that I credit with much of my interest in the field of school psychology,” said Koren,” is the ‘Psychology Practicum’ course I took with Professor She-wen Wang, which enabled me to spend a semester interning with a learning specialist at a local school, designing a professional development module for my final project, and even introduced me to the founder of Carousel Connections, which is a local organization for young adults with intellectual disabilities that I ended up working at during the summer between my sophomore and junior year!”
She also did research internships at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Temple University, and school-based psychology thesis research with Assistant Professor Laura Been.
“I have immense gratitude for the mentorship of Professor Laura Been, who was both my thesis advisor and one of my letter of recommendation writers,” said Koren. “She bent over backward for me in so many ways, including taking on a thesis project that was not in her typical realm of expertise during a literal global pandemic because she knew that my thesis partner and I were so eager to have the opportunity to conduct school-based research. It would have been impossible for me to be starting a Ph.D. program in August without her.”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.