Newsletter Article

Appreciating Our Psychology Major Veterans

"The most inspirational part of my educational career has been the people who have seen me differently than the majority of the students who attend UW.  These are the people who respect my experiences, my drive, my energy, my perseverance and resilience, but most of all, who trusted me."

     - Stephanie Shadwick, Psychology major and US Navy Chief Petty Officer


With the most recent observance of Veterans Day just behind us, it seems a good time to focus on some of the students who are both psychology majors and US military veterans.  Each of the four students profiled here has taken his or her own unique path to UW.  They have different goals and different experiences here at UW, but all share the characteristic of having volunteered to serve their county.  We thank them.

Photo: Jordan Houghton
Photo: Jordan Houghton

Jordan Houghton - Psychology BA, August 2015 and former US Army Combat Medic/Healthcare Specialist

Born in Seattle and growing up mainly in Hawaii, Jordan enlisted in the US Army in 2009 in part to earn money to attend school through the Army's Tuition Assistance Program.  He earned his EMT license at Fort Sam Houston, in Texas, and began his academic studies at Pierce College.  As he left the military, Jordan had been accepted to attend Washington State University, but held out as long as he possibly could to hear from his top choice, UW.  Taking it right to the wire, Jordan learned of his acceptance to UW while sitting in his orientation session for WSU!

While he believes that, in general, professors seem to have little understanding of veterans or their specific issues, he notes that happily most of his professor were different.  "There are so many things that have inspired me," says Jordan, "from seeing the love and care that some students have for their peers to how much a teacher like Dr. Jacquie Pickrell or Dr. Jaime Diaz truly cares about your education and that you come out with the knowledge you need."

Student leadership experiences have been a highlight of Jordan's time at UW.  As a peer teaching assistant in Psychology 101, Jordan felt rewarded by the enthusiasm of many of the students he worked with.  Observing that some of the best leaders come out of the field of psychology, Jordan shares that he served as the 2014-15 president of the Husky United Military Veterans (HUMV) student organization, and that the current president is also a psychology major.

A recent graduate, Jordan is currently in the process of applying to graduate programs in clinical psychology, with his eye on the prize of potentially being admitted to the UW's clinical Ph.D. program.

Photo: Dmarkis Wigfall
Photo: Dmarkis Wigfall

Dmarkis Wigfall - Pursuing a BA in Psychology and served in the US Navy

From Dallas to San Diego to Seattle, Dmarkis has packed a lot into his 41 years.  From acting and performing to serving for 10 years in the US Navy to working as a professional barber, a common thread for Dmarkis has been the quest to learn and try new things and experiences.  A high school career fair sparked his interest in the military, fueled perhaps by the fact that his grandfather had also enlisted as a young man.  The Navy was his eventual choice.  "They offered a pretty sweet deal and some direction that would grant me an education, adventure, and a career," recalls Dmarkis.

That education initially took the form of an Associate's Degree in cosmetology from San Diego City College - Dmarkis is a third generation hair stylist.  It was in his work as a barber that Dmarkis began to notice a certain confidence in dealing with people, as well as a gift for being a good listener, experiences that led to his interest in psychology.  Always hoping to pursue higher education, he entered North Seattle College and transferred to UW this autumn.  "I fell in love with the campus before I even knew I would be a student here," remembers Dmarkis.  Tenacious about obtaining his educational goals, Dmarkis hopes to honor the people in his life who have supported him.  He also hopes that his own unique background will position him well to help others in need.  "Being African-American, gay, former military, and a father, I have one hell of a story to tell," says Dmarkis, who wants to help others like him for whom he currently sees no real guides.  "I want to be one of the persons to stand in the gap," he says.

Of his brief experience here at UW, Dmarkis says it has been relatively uncomplicated and very supportive.  He recommends taking any class with Psychology lecturer Dr. Ann Voorhies, as well as Psychology 299, a course designed specifically for first-quarter transfer students planning to major in psychology.  He is excited about the wide range of research and volunteer opportunities and encourages all students to "do your homework early about what your interests are and then throw out your net!"

Jack Ferguson - Pursuing a BA in Psychology and former US Army Combat Engineer

Jack remembers wanting to come to UW since he was in fifth grade.  "It was the most prestigious university in Washington, plus my teacher was a Husky which didn't hurt to influence me" recalls Jack.  After joing the US Army in 2000 and initially sustaining an injury at Airborne School, Jack served at Fort Irwin, in Death Valley, California, training units in desert warfare and counter terrorism tactics.

Born in Snohomish and having lived in Arizona, Alaska, California, and throughout Washington state, Jack now makes his home in Everett along with his wife (who is a disabled veteran), and their three children, ages three to eight.  His inspiration to focus on psychology came while studying English at Everett Community College when his brother and fellow Everett CC student talked him into taking a psychology class.  "After that quarter, I switched my major to psychology," recalls Jack, "as my new mission was to help veterans returning with a range of mental health needs in any way I can."  He felt lucky to make the transition to UW.

But, the reality of that experience has, in some ways, not lived up to the expectations of that fifth grader who hoped to one day be a Husky.  "The UW is unfortunately not a very friendly campus to veterans," related Jack.  "Fortunately, we have overcome most of the obstacles put in front of us," explains this current HUMV president, "but tackling this beast, especially as a student with a wife and three kids, is a full time job and has become an immense strain on my life."  Jack, who would like to see more support for veterans on campus, especially increased access to mental health care, sees the HUMV student organization as a bright spot where he feels welcomed and included.  He encourages all students to volunteer and get involved, experiences that he has found truly rewarding.

Jack's post-graduation plans include earning a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, ideally at UW or Stanford.  Armed with that, he plans to rejoin the US Army to be deployed in an active zone in order to best help service members in the critical stages of mental health needs.  Eventually, he sees applying his degree in a research based way to understand suicide and perhaps working at the VA in order to "help veterans and their families heal from unseen wounds."

Photo: Stephanie Shadwick with husband Joseph and daughter Cassidy
Photo: Stephanie Shadwick with husband Joseph and daughter Cassidy

Stephanie Shadwick - Psychology BA expected March 2016, US Navy veteran and current active-duty reservist

Originally from Fremont, California, Stephanie's path to UW came via four years in the US Navy from 2001-2005, a brief attempt to balance school and work, the past seven years as an active-duty Navy reservist, and graduation from Everett Community College in 2012.  Along the way came marriage to her husband, also a veteran and current Navy reservist, and the birth of their now two-year old daughter - who as an infant accompanied Stephanie during her UW orientation session.

Stephanie credits the Post 9/11 GI Bill with allowing her to attend school full time without the added strain of holding a job.  She also gives credit to some of those in the Psychology Department at UW who have been particularly supportive of her goals - Dr. Jaime Diaz, Dr. Debbie Chun, and Advising Office Director Carrie Perrin.  Stephanie cites the time involved in being a reservist as the biggest challenge on the road to her degree.  Currently stationed in Everett, mentoring and managing sailors' mobilization readiness as a Chief Petty Officer, her commitment involves one weekend a month and two full weeks each year.  Her husband is also a reservist who recently earned his business degree from UW.

In spite of the challenges, Stephanie does note that her past and current military experience has allowed her to incorporate strengths gained in the service into her civilian life.  Along with a high level of organization, attention to deadlines, and the unique ability to guide and mentor others, Stephanie highlights the lack of fear in actively pursuing her studies.  "My experiences have allowed me to minimize my humility and pride so that I can ask questions in an open forum," she says, "questions I know many other students do not feel comfortable asking."

With a light at the end of the tunnel leading toward her BA in psychology, Stephanie looks forward to taking a break from school, enjoying her family, and taking the time to see what comes next.  "The last two years have been stressful and challenging," she notes, "which have all been distractions from being able to pinpoint my true interest."