Dr. Andrea “Andi” D. Clements was born and raised in Birmingham, AL. When she was in junior high, her dad took a job at the University of Alabama which ultimately impacted her academic and professional life. Though she did very well on her ACT and received many offers to attend college elsewhere, she admits “it was really a no brainer” to attend UA because of the cost-savings, her interest in counseling and psychology, proximity to home, and all of her friends were in the area. In this podcast, Dr. Clements shares her experiences while attending the University of Alabama for her BS, MA, and PhD. She then reveals how she ended up at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN and why she has stayed there for almost 27 years. Throughout this podcast, Andi shares some delightful stories and offers advice to those interested in selecting and attending graduate school for psychology and counseling. She even discusses how ETSU is different from other universities and why you should consider attending ETSU for your undergraduate or graduate degrees.
Dr. Clements is currently professor and assistant chair of the psychology department at East Tennessee State University. After receiving her PhD in Educational Psychology with concentrations in industrial organizational psychology, statistics, rehabilitation, and counseling, she started as an assistant professor of educational and developmental psychology at West Georgia College. From there, she explains how and why she went to ETSU to continue her professional career as an assistant professor. She worked her way up from assistant professor to associate professor to full professor at UA and explains that she loves being “a medium fish in a medium pond” because it allows her to teach and conduct meaningful research.
Andi explains how it makes more sense to her to conduct community-based, meaningful research. She states, “I now have a burning desire to answer a research question” and “that’s what keeps me going.” This is evident in her research on substance abuse and addiction, health psychology, and resilience-building. We discuss her HeART (Health, Addiction, Religion, Trauma) Lab at ETSU along with her role on the leadership team of the Ballad Health Strong BRAIN Institute which studies Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and promotes “the development and dissemination of evidence-based practices that prevent, reduce, or mitigate the negative effects of ACEs on health and health disparities.”
Dr. Clements has been involved in church and faith-based work all of her life so when she decided to add the study of religious variables to her research, she attended a five-day training at Duke University. She explains how she and Becky Haas were approached to “try to mobilize the church to address addiction.” This eventually led to her and others co-founding Uplift Appalachia where she currently serves as president.
Dr. Clements also talks about the opioid crisis and what Uplift is doing to help churches care for those suffering from addiction. Andi also reveals that she has been a church planter and regularly helps and mentors those living with addiction or have been incarcerated. Listen to the podcast to learn more about how Andi is applying her education and research to address addiction and mental health challenges.
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Andrea Clements specializes in experimental concentration and developmental psychology. She is passionate about conducting community-based research on substance abuse and addiction, health psychology, trauma-related neuropsychological development, resilience-building, and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Interdisciplinary Counseling (1982); The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.
Master of Arts (M.A.), Rehabilitation Counseling (1984); The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Educational Psychology (1991); The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology podcast where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Andi Clements to the show. Dr. Clements is a professor and assistant chair in the Department of Psychology at East Tennessee State University and has been at ETSU for almost 27 years. She is also the co-founder and president of Uplift, Appalachia, and associate director of Research, Design, and Implementation of the ETSU Ballad Health Strong Brain Institute. Today we will learn more about her academic and professional journey and discuss how she is applying her education and experience to help churches and other organizations care for those with addictions and mental health challenges. Andi, welcome to our podcast.
Thanks, thanks for having me.
I am excited to talk about your academic journey and how you are applying your passions to all these different areas. But to start off a general question, what made you gravitate toward counseling and psychology?
Wow, it would be sad to say, but it was a boyfriend. In college I had a I, I dated a fellow who was in psychology and my mom wanted me to be an engineer and he ended up being an engineer and I ended up being a psychologist and I didn’t marry him.
OK, but you stuck with it.
I stuck with it. I stuck with it, yeah?
Well, good and, and if you’ve seen some of our podcasts in the past, what we normally do is go through your academic and professional journey, so to speak. And I see that you attended the University of Alabama for your Bachelor of Science and Interdisciplinary Counseling. At what point did you know that you wanted to get your counseling degree?
Uhm, that was actually early, fairly early on I was in a program. This was the 70s. You kind of do your own thing and they had a program called New College. And in New College you could make your own degree, which sounds kind of lame, but you could make your own degree and I went in, believe it or not, as an art major. And then I was like, well, I need something applied. Aart and advertising and then, well I need something more academic, so art, advertising, and psychology. And then I’ll never make money. So, I spent a semester as a chemistry major. That was a mistake, and then I realized that I was not a chemistry major and then I went back and thought, well, I really do want to do some sort of helping people occupation and I was able to piece together lots of things that I had already done, and so the interdisciplinary counseling doesn’t really exist as a degree. But mine was a combination of psychology, uhm, social work and then I, I was able to take some graduate level counseling classes as an undergrad thinking that I would probably go to grad school eventually, but not really sure what direction I would go in grad school.
And it sounds like you were able to customize your degree to a certain extent and so tell us how and why you selected the University of Alabama for your bachelor’s degree then?
Well, so decisions get made for you. I lived, I was born and raised in in Birmingham, AL. But when I was in junior high, my dad took a job at the University of Alabama. And he was part-time faculty in broadcasting and parttime director of the Alabama Broadcasters Association. Thus, half price thus cheap. And so, I was there. I could live at home and go inexpensively there. So, it was really a no brainer there I, I never, I never, I, I did apply other places, but I didn’t go anywhere else. Yeah, yeah.
OK, and, and that was the primary factor. Were there any other colleges or universities that were even close to being considered after you applied? And if so, why?
Well, I, I, I, I did really well. Well, I should say I dropped out of high school to go to college. So, so I, I went to college after the 11th grade. I did really well on my ACT and so I got letters from everywhere you know. Please come here please come here please come here very flattering. Kept a whole folder of all these places that really wanted me, but it didn’t make sense because even with scholarships and everything it was still very expensive and that was right there. And also, I was really involved with, I worked in a, in a like a high school ministry group there that was my friends. Those were the people I hung out with and so to just go off on my own didn’t make sense in my world at that time.
So, my next question, you’ve kind of already answered it. You stayed at the University of Alabama for your Master of Arts and Rehabilitation Counseling. At that point, I kind of know why you probably stayed ’cause it still made more sense to go ahead and stay. But why the change? Or why more of the focus on rehabilitation counseling now?
This is beginning to sound very utilitarian, I just I’m just realizing that here, you know, decades into it. But I knew I wanted to do counseling uhm, and there was a professor in the program who, yeah, like I said as an undergrad, I took courses. And in the counseling programs already knew some of the faculty members and I got recruited into that program, but there, at that time, there was a, a grant for student. You could go and just do counseling and, and maybe have an assistantship, maybe not, but this was a, a grant because they needed more rehabilitation counselors and by, by doing that particular program you had to do an extra 15-hour specialty in mental health on top of it was a 48-hour program, no, it was 12 hours, the 48-hour program but you did an extra 20 hours, so 60 hours so it was extra coursework, but they paid you a stipend and they paid for your school so I can be bought. That’s what I’m saying. I can be bought but, but it’s funny because that, while it was interesting. I just wanted the degree I wanted to be able to hang out my shingle and be a counselor and eventually do private practice, which I did for a bit but with the rehabilitation part. That is what caused me to do the measurement part the, the psych testing part of it which ended up now is so central in what I do and was probably the most useful part of that entire degree. But I did it ’cause somebody paid me to add it on.
You’re not alone. You’re not alone. I know you want to feel special, but I’m telling you a lot of people do go for monetary reasons and, and that sounds like that was one of the most important factors. With that being said, however, I, I do believe you wanted to become a counselor psychologist and go into private practice based on my research on you, you rounded up your, your graduate degree by staying, oh, surprise, surprise, at the at U of A for your doctorate.
But this time you received your doctorate in educational psychology, so you’ve made kind of three different changes.
But behind the scenes, I suspect there was still that common theme, and so.
Well and, and you say stay, I really didn’t stay. I came back so.
So, because of what I did, I finished my, my rehab degree. We moved to Florida for my husband’s job and uhm, we hated Florida. Sorry for all the Floridians, but we were not Florida people. We call it our four-month wilderness experience and we made a pact one day that the first person with a job out of Florida. We would take and so, so let me say this. I had a master’s degree in psychology. I was doing psych testing during the day. Using my degree, I was a cocktail waitress at night, so, so another psychological application, but. But then come.
What I, yeah, I’m, I’m sorry for interrupting you, but I, I wanted to highlight a couple things and I had one thing on your experience again, sorry.
I didn’t. I did not include cocktail waitress.
I, I was just going to point that out you knew, you read my mind. I was going I; I see this Florida experience down here. I didn’t see any cocktail experience, I mean so.
Right, right? Well, that was after hours, you know.
That’s, that’s why. So, I apologize for interrupting. Yeah, go ahead.
No, that’s, that’s perfectly fine. It’s perfectly fine, but the job that I did get, and I was the first one that got the job. So, I ended up being the assistant director of Career Planning and placement at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. So, another, another piece of the University of Alabama. I didn’t mention. Also, I, I did my rehab counseling internship at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. So, I’ve really made the circuit. But so, I was in Huntsville for about 2 ½ years and then we moved back to Tuscaloosa for my husband’s job. So, it was his turn. And so, I was back in that city uhm, and I had when I was in Huntsville, I had dabbled with the idea of going to a doctoral program. I think I even I think I haven’t applied to Vandy at that point because we were about hour and a half, two hours South of there and I thought that’s doable, but I didn’t really pursue it, but when we got back to Tuscaloosa, uhm, let’s see, we had had a baby in Huntsville, so I was a new mom and so then I decided go ahead, get my license, hang out my shingle. And so, I did do private practice for maybe a year and a half, two years, something like that. I was terrible at it. Not that I was a terrible counselor, but I’m a terrible businessperson and so you know, I tell people I would see people for $5 or a chicken. You know, it’s like I really need to see somebody, but I don’t have any money, it’s OK come on. I could not, we could never have survived if I had stayed in private practice, so I need to work for someone. Uhm, hence the reason I work for the state now, but so I did that, but really all along I was wanting to I thought, go into clinical psych. And so, as I was doing this, the, the private practice I, I was getting my materials together to apply to the clinical psychology PhD at Alabama, which is completely across campus from the, the Ed Psych. I mean, it’s they’re in totally different colleges and everything, and so I, I applied but I was there. I mean there was nowhere else to apply. It’s like if you’re going to go, you’re going to go to Alabama. Or nowhere because it just was, it was not practical in my life and if I get in, I get in. If I don’t, I don’t and so at that point I think they had around 200 applicants. I, I was interviewed. I was number 11. They took five.
But I have to I have to put a, uh, a little bookmark here because I was interviewed by a woman who was a brand-new faculty member in developmental psychology there, so I just have to put that there because she will come back and, and so then I spent my days lying on the bed looking at the ceiling, saying well, now what that’s what I was going to do and what will I be and I have no direction and here I am. You know, I don’t want to do private practice. What can I do? I didn’t really want to be a rehab counselor. I suppose I could have, but I didn’t really want to be. Uhm, and this now we’re going to go into weird land now, but I in the middle of it I had a dream. I seriously, about two times in my life I’ve had dreams that were like Oh yeah, that well I had this dream that and it was just like it’s you should be in Ed Psych and in my in the middle of night it’s like yes. Yes, that’s perfect and it was like it was like the answer you know, and I woke up the next morning. I said I don’t want to do Ed Psych. What I do with Ed Psych but, but, anyway, I was like, alright, well, I’ll just go talk to ’cause it was in the same college where I got my counseling degree, but in a different department so I knew of some of the people I knew. A couple of people and I went and saw one of the professors that had taught one of my classes in my master’s program and it was the middle of summer. And it was so funny. I remember that conversation I was yesterday, and he said well, you can start in two weeks with a full assistantship. And I would like you to work with me and it’s like. Wait, what? So, so I went back and talked to my husband. I didn’t just take it right there. It’s like alright, here’s what we got and it’s like, well, it’s a degree. It’s actually a job because you get paid and you’re getting the degree and oh and by the way, we’ll count your master’s, you had to have two doctoral minors, we’ll count your master’s degree as one of your doctoral minors. So, you’ll have to have one doctoral minor and you can probably finish in three years and it’s like. You know so, so. So, I did that, and it was it’s just amazing when you look back at. Yeah, I wouldn’t say I was kicking and screaming, but I went in very hesitantly and just absolutely thrived. It’s so funny because ’cause you think Ed Psych. And yes, we did a lot of testing and, and learning and how to teach things and all of that planning this that and the other but, but I actually ended up doing a dissertation on basically prenatal development, you know so, so, so it was. It was they let me do pretty much whatever I wanted to and just cheer, cheer, were my cheerleaders the whole way and it was it was an amazing experience. So, yeah, it was perfect.
Andi, thank you for that summary. Looking at your Vita and everything else I, I, I saw kind of the flow but I, I didn’t pick up on all these things that you, you unleashed on us today, but a good summary for you and don’t take this the wrong way, you have been in a special place the whole time and been treated very well. Even though you found out no this part isn’t for me, and I quickly found that out, but then through that dream you eventually went and opened up that opportunity went back to your husband and said, this is what we got. It’s hard for us to pass up on this, similar to your undergrad, it’s hard to pass up on that and so.
Interesting, interesting stories.
I do want to tell you the last little piece of that when I told you to remember who she was because I, in my head, when she interviewed me that day and I don’t even know if I voiced this, but I said one day I want her job. You know, and, and it was so funny, because like I don’t know. I know it was in 2011. When I, I, I mean I, I kind of knew where she was. She ended up becoming the chair of that psych psychology department later. We ended up going to a conference and I know that it was April of 2011 because it was the day the Tornadoes went through Tuscaloosa, but she had escaped them. We, we ended up on a plane from Atlanta to Washington D.C. and we were sitting. We ended up on a plane sitting next to each other and at that point I had just finished being acting chair of my department for a semester while my, teaching child psych, while my chair was on sabbatical, and I thought I have her job.
It’s like it just came full circle and, and so it was a like I said, a circuitous route. But ended up doing exactly what I really root level wanted to do and still love doing after three decades, you know so.
I’m curious, did you when you had that conversation with her? Obviously, it was, it was fun to share that and, and then remind her ’cause she may or may not have remembered you and everything else.
Oh, I’m sure she didn’t. I’m sure she didn’t.
Being able to say that and then maybe part of you if I were you, I’d, I’d want to say hey, you know back then. Why did you put me down to 11? What? What kind of prevented me from becoming #5?
Right? As new as she was, I bet she probably didn’t even have much of a vote.
Can’t blame her and I, I did my, one of my, my other doctoral minor was in industrial and organizational psych, and so I did a lot of that that work was in her department, and so I knew a lot of the other people that probably voted me down to that, but.
I, I, you mentioned that already, but I wanted to highlight a couple things here, so you know the well before I before I go on you already mentioned some wonderful stories. Do you have any other fond memories attending U of A and you have a vast, you know, time period to, to pull from, but anything else come to mind.
Well, gosh, I, I think I took it for granted too much because I had always lived there so I was in a college. It wasn’t like the kid that comes from the little town out nowhere and I’m at college now and it’s big. I just took it for granted ’cause I went to, unfortunately, fraternity parties from the time I was 13 probably don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t quote me. You can record it. But don’t quote me.
So, I started having college fun way before I was in college, but I, I would say undergrad, I did. I was, I didn’t really get all that involved, but when I got to grad school I was in my happy place. It’s like I am focused on things I want to do and loved every bit of it. It’s like that. It was like you’re, you’re in there getting to do the thing that you are most interested in and do it all the time. With people who also love it and people helping you do it. So, so that’s probably the, the actual I’m, I’m a geek, but probably the learning part of it and smelling library books in the library.
That’s another one.
That’s actually, I share that with you and especially getting brand new books and then just paging through and letting the smell come through. One other thing that I wanted to ask is, other than you know, taking financial, you know, considering I, I was going to say financial aid, you didn’t take financial aid, but looking at the financial aspect of going and attending to Graduate School. Other than that, what was important to you when you were selecting a graduate psychology program?
I didn’t know enough to be selective at that point. It was. It’s really funny because I the programs that I was in didn’t groom you for grad school. Now that I’m in a psychology department and we have students that we are preparing for grad school. There are so many things that I should have known and had that I didn’t. And uhm, and I think some of that. But had I, had I done an undergrad and pure psych, I think I would have been groomed for that, which is very likely when I was like the fact that I got to 11th without that is pretty uncanny because we now like I have a research lab. And the students they want to go to grad school. They, they come, and I mentor them and things like that. And we work on applications together and how to write statements and, and none I, I had, I didn’t even know that existed, you know. And so, so I, I yeah, I, I was unprepared. I was just smart.
So now and now in hindsight, now that you can look back at that and realize, oh my gosh, I got lucky along the way and I got, you know, I was lucky to get up to #11. What advice would you offer those who are seeking a graduate degree in psychology?
I, I would tell students, even if you’re not sure you ever want to do that, go ahead like at least by late sophomore early junior year. At least pretend you’re going to do that and go ahead and start doing the things you know get involved in, uhm, if you can work with somebody in a research lab or get in psych, I get Insight club things like that where, where you’re learning the culture ’cause I think that’s so important you don’t have to be able to do all this stuff. But, but, but even like, like in a research lab. There’s something that all kinds of people with all kinds of interests can do. Like I have some people that are very detail oriented, they want to code data and sit there and do that kind of things. Other people want to do interviews. Other people want to, you know, go present something other people, whatever but, but just to, to and to also be with other people that have that as a goal. Then you gotta spur each other on. When it’s like I don’t want. To do anything extra, but we’ve got to let’s do it, you know so, so I think that that learning the culture is huge.
Yes, and the other thing that I’d add is, even if you don’t want to present any papers at conferences, still attend and see the culture and expand your, your contacts, ’cause that may come back and help you later on as well.
Absolutely, absolutely. I’m so glad conferences are back. I’m leaving for one on Sunday. It’s the first in person conference in over two years.
Isn’t that it? Isn’t that unreal? How slow it went? But how fast, when we look back at it?
Yes, yes, yes.
Unreal I, I, I know afterwards, you know, after you received your PhD, you landed a job at West Georgia College as an assistant professor of educational and developmental psychology. So how did you find that opportunity and why did you select West Georgia College?
Well, I applied for. I’m going to say about 70 jobs when I finished. One of the things when I was an undergrad, I think it was when I was undergrad somebody said yeah, job market for professors is terrible. Don’t even think about it. And to me just knowing myself it was like, yeah, hide and watch, you know, it was like that was my challenge. And so all along. Like I said, my dad taught there too, so it’s kind of I’d seen that and. I think that’s what I always aspired to, I just didn’t really voice it, but so when I finished. I guess it was not. It was not abysmal, but it wasn’t great and so I applied a lot of places. I ended up getting two interviews, two interviews, one was at a small women’s college, and they paid almost, well, it was more than my assistantship, but not a whole lot more. And West Georgia paid enough to actually begin to live on, and so that was the choice it was like, well, you know it was and I applied all over. I applied in Australia. I applied in New Zealand. I applied, OK. I applied everywhere except Florida, guess that one. Uhm, and California. It’s like OK. I’ll live anywhere else. Oh, and Texas ’cause I had, I had already lived there, and I didn’t want to go back really, but uhm so, so I went there. It was not really what I thought I wanted, but bird in the hand, you know. And it was teaching at that time I had really, really focused on the developmental, developmental psych. And so, I taught a lot of life span courses and things like that and big classes. It was, it was. They had, they did, they, they were master’s granting at the time, but it was much more like a Community College than, uhm, than a research college so.
The other follow-up question I have for that, and I’ve only asked a few of my guests on podcasts so far is and I’ve gone through interviews as well, but a lot of people think that it’s just an interview you meet with one person. Many times, when you go to these interviews, you’re meeting with a board or a panel and not only the panel within your department they may introduce you to other people within the department or other areas within the school or college. Tell me what you remember about your interview process at West Georgia?
OK, well I can tell you I remembering it. It is probably a little murkier right now I am coaching through, in fact, he has texted me like several times and called since we’ve been on this podcast, a student who graduated last year who is in the job market and right now he’s, he’s holding an offer in one hand, he’s about to interview at another he’s got like 10 interviews. It’s crazy. It’s like. So, so I am, I’m living it vicariously right now but and I also know how we do here but I, I believe there and I know when I came here it’s like a two-day process where you meet with, you meet with students, you meet with faculty, you meet with the committee, you meet with the, you know, maybe the President or the Provost or the Dean, or whoever you might meet with HR. Or you get driven around town by a real estate agent. You know all of the things, but it’s like at least a day and a half, sometimes two full days of, of you get to know us, we get to know you. COVID has changed that a lot but, but they’re getting the prescreening type enter. I think there are more prescreening interviews now but uh. But still, once, once you get to the and, those are often zoomed, but once you get to the actual interview. You want to see each other in the flesh. You know?
Sure, well, thanks for sharing that. I, I always want our audience to understand and, and anticipate what may happen during that interview process. And you actually stayed at West Georgia College for four years before you begin your illustrious career at ETSU.
I love the way you said that illustrious part.
Because, and I say that because you’ve been there since 1995 and you started there as assistant professor in the human development and learning in 1995. So, how did you move from West Georgia to ETSU?
Well, one, I had an amazing chair at West Georgia. Who knew that I was kind of out of my element. I really loved research and it was. I did, I actually applied for an NIH grant while I was there, and they said, oh, we’ve never done this. We’ll give it a shot, you know. So, like, yeah, that didn’t happen but. But he knew that I wanted research. I knew that I wanted that one day and so from the, the time he got there he. He sort of coached me and groomed me and he said, he’s, uh, my best advice ’cause he had worked other places, he said go ahead and do your work as if you were already at the place you want to be, and so like I didn’t have to publish much there they counted newsletter articles as publications. You know so, but he said if you want to be somewhere else, just keep working as if you’re there, which I did and, and so and then it was so funny because even when I. When I applied here, I applied a few places, but it was like I’ve got a job. If I’m going to go somewhere, I wanna go somewhere. I really want to go. Love Tennessee, used to, used to vacation here. My husband and I would vacation here and so, so when jobs came up here, other places in Georgia. Might have done North Carolina, I don’t know, but very geographic. You know, I was like I this is close enough to family, but far enough from family. You know whatever. Uhm, but, but even when I got the interview here and I’m trying to think I probably I may have interviewed some other places too. I just really can’t remember but, but even when I got the job offer, oh and I didn’t mention I did do generally in, in psychology. I don’t know in other fields, but you either do a job talk like a research talk or you do a teaching sample, and I actually taught a class when I came to interview, I taught an entire class one day and the people the committee just sat in the back and watched me teach the class so. So, you have to prove that you can do what you’re doing, but I got the I got the job offer and he actually coached me on negotiating a higher salary.
He said, it never hurts to ask. They can say no, they’re not going to not hire you because you asked, but the rest of your life depends on your starting salary, ’cause it’s all percentages. And so, I asked for 1000. They gave me 500 and you know so. So, I owe 500 plus whatever percentages to my former boss.
There you go, no, it’s nice. I know that you well, since you’ve been at East Tennessee State University, you made your way up as associate professor, then professor. You also changed from human development and learning to psychology, and in the meantime, if you weren’t busy enough, you also served as the coordinator for the human development and learning program for a year. I’m going to put you on the spot.
Tell me a little bit more about that experience for our audience members as well.
Well, I came in. I came from a counseling Ed Psych department to a human development learning program, but it contained the counseling Ed psych and foundations courses and the College of Education. So, so I left teaching research and measurement and child development to go there and do research, measurement, child development. And then I came to psych to do research measurement. So, it’s, it’s kind of the same content. Uhm, but yeah, as far as heading that up it was more. It was a small program. So, it wasn’t like I was this big fancy leader. It was kind of more like it was my turn and I was very detail oriented and so it included things like hiring adjuncts for to teach classes and making sure the schedule was right and dividing up the work among us. And when we had to do curriculum changes, we, you know, making sure that, that and things like that. But so, it was a little prestige. It was no extra money. I don’t think I got a course release or anything like that, but, but it looks good. Looks good on a Vita ’cause you’re still reading it.
I, I am, I’m looking at it and you can tell I told you before we started recording, I have multiple screens and so I’m actually looking at everything that you’ve done in the meantime and that brings us to you also are involved with, uhm, the Ballad Health Strong Brain Institute at ETSU and tell us a little bit more about that. You know you referred to it earlier when we were discussing, hey, it’s a, it’s an opportunity for students to come in, volunteer, learn more about the lab process and then do what they like. So, tell us a little more about that.
Well, and that is not even my lab. I, my, my lab yes.
Oh, I learned something.
My lab is the health addiction heart lab…Health Addiction, Religiosity and Trauma (HeART Lab)? Yes, that’s what those, have to spell it in order, because those are all the things that I study. Uhm, I’m basically working on curing addiction, so you know when it happens you say, gosh she was on my podcast before that happened. But yeah, but I’ll tell you about the Strong Brain Institute too. Well, first, I should probably tell you how I got to the Department of Psychology. Because that was that was as I became full professor and I don’t know if you know you, you come in as assistant then you, you’re, you’re promoted to associate and then the final promotion is to full professor. And so, once you get there, that’s it on, you know until you retire or something, become emeritus maybe but, but that’s the last like hurdle that people vote on you for and so I, a new chair came to the psych department also interested in and child development. And was scoping out the land. Came over, found what I was doing, liked what I was doing, tried to recruit me and I said we will not have this conversation right now ’cause I’m up for full professor. People could still vote against me. It’s like we’re keeping everybody happy and we’re not going to talk about it. But I but we did work in a lab, we shared a lab at that point, and so it was just like collaboratively across colleges and the moment that was finalized, I said OK. Now let’s have that conversation.
And so, and the beauty of that is, this department is much more research focused, but also teaching load is a thing. And I was teaching pretty much a 3 4, 3 classes and then four classes. And education I teach 22 over here and the, the amount of research you can get done in that extra time is priceless and so, so that that is why I came over here originally and then the, the Strong Brain Institute. It’s only two years old. Uhm, I began gosh in 2015, I have a friend, a good friend, another circuitous story but she was running a grant for our city Police Department, and it was a crime reduction grant. And so, I had been volunteering. On the side we also we’re church planters, so several people had planted a church and she had this new this grant she was running and needed some folks to basically mentor people and so she said, oh I got this friend with a new church. She’ll want to do this, and so we got involved doing that and so anyway, I just visited that program this morning that she started in 2013. And now they have like 50 people at a time going through the program. But during her time in that she went to some conferences and learned about adverse childhood experiences and trauma informed care. I don’t know if you’ve had anybody talk about those on here before but basically looking at how early adversity causes all these later health problems and so forth, and I am very much interested in addiction as one of those health problems and all the things that go with it.
And so, she and I just started training all over. Uhm, you should check beckyhaas.com. Look that up sometime and you’ll know that she’s a little housewife that thought she was done and now she’s changing the world. And I mean the whole world so. But she came back with this information, she said Andi, I found the cure for cancer and was like OK, let’s talk and so she told me about it and I being her skeptical logical friend said. Let me go read some research. I’ll get back to you know and so. So, I started looking at the CDC page. At that time, it was a page. Now it’s like a whole probably wing, but looking at that, that and it’s like, oh my gosh, this is something that we really need to begin to address. So, she and I started just offering free trainings, free trainings, free trainings and. And uhm, she ended up writing a book. We ended up getting several grants to, to train people, and to one was with the Boys and Girls Club. One was to write a toolkit for communities to use this information. And so many people at ETSU, where I am now, sort of they keep calling it we drunk the Kool aid and it sounds so bad. So, it’s like let’s come up with another term for that but. But they were so on board that we started meeting as sort of this group of folks that said, we need to systematize this somehow, and I kept saying we need a Research Center. We need a Research Center, and my boss will tell me it’s like. Yep, Andi hounded that one to death. We need a Research Center and so, uhm, we said, well, let’s ask for it.
And so, we asked the, the President and our Board of Trustees. We said we have this idea. We want to do this. What can you do? And we and they said we like this idea. Make us a proposal and we’ll consider it. We gave it. We did a proposal, gave it to him. Crickets, nothing, nothing, nothing and then in March of 2020, you remember March of 2020, right? Yeah, yeah, we’re sitting around the table and was like OK. Now the entire world is currently experiencing trauma. I think the time is right and we had no idea this was happening, but the President contacted the, the Chair of the psych department who’s also the director the, the inaugural director of the Institute and said, oh hey, I’ve been working with Ballad Health, which is our large. Let’s see here. Here’s my here’s my Alabama cup Roll Tide. Here’s my Ballad cup. Working with Ballad, which is a large health system here and said, hey, I talked to them and they’re going to give you $1,000,000 over 5 years to start this center and it’s like. OK thanks. So, so that started officially. I’m not sure when the check came, but we started doing business in June of 19…2020 and, and, and so it has just taken off like gangbusters because they’re like 17 or 18 very active, motivated researchers and trainers and so forth that are working on this. And so, we have a, a couple of state grants now and things like that. And, and we, we developed a structure this year because we needed to compartmentalize. And so, uhm, that’s when I became research associate or associate director of research, design, and implementation. I mean, he likes to make long names and then we have an associate director of extramural funding and something I can’t remember what the rest of hers is, so we do most of the research stuff. And then there’s a training associate director training who’s kind of overseas that, and then we all have grad students, and so, so it’s really, really taken off, which is great. Yeah, so, so. That when you look back and you say wow, how did this happen?
You know it’s just. It was a good idea. It was a good idea. Along and we just kept saying, hey, we’re first and we’re doing it best so people believed us so.
So here is. Here’s the website and I actually went to about us and contact us and the experts. And here’s the experts page and you referred to kind of all these people that are involved and, and motivated to make sure that this, ahh, lab is actually successful, and I, I applaud you because you have a wide variety of people on here and even people from pharmaceutical sciences, psychiatry as you mentioned, different associate directors of different trainings extramural funding. Uh, uh, good variety and of course here you are, uh, as the SBI Associate Director of Research Design and Implementation. And while I’m sharing the screen, I know that you’ve been a professor of psychology since 2005 at ETSU, and here are a couple of your websites that highlight what you do there, Professor and Assistant Chair, tell us what you like most about your job.
The same thing I have said probably since I entered faculty hood and that is the flexibility you know. I think some people might think flexibility. Oh, you can go to the beach, or you can drink mint juleps or whatever and mine is I want to do so many things. But I, it’s so helpful to me when they overlap, and so I, I think of my myself as a Venn diagram. Because I have the SBI, I have my job as a professor. I have the nonprofit that we haven’t even talked about yet, but yet they all, what I’m doing within them overlaps so nicely, and I mean there’s still the grunt stuff that you have to do. And I do still teach classes. I actually teach classes and love my students, uhm, but, but I can usually I can orchestrate it so that it overlaps enough that I don’t lose my mind.
So, talk for a moment ’cause I was going to bring this up before and you actually prompted and reminded me of asking this question. Not a lot of people understand that there are research level 1-2-3 institutions and depending on which kind of research institution you are, your course load changes based on that expectation. So, kind of give us your best overview of what to expect for each of those levels, and you can’t speak for I understand other universities and everything else but in…
…general, what’s kind of a nice overview of talking about the different research institutions.
Right, and I don’t, I don’t. I, I I’m not sure how much I mean. Yes, you can use those as sort of markers, but I think if somebody were say going to one or interviewing at one. Asking questions that get at expectations, course loads for sure. Course loads for sure, uh, because if it’s somewhere the fellow that I was talking about that’s interviewing for jobs he, well, I’ll say one of my recent graduates is teaching at a place where she does a 6-7 load.
I don’t even know how one survives. She obviously does not do research. He’s looking. He’s right now weighing out a 5-5 and a 4-4, you know, but he doesn’t, he doesn’t really want to do research so much, he wants to do more teaching, which is fine. And if you want to teach four or five courses, a semester is reasonable, that, that’s, that’s a full-time job. You get to where you’re good at it, you know, and, and you can do that. But if you want to do research, it’s very hard to do that, and if so, if you went in somewhere and they wanted you to teach a lot. And do good research. You’re going to be. It is not a 40 hour job anymore, it’s, it’s many, many more hours than that. But you look at one of the things that I was, I was talking to somebody the other day. We I’m, I’m actually teaching a practical course that has some of our students who are in the job market now who are, are, are considering where they’re going to apply and have already been applying some. And I said you need to think about, uhm, what you want? You know what, what life work balance kind of thing because when I came like when I came from West Georgia there if you look at research or prestige or whatever, I was a big fish in a very little pot. You know it’s like people could be really impressed with me doing stuff that wasn’t that impressive when I and then I thought well. When I was applying for jobs, my husband I had a really good talk about this. Somewhere around the time I promised him I wouldn’t get any more degrees. And our 40th anniversary is this summer, so it is working out but so. It was do I want to be in a, you know, like a little fish in a big pond. Where I am running to keep up all the time and that is what I have to do. And there’s always this threat of not good enough. Or would I rather be a medium fish in a medium pond and it’s like that is what I want and that’s where I am. You know, it’s like I do, there are people in our department that just run circles around me with publications and things like that. There are people that publish half what I do, you know. And there are folks that would really rather just teach and only do some oh hey, little research on the side. There’s some people that are, you know, like I now have a burning desire to answer a research question. That’s what keeps me going ’cause I, I could really slack for the rest of my career, and no one would care. You know, every year I write down what I did, and they said, Yep, that’s what you did. But I mean it’s not. Like they’re going to fire me, you know so. But I’m so passionate about what I do, that’s why I keep doing it. But I don’t have to but, but the medium, medium was a really good fit for me. But for somebody else, it might be Oh no. I want to be the best of the best in the best place and I’m going to do whatever I can and that’s where I’m throwing all my energy, and that’s great. That’s great. We need those folks, you know.
So, is there anything, you know in retrospect, is there anything that you wish you had known about psychology ahead of time before choosing this career path?
I think the. I think the problem is I thought I knew everything.
Doesn’t everybody, doesn’t everybody.
So, so I continue learning the things that I did. You know you get old enough to realize how dumb you were, and you’ve done that so many times. You think, wow, I wonder what I’m dumb about right now. Yes, it, it breeds humility.
Definitely, definitely. You mentioned earlier.
I was gonna, I was gonna, I was gonna cure schizophrenia. That was my first thing I was going to do, you know.
And so, I decided to tackle addiction ’cause it’s easier.
You, well, a lot of people are, are facing that problem of trying to cure addiction as well. Now that we’re looking at the neuroscience of it. Neuroscience, I have found in recent years is, is kind of making its way into all different areas within psychology fields as well as outside of.
Yes, yes, and that is some of where I am as well, but that might be a much longer conversation someday, but.
Psychology fields as well. So let me transition over. You mentioned nonprofit and so you’re also involved with Uplift Appalachia.
Very good, very good.
There you go. Tell us more about this organization, its mission, and how you got involved. And while you’re doing that, I’ll share my screen with everybody.
Well, several years ago, like I said, I was working with this program that my friend had started, and it was a it’s a prison diversion program for high-risk, high need, felony offenders with addictions. And so that was I got to know people in the program and really see the struggle that they had with just trying to stay out of jail, not use drugs. You know the whole thing, uhm, and so it really was from the wanting to help side uhm that I got, I don’t know, passionate about this population. I’ll throw in my I have my sister was addicted to drugs and she passed away at 39 after a long life of, of substance abuse. But I was very bad at it that I didn’t I, I was I was who I am trying to change now, I guess. So, I wasn’t good at it, but, but I guess it was definitely a learning process and gives me some insight that I wouldn’t otherwise have, but, but I mentioned before I was also a church planner and it was 2012, we planted the church that we, we started and, and I’ve been involved in church for decades. Obviously, I was in campus ministry. All that stuff but. But I thought, well, that’s who needs to be working on this? Yeah, this just makes sense and prayed about it. And you know, just went on about my very way whatever. And then I was invited to a. This really does have a point, I was invited to a focus group in the summer, I think it was 2016 and, and we have a, a very high neonatal abstinence syndrome rate here, like 10% in some counties of, of the births are, are substance like NAS not just substance exposed but NAS and. And so, some folks from Duke University came over and wanted to help this little Appalachian community. See how I said that Appalachian community with this terrible health problem as they have and so they brought people in. Becky Haas the one that brought Drummond from care to me was there I was there. And, and there are probably three or four other people, just, just random people. And I still to this day do not, not do not know why that particular set of people were in that room that day, but we had a conversation and I had when I first decided to, to add the study of religious variables to my research I had gone to a, a training event. It was a five-day training that they do every summer at Duke University and so some of the people that were involved in that came for this focus group. And so, it was like, hey, how have you been? Haven’t seen you in a few years, whatever, and then nothing you know and so like, well, that was interesting, and I just went on doing my job and then the next spring. So, spring of 17 Becky and I, Becky, Becky, and I spent a lot of time here. Becky and I were invited to lunch by this fellow. I did, I knew he had been in that meeting like one of the leaders of the meeting, but I didn’t know who he was or anything like that. So, he asked us to lunch and uhm don’t know why us, but he said so, I’m thinking we need to try to mobilize the church to address addiction. I said yes, Lord. You know I was like OK. And he had, like he said, we want to have a conference and we would like you to help us plan it. And so, he already had a prospectus like with color photos and everything, and in that prospectus were two of my book crushes like you read a book and this change changes your life. Forever, you know. And so, two of the people with two of those books were in that prospectus and they were coming here, and I am asked to be a part of this and it’s like, well, I don’t know who you are, but I know who they are, so I’m in.
And so that started. So, we did like for a year we worked on planning this conference and it was to bring together, uhm, clinicians and clergy and various church members, and so forth. And so, I ended up doing so much of the planning of that all the way down to getting the CEU’s, I mean just it was it was a monumental undertaking, but a lot of people working on it and so about 450 people came. Had people from all over. It was fantastic and we did it in May of 18 and then you know we still had our steering committee and it’s like now what? You know, we’ve done this. We’ve had a conference. OK, now, what? And that summer a grant came out a HRSA a grant came out that, uhm, the Health Resources Services Administration, a federal grant, to help rural areas. And one of the people on the steering committee said we ought to go for that grant, and I said, that’s a great idea, but it’s due in three weeks. I don’t think we could do it, and they said I think we can do it, I said. I really don’t think we can do it. So, what if we write the pieces, if it comes together, great. If it doesn’t, then we’ll have that for a future grant. They said great and, and one of them was this guy that sucked. I mean I. Brought me into the whole process. And says OK, and so he and I were going to work on it together and he is not a grant writer. And so, so I read, I read some of it’s like OK, this is not going to work. I said tell you what? I’ll be writing some things he said great, I’m going to Alaska. I’ll be back the day it’s due. OK, see ya. Anyway, we got the grants.
So, we got the grant uhm and so we use that to start a nonprofit called the, the, the event we had had was the Holy Friendship Summit. We started a nonprofit called the Holy Friendship Collaborative, uhm, which was a consortium of folks that were interested in mobilizing the church to address addiction. And so, we had the grant for a year. Oh, by the way, the guy that was that that was the, the one that sucked me into all this and went to Alaska is the guy that wrote the merger that made Ballad Health. So, he was the, he was the Chairman of the Board of one of the hospital systems that merged to make Ballad Health so, so all of this dovetails. It’s all part of the same web. But so anyway, so we, we had that organization, and we were trying to work. We were partnering with Duke to try to do some to take a model that they had used to train churches and transplant it to Appalachia. And the thing that we learned is that that does not work. So, it’s like. Yeah, you know it’s just a different culture, whatever. But we had some. It was a planning grant and a big piece of that was, was doing strategic planning and all of this stuff and. We had a very large board with very different ideas of what this should look like and it just. And I was the grant director as like we have to do this thing, we have deliverables. We have a federal contract we have to do it and it just kept grinding to halt, grinding to halt, grinding to a halt. And I was such a nag because it’s like. We have to turn something in and in the meantime we had really some, mainly some people from our church had started Uplift Appalachia to do we were being mobilized and it’s like we wanted. We started this nonprofit to do some of the things we thought we were mobilized to do, which were particularly doing transportation and housing and, uhm, and then, you know, so HFC was going to do kind of this training and equipping, and we were going to do the, the applied programs.
But uhm, but HFC ground to such a halt, they decided let’s just dissolve and give it all to Uplift and so they dissolved and gave us the little bit of money, including this podcasting equipment which was spent with that money. But, and the mission of equipping churches. So now a lot of what we do is uhm, yeah, I used to say a lot of what we do is training a lot of what we do is consulting with churches or with faith-based organizations, or with organizations trying to get grants that want to, to collaborate with the faith community, or interpreting science to the church or the church to science and, and things like that. So that involves some training involves some material development it involves telling this a whole lot because, because it’s almost like we’re doing some publishing we’ve, we’ve published in things on like our needs assessment of kind of how ready is the church? And then it’s like, OK, we’re having trouble with communication. We just published an article on Health Communication in churches. Uhm, you know. Just trying to figure out what is needed to get folks to the next step to be the support. In the community, ’cause there are a lot of, a lot of, a lot of programs are like we need, you know we need certified peer recovery specialists. We’ve got those, and it’s like we’ll be there like if there’s an overdose, we’ll meet you in the hospital and then we’ll shepherd you into the community to who? There’s no, there, there’s no arms to receive you, and so we’re trying to make the arms to receive people.
As you were talking, I brought up the website again for Uplift and the vision “Uplift Appalachia envisions a day when all people affected by addiction are flourishing” and then the mission “Uplift Appalachia provides education, training, consulting, and connecting to churches and organizations, motivating and equipping them to love and serve those living with addictions and mental health challenges on their journey to flourishing.” And the reason I’m sharing this with you is you mentioned publication, so you have this area for publications as well, and then the team, of course, the board you have a list of all the Members here and lo and behold, there’s.
There’s Becky again.
There’s Becky again, and while you were talking, I was able to bring up Becky Haas, author, speaker, and trainer, and here she is trying to change the world with all of her passions. And so, if you wanted to know more about her, I’ll include this link as well on the podcast site. So, I wanted to share that all with you and to summarize it, it kind of seems like to me, you and the board have taken on this role and this passion to help almost become an act like interpreters or, or liaison, I’m not sure if, if I’d call it a liaison between faith.
Liaison, I use the term liaison all the time, yes.
OK, all right between faith, health and science to help the church address the opioid epidemic. And I read some articles that we’re saying in the last year even less than that, I think some of the research was from March to March in a year or April to April in a year over 100,000 cases of overdose and.
Overdose death. That’s just the death that’s not the overdoses.
Yeah, yeah, there you go.
That’s just the deaths, yeah?
Yep, you’re right. I’m pulling it up right now, yeah? And, and so I, I, I applaud you for doing that, because many people are affected by addiction and even more so nowadays by opioid I, I read somewhere it’s the, it’s the number one drug that’s being used now and associated with deaths, more so than other ones, is that true?
It is well and I would say opioids and meth, but the problem is, meth is generally laced with fentanyl now, which is an opioid. And so. So even if you think you’re not doing it, you’re doing it and yeah, so that’s why such a, a steep incline in deaths. And, and it really brings it home when you tell people it’s more than deaths by motor vehicle accidents. It used to be Oh well, it’s always traffic accidents. It’s always traffic accidents. No, it’s more than that, and that’s when it really sinks in, I think, and it went up since the beginning of COVID over 30%, so it was like we were kind of trending level there was one tiny dip down and then it just exploded with COVID.
So, what is the most challenging, now that you’ve been involved with Uplift for a while, what is the most challenging part of your role now and moving forward?
Funding, absolutely, funding and, and the reason, and I think any organization would say that to an extent. But the problem is we’re sort of in this no man’s land of we’re too religious for most funders, but we’re too scientific for most churches. I guess, and so, so it that has been a challenge. You know the first grant that we got before we even applied. I talked to them, and I said, look, we’re talking about actual Christian Bible based stuff. We may have Bible studies in Sunday school, and they said bring it on, that’s fine and we did, and we got the grant but then and then the, the year after we got that grant, they have a, a meeting of all the grantees and Bethesda MD up near DC. And so, they do presentations of what everybody’s done and things like that. And they asked us to be on the faith panel. And so shortly before that, I said I just asked him. I said, well, so who else is on there? So, I kind of know you don’t want to overlap too much or whatever and how. Much time and I said, well, it’s just you it’s like so it was. It was me and the faith-based person from SAMHSA and we were the only one you know, and I said OK well. There you go. So, I got to speak for the entire faith community. And there’s a conference. But, but that’s how rare it is, you know. And it’s just I still don’t know, Act of God, I guess that that that went through and got funded and they loved it. They loved it and it’s like OK guys, you love this. Let’s do more of this, you know.
I’m going to share my screen one last time here, and you were on a, a few recent podcasts and a couple of them appeared on here. Let it load up. This is an older one. This is on “Trauma-Informed Care” in 2016, but then these other two are recent, January 21st, 2022. And it’s you “Andrea Clements: Opioid Addiction and the Crisis of Hopelessness.” I remember reading through this and, and seeing some of the comments on here. And unless you’re aware of the crisis and what’s happening you, you just kind of take it for granted. Oh, it’s, it’s an addiction and you know, addictions have been around for ages.
And you know, we can’t really make any, any changes there and then. Here is the one that you referred to earlier in the podcast opioid deaths over 100,000 per year, and I think. This is the one where, yeah, April to April of 20 to 21 and good information on here about what’s happening and then other links to actually listen to podcasts as well so. So, kind of tell me in your own words you know where do you go from here? I mean, we’ve covered your academic and professional journey, your own HeART lab, the Brain, Strong Brain Institute, and then going and talking about Uplift. What are your plans for the future?
Plans for the future? Gosh uhm. A lot is to keep doing what I’m doing, ’cause I really, really love it. I occasionally remind myself that I’m getting pretty old and one day I guess you die or do something different, but I, I can’t, I can’t really envision that you know, my husband retired last year, and I can’t ’cause one you can’t see it, but I have a really sweet office that I love and it’s all mine. And I have all kinds of access to stuff and just I, I, I can’t imagine doing what I do somewhere else so I, I really like being here. Uhm, but uhm. I don’t know I; I hope it catches on. I mean, I’ve, I’ve gotten to do so many. Just amazing, amazing things like a couple days ago. Uhm, there we have a chair, for some reason, this woman that works with the Department of Health and Human Services. I don’t know if you’re familiar with HHS. They have what’s called the, The Partnership Center, which is the, the, the branch of HHS that deals with that works with faith communities of all kinds, not just Christianity, but all kinds. And they have a toolkit and she sent it to me to edit. You know, it was like how, how but she just loves what we do and so, so then she asked me some questions. I’m gonna say some controversial stuff and she said she’s she didn’t believe me. But then she found that it was. Uhm, just challenging some, some current very firmly held ideas and she said teach me and she was willing to learn. It’s like, teach me about that. Why do you think that? And so? I just wrote her a book yesterday and here. Here’s here it is. And she said she said, well, if you have time, I’d love talking the phone. I said I always have time for you ’cause I feel like when I talk to you. I’m talking to the federal government and you’re the only one who listens.
But the fact that there is somebody that you know I get so mad about things that I don’t look like somebody I, I really it’s hard to make me mad but I get really frustrated, particularly with things that exploit people who are stuck and so many people in addiction and incarceration and so forth, they’re stuck and so many people are making money off of that, and it makes me very angry. And so, I keep telling people I’m either going to be an activist or a lobbyist, and I’m not sure which, and it just depends on the day I was talking to a sheriff at a nearby county yesterday, and he said you might need to go for activists. And here’s the sheriff, telling me I might need to go for activist. So, but it’s fun because it’s been research and it’s very like when you’re doing research. It’s like very methodical and precise and all this stuff. But the reason you do the research is so somebody can use it someday and one of the things that’s special about our department when we started our experimental psych program. I’m in experimental, I’m not in the clinical. When we started our experimental PhD, we called it translational experimental ’cause what we want, we want to, to be that kind of bit somewhere in the bench to bedside. We don’t want to just sit in there on the table, but somehow what’s this good for? And I feel like now I’m able to use all that stuff and so that’s what’s so gratifying. I’d still do research, but, but. I don’t do anything, just ’cause it’s research. I do the research that I need to do to do what I do so.
Two questions that I have to follow up on.
You mentioned, I mentioned earlier you were assistant chair, so I want to speak to that role for a second and then give you an opportunity to talk about how ETSU is different than other schools when it comes to the Department of Psychology.
So, I’ll give you a couple minutes to talk about that and then we’ll get into some fun questions at the end here.
So, one thing that you, you mentioned is you, you’ve been doing a lot and as I mentioned you, you have moved within the academic field at ETSU going from assistant, associate, to full-fledged professor and then you, you did some work on the side and then kind of came back, and now you’re assistant chair. So, tell us how you found that opportunity or were you approached or were you seeking that opportunity? A lot of our guests just talk about, yeah, I, I served as chair, vice chair, and, and what is the importance of having that experience on your academic Vita?
Uhm, well it, it, it came to me because when, when the chair I mentioned the chair came in 2002 before I was in this department and so there were no assistant chairs, but when he came to the department, we only had maybe 250 majors. Something like that. Now we have over 600 majors and so the department really grew. But with that, because there is so much to do as a chair, gradually people would take on responsibility so the somebody else does like the scheduling classes and we call we call her the, the associate chair or vice chair depending where you look of logistics and so like if, if a party needs planning or classes need to be scheduled or whatever she takes care of that. My chair is so good because he doesn’t ask you to do things without compensating you somehow. It might be money, it might be release time. It might be getting out of something you don’t want to do whatever, and he’s great that way and so. So, he created the vice chair positions so that he could pay us a little bit extra to do things other people are not doing. We have somebody that does all of our like collecting that data that you have to have for accreditation and for this that reporting and all that stuff. That’s another person. I do curriculum and he’s so funny ’cause he knows me well and he said he said I really ’cause I understand. I kind of we used to do advising in house like the faculty would do the advising. Now we have separate advisors who do it, which is a much better model ’cause we were bad at it, but I was over our advising like he, he got me to do that because, one, I was good at it, and I really understood curriculum I used to do that for my friends in college. You know, it’s like I know how to make a schedule and, and so he knew that I kind of liked that, but he said. He said I want to pitch this to you because one, I know you want to do something where you don’t have to be in meetings for it that you can just do on your own and I said heck yeah. And I know you know the systems, will you do curriculum so whenever we have curriculum changes, I just assured that we had to do a big curriculum change for our clinical PhD program because of accreditation recommendations when we had our accreditation visit. And so, it’s like this albatross that looms there while it’s going through and you tweak those in committee that whatever he doesn’t even have to deal with it, he just signs out as it comes up. He signs off on it. I do all that. Go to the meeting, present the thing and find the person to get this stuff. But then it’s done, and I may not do another one for six months or a year even, but when there is one, I do it, you know. And so, and. And also, I think I also have come up with a couple of. We were trying to how can we recruit better and that’s something that I will talk about in a minute about why each issue is different. It’s like what would be a program that would really meet the need of some folks that would also get us more students, you know, and so it’s like I think about that. It’s like, well, this is what they really need, or this is how we can really capitalize on that and so. So, it’s, it’s like you do something well. You end up getting to do it. But you don’t have to do it. You can do it, it’ll pay you for it, so it works. Well that that that’s how it came to me. And so, I think we have 3 assistant chairs right now.
That’s a nice apropos. That’s a nice relationship that you have with your chair as well. Here’s your opportunity to tell us why is ETSU different or how is it different and why should you attend ETSU for psychology?
OK, well one of the big things is if you go to a large, large university, the contact with an actual professor diminishes because you’re so far removed. Now we do have some grad students who teach classes but, but it’s like if a like a any student that works in a research lab here has one on ones with the professor in it. They know them, they work with them side by side. They’re editing things and so forth. They see them and, and that is sometimes in a larger or more research heavy institution. They don’t have time. Remember, they’re publishing or perishing out there, and so they may not have time and they may not know their undergrads. And so, there’s a lot of delegation of that, so, so the hands on really getting to do that, as is wonderful here. And also, we have 600 students or a little more than 600. But other institutions may have, you know, 2000 or 3000, whatever if somebody wants research experience, they can get it here. There it is possible to get here. So that is that is a good thing. One of the other things that then I just mentioned coming up with the programs that make us a little different. A lot of places, maybe most places, have you have a psych major and you maybe have a minor or something like that. Well, we develop several concentrations within that. So, you can’t. You can do just a psych major, have a minor at just like anywhere else, but we have some really specified ones if you want to specialize so we have one that’s clinical but within clinical. Undergrad, uh, within clinical you have a lot of choices, so if you wanted to tailor it to be clinical child or clinical forensic, or clinical whatever, you have some choices within the program to do that, but it’s, it’s much more getting me ready to understand that kind of therapeutic relationship and, and more the therapy end. We have behavioral well, still behavioral neuroscience. No, we don’t. We have our Health Sciences. Which several years ago, the EMCAT, which is the Entrance Exam for Med School, became really half behavioral science. It was it like a lot of psychology in it and so forth uhm, and, and I think it was that they were acknowledging, oh, we might need to be able to work with people. I don’t know and, and what we did is because we have, we have a Med school. We have a Health Science. We’re a Health Science Center, so we have a lot of people that come here for that, but a lot of them were majoring in, like chemistry or biology or Health Sciences, and if they decided not to go to Med school, they kind of had to start over because those are the reasons they didn’t want to go to Med school, you know, and so they’re you’re halfway in. It’s like I gotta start over and only about 20% of the folks that declare premed coming in actually go to Med school, you know. And so, you got this 80% of folks.
And so, what we did is design a program where you, you have a psychology major? But you’ve completed all of the prerequisites to take the EMCAT and get in Med school, and so it takes a little bit longer. But then it’s really intense, but if anywhere along the way you decide, I don’t know that I want to go to Med school. You’ve got a psych degree and so you can go to psychology. You can go to counseling. You go to social where you go to whatever. And so. That has been very popular here just because of the student population that’s coming in anyway. And then we have child. If you want to focus particularly on child uhm, and then we just, just in the last few months created an articulation agreement is not a formal degree, it’s an articulation agreement with our social work department. And so, in the same amount of time it takes you like if you came in as freshmen and the same amount of time that it would take you to get a single degree, you get a degree in psychology and a degree in social work, so it’s a BS BSW, you know and, and that sounds, yeah. It says it’s like, oh, that’s a double major. No, it’s actually 2 degrees. And the important thing is, then you’re prepared if you want to go to grad school in psychology, you’re prepared. But if you want to go in social work, you’re prepared for that too. And if you just had a psych degree, a master’s in social work would take you two years if you have a degree in social work, it takes you one year. So, in one year you can be finished with that and also there are lots of jobs, particularly federal jobs and state jobs. That it doesn’t say social work or related degree, it’s just social work. It’s like it has to be social work, but yet a lot of people who went through psychology have the same skills to do those jobs, they just aren’t eligible for them, so it really helps to have both of those ’cause you have so many choices with that degree, and so I think that one is going to go crazy ’cause we’ve been working on it for a couple of years and you know, we. It’s like is it ready yet? Is it ready yet is ready? You’ve already got these people waiting and so our Flyers are ready and it’s, it’s a real thing now so students can do it. And so, so those are probably our two biggest, biggest things the, the, the, the tailored degrees and then the contact with faculty and ability to do the research.
Well, thank you for that summary. I know that I was looking at some of the graduate programs while you were talking, and I shared the screen and I didn’t go to the underground, so you were focusing more on that undergrad. The flexibility to be able to almost custom tailor your degree depending on where you go and almost a safeguard. I’m kind of saying, hey, if you go down this way, this route and all of a sudden you decide no, it’s not for me. It’s not like your credits just disappear and you have to start from scratch.
So, I like hearing that. I, I did want to return ’cause I’m looking at my little cheat sheet for the questions that I wanted to ask and one of them is I’m sure that there are others who would like to combine their faith, education, and science to help others in the religious realm, what kind of advice can you offer somebody who would like to use their education for healing or helping others in faith?
Uhm, it’s interesting that you say that because I, a fellow just came and actually stayed at my house this last weekend that wants to do exactly that. He did. He did public health at Berkeley. Now he’s doing a master’s of public health at the University of Michigan. And honestly heard that first podcast I did and he’s like I want to do that. I want to combine. So, he ended up pulling off the road and sending me an email. As he was listening to the podcast, and anyway he ended up down here and he may move here now, but he didn’t finish his MPH till, till May but, but he said that what he has done over the last several months is look for, for particularly faculty who are combining their faith with other things, and it’s apparently hard to find, you know, and, and you know, just when you think you’ve found it. It’s like, yeah, maybe not or whatever, so I think it’s finding the person who is doing that and then navigating with them you know? I mean, yes you can I. I started out like as I went to the Duke program and started my research career kind of that way. Uhm, you know. And that was really just kind of bare bones. Here’s how to include variables. Here’s how to measure and things like that. Here’s things you need to consider. Uhm, but and he also went to that program. He went to it last year. I went to it in 2008 and it’s so funny because we, we ended up with people that we now share that interest with. In fact, I’m working on an article now with a fella who went to that Duke workshop with me in 2008. We still collaborate. He’s in England and now I’m trying to get him over here as a visiting professor, you know so, so finding those relationships of like-minded folks because I think they are kind of rare that are really doing that, especially when you get to the, the upper-level research science and combining that.
Very good advice. I like that it’s interesting that you say just find somebody who’s in the know and in the network and then follow them around. Until you find somebody like that, it’s, it’s difficult and, and you don’t know where to go, where to start, and, and even what to ask or…
And I think cold calling is fine, other I have another collaborator. Actually, she’s going to this conference that I’m going to leaving for Sunday and, and I didn’t meet her. She, she was a doctoral nursing student at the University of North Dakota but living in Pennsylvania, of course. And, and she read an article I wrote, and she just called me out of the blue and she said, you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I love what you’re doing. This is exactly what I want to do. I need a research mentor in my doctoral program as I do this project. Are you interested? And I did it and then ended up on her dissertation committee. Now she’s an associate professor at a university. We still published together. We’re still friends. I didn’t meet her in person until. Probably I’d known her for three or four years. I guess you know, but, but I think the thing is because we know we’re rare as we meet other USs there’s an immediate kinship there.
Sure, sure. So, we usually end the podcast with a few fun questions and the first one, the first one is what is your favorite term, principle, or theory, and why?
OK. You sure you got time? My own theory actually. So, some folks and I, at Uplift mostly, are working on well, actually I’m actually editing a special issue of a journal right now called Human Connection as Treatment for Addiction and we go from, unfortunately the pivotal art article got rejected ’cause it was too religious so we’re having to build it without that, but it basically looks at human bodies being created to connect to other people at the biological level with your opioid receptors being hungry for endogenously created opioids which we have like when you bond with mom or whatever. And then when those are unfilled, you seek to fill them, and so say neglected or a neglected child or whatever. Then has an exogenous opioid, heroin or oxycontin or whatever. It’s like mother love that you never felt, and so it very much predicts addiction and so once that happens then you, your internal system shuts down. You don’t make them anymore, so whenever you stop yes it hurts you have withdrawal, all that kind of stuff, but you have these really empty hungry opioid receptors and you’re absolutely miserable, but it is immediately solved by taking them again. And so, what we want to see, and you can’t do this with rats because they are not altruistic, they do not have church. So, with people, hopefully what we would like to see is if the faith community and it could be anybody, but I know the faith community best can pursue someone and care for them enough and draw them into community enough so that they are having those connections that we can restart that endogenous system so that they no longer need the external opioids. That’s my theory, and that’s my favorite, and that’s how I want to solve addiction.
So, I lied earlier by saying that I wasn’t going to share the screen again. I’m going to do it one more time and I, I was while you’re describing it, I was looking at your publications under revision manuscripts in preparation.
I, I see some of these ones that are related to what you’re talking about, but I don’t see.
It may have. It was almost accepted and then it got unaccepted. So, it may be down there in the others it would be Clements, Clements, and Swenton
It has to be up top ’cause it’s chronological, I believe, yeah, so it might not be listed on here, but I was trying to look at it.
Yeah, I need. I probably need to put it back because it was. It had gone through reviewers and the and the editor and it’s like we’re going to publish it and then it went up the line one step and it’s like Nah.
That’s too bad, that’s gotta be hard.
So, but it’s OK anyway.
We’re, we’re still revising it. We’re going to do it so it will, it will, it will get out there somehow somewhere but uhm.
This next, this next question is open to outside of the academic world as well, so keep that in mind, it doesn’t have to stay within the academic field.
If it’s the one that you wrote me, I, I think I already have my answer.
Ahh, it might be, I’m not sure. What is something new that you have learned recently.
Disc golf, OK.
Disc golf, yes.
And is it fun? Is it fun?
Yes, this is this is, this is, this is me, this is this is our, our, our COVID craze. We went on vacation and November 2020. So many things were shut down. It’s like. Why don’t we learn to play disc golf? It’s outside. You can be distanced from people. Anybody can play it, even if they’re not good. And our whole family became absolutely fanatical disc golf players. And so, I have, I have a disc basket in my backyard for practicing putting. We watch disc golf tournaments on the weekends. We play every time it’s like just a little, you know, it’s warm enough we go play and so like there are days. Where it’s 2:00 o’clock and it’s like, especially in the winter, when it’s when the sun goes down too early, you can’t play after work and so it’s like OK leaving at two, I will work when I get home at 5, you know.
Yeah, disc golf.
No, that’s, that’s fun that you mentioned that. I, I’m sure you can go online and find disc golf courses in your area and then yeah.
Oh yes, apparently, they’re, they’re they.
And then. Go that route.
I know a few months ago they were being built about one a week in the country. About one a week. Yeah, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s catching on.
Now that you mention it, I, I can picture 2 golf courses near me, actually, and I, I should pick that up as well. Yeah, another question. Kind of a fun one. If, if you have the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
I think the trip is actually one that my husband and I have been toying about doing but is looking less likely now and that is riding a train across Europe. So, we also talked about Canada, which might be a better, better choice this year, but I love I’ve done study abroad in England, well in the UK, twice, mostly Scotland, but some in England and I absolutely love, love trains and so it’s 40th anniversary. It’s like what do you wanna do? Well, why don’t we go? You know when we take a train like a long train ride is like yeah let’s do that so that that that might be our thing, that might be our thing.
It sounds fun. I was over in Scotland and England for a long time, and I got what is called a Eurorail pass. And so, you could just.
Yes, we did, we did BritRail with my study abroad classes, hopping on, hopping off, yeah, love it.
That was fun. Yeah, I loved it too.
Is there anything else that you’d like to bring up or discuss in the podcast?
Uhm, well when I went off on the on the undergrad stuff, did you want to know the grad school too? Because I don’t, I don’t know who you’re most marketing to, so.
We are marketing mostly to graduate students, but it’s nice to know about the undergrad because those who are in grad, in undergrad considering going to grad school would, would probably benefit from that a little bit.
Right? Well, let me say our clinical program is, is a rural primary care health focused program. So, what we do is we train people mostly to embed in primary care offices instead. I mean yes, some of them will hang out a shingle and do private practice and all of that, but a lot of them are, uhm, just we want them to be prepared to just integrate in and we do a lot of integrated health here ’cause we have so many health programs so, but and it is so competitive, all of them are so competitive, but it’s really competitive. So, yay, apply, that’s great and I hope you get in somewhere and maybe even here. The experimental program which I work more with, and I mentioned that it’s, it’s focused on translation and it is, uhm, less competitive, but what we do is we have students in particularly to work with a particular person, so like I would if somebody doesn’t really align with what I’m doing, they won’t get in, it’s, it’s got to be like you fit with this person, and so you get really nurtured in the thing that you’re doing.
So, if, if somebody really likes what we’re doing, those are the people that we would love to have apply. Uhm, and then I’ve got one right now that my newest graduate that just started this year is, is just like a clone me sort of, yeah, that’s great, but, but, but she’s going to be so successful because she’s, she’s more like students become more like colleagues than like students in the program. And what we do is we train them. I mean the whole program, the experimental program is, is to train future faculty members. We know that’s what they’re going to do so we have them teach. We supervise. Like I said, I’m doing the practicum we teach. Supervise them teaching so they learn the, the teaching research service just as if you were a faculty member and so they do all the things that we’re doing. And the people who have hired them love them like, like I said this guy that he took, he took two years off, worked as a campus minister at the University of Delaware and when he started applying, he’s 10 interviews, 10 interviews. It’s like people know that we turn out a really good product.
That’s good to hear. It’s good to receive that feedback as well. Then you can share that with your department and say, hey, this reaffirms everything that we’re working toward, and the curriculum that we’re, you know, creating year after year, so that’s congratulations. Uhm, Andi, I appreciate your time and willingness to share your thoughts and advice. Thanks again for taking the time out of your busy schedule. I think we covered a lot for, for everybody on the podcast, so I’ll let you get back to work.
But thanks again for your help and your support, and I wish you luck in all the endeavors that we just talked about throughout the podcast.
Thanks for having me.