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GPI - Mirari Elcoro, Professor of Psychology

A smiling woman with brown eyes.
Courtesy of Framingham State University

By Sophia Oppedisano

Editorial Staff

What is your academic and professional background? 

As an undergraduate, I studied psychology and I went to school in Venezuela. I went into psychology thinking that I wanted to be a therapist, but I came across other areas of psychology along the way that grabbed me. And I started getting very interested in experimental psychology, and specifically, the experimental analysis of behavior working in the lab with animals, and more interested in experiments and research. Then, fast forward, I pursued graduate studies in the United States at West Virginia University, specializing in behavior analysis, experimentation and research. 

You grew up and studied in Venezuela. What kind of experiences do you think you bring to Framingham as a professor?

Our education as an undergraduate really was meant to prepare you for the workforce. We had a five-year program. The first three years were the foundational - more laboratory - classroom courses, and we essentially had two years of internships. We did internships outside of the university, in hospitals, in offices, in counseling centers, in schools, so I had a lot of professional experiences that not only prepared me for the workforce, but gave me a pretty good idea of what it would be to be a school psychologist, a clinical psychologist, and not just by reading it, but by being in the settings and by interacting with these professionals. … Other things that I think I bring to Framingham - we don't have a lot of Latinx immigrant professors. So I bring that into the mix and I do have a lot of interactions with students from Latino, Latinx, Latina backgrounds, and there's a connection there, right? There's a connection and I've had more than one student tell me, “You're a Latina, you're an immigrant, and you got a Ph.D., so you're a model to me in the sense that I can do these things, too,” with students who share some aspects of identity, but also with students who may not necessarily be from that particular background. … I think that that experience in terms of education, but also lived experience, using a different language fluently, I think it also opens up a lot of exposure.

What aspects of the psychology major do you think draw students in?

I think it's one of the things that drew me, too. I think that there is almost this dual interest in helping others and that interest in getting to know yourself. I find a lot of students practicing a lot of introspection and asking questions like, “Well, why do I do the things that I do?” and trying to explain their own behavior, but there's also this motivation of helping others and being of service to others. There are some students who are interested in research, but I think that there's a really big interest in what would be the applied side of things, whether it is as a social worker, or a clinical psychologist, or a therapist. 

What do you think are some of the big issues students are facing today?

Many of my students have more than one job and school. So how do we view the academic experience because I have tried my best to adapt my perspective. I expect my students to be excellent, but I also realized that my Psychology of Learning class that you're taking may not necessarily be your top priority right now, because you have two or three jobs to keep, responsibilities at home, and mental health challenges. So I would say issues with many jobs to keep because of financial pressures, mental health, and support that may not be there. This is an issue that affects us all, not only students, but we are bombarded with information every single day of our lives and that in itself is just draining. So the challenge of organizing your time in the face of all this influx and setting boundaries, not only to do the work, but to take care of yourself - which is something that I know nobody taught me to do. So it is a big challenge, and the idea of self care can sometimes be disregarded. We are in a very tense political environment. I think that even if we think about not being politically involved, we inevitably are. There are a lot of tensions due to this political polarization in our country and I think that that makes things difficult and it's difficult sometimes to feel happy and hopeful and driven. 

How do you practice self care?

Well, one big thing, and I do notice when I don't do it, is I practice yoga pretty regularly. And that's big for my physical health, but also my mental health and it's time away from computer screens and thinking about work. So, I practice yoga. I try to get outside. I cook for myself as many times as I can and I try to have meaningful conversations with people I care about.

What is some advice you would give to your students?

Take some time to value and nourish personal relationships at the University: classmates, professors, staff members, administrators. Sometimes, mentoring can be very intentional as in you are assigned a mentor, but to seek mentors because sometimes, we have these mentors who appeared in my life, or friends who are sometimes a kind of mentor, so to speak. Mentoring relationships … it doesn't necessarily need to be your assigned advisor. It could be professors where something resonated. It could be classmates where something resonated. It could be you went to talk to somebody in an administrative office. It could have been in a meeting with somebody in the Dean of Students Office. To value and to nurture that is a way of mentoring because we all need mentoring throughout our life.



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