The training I received at UW-Whitewater has prepared me for the challenges of working with diverse populations. It taught me how to be sensitive to factors such as culture, race, gender, socioeconomic status and personal beliefs. That has helped me tremendously working in an urban setting.
Danielle B., Ed.S., School Psychologist, Milwaukee, WI
I think that training in school psychology needs to be more than just about the books and journal articles. It needs to bring students into frequent and regular contact with both school children and working professionals so that the human side of training is able to take center stage.
Jim Larson, Ph.D., School Psychology Faculty Member
I am very pleased that I selected UW-Whitewater for School Psychology because the coursework and training are geared for you to become a competent practitioner in the field, so that when you start your first year in the profession, you are prepared to deliver a variety of services to meet the needs of students, staff, and parents with confidence.
Katy G., Student, Madison, WI
One of the best things about grad school at UW-Whitewater was small class sizes, wonderful professors who are experts in their respective fields, and excellent preparation for the real world of school psychology.
Allison E., Ed.S. School Psychologist, Beloit Turner
One of the greatest strengths of our program is the plethora of experiences in schools afforded our students. Faculty and students work closely to enhance student growth. Most students appear to leave this program changed personally as well.
Tracey Scherr, Ph.D., School Psychology Faculty Member
“The exciting thing about the field of school psychology is the endless opportunities to grow, change, and try different things.” Dr. Courtney Ratliff, a UW-Whitewater School Psychology Program graduate, is a prime example of the infinite possibilities of receiving a degree in school psychology. Dr. Ratliff is originally from Prescott, Arizona but came to Wisconsin to attend and receive a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree at Wisconsin Lutheran College. During her years in undergrad, she had no idea what she wanted to do after graduation. However, she knew she was strongly interested in working with children and working in a school setting. Her journey in the field of school psychology began after she graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College and first heard about the roles and responsibilities of a school psychologist. Dr. Ratliff never knew school psychology existed but the field capsulated all her interests. After she applied to several school psychology graduate programs and received an acceptance letter from UW- Whitewater’s program, her journey into the field of school psychology officially began. Little did she know where her journey would take her.
After Dr. Ratliff earned her Master’s of Science in Education and Education Specialist degrees from UWW’s School Psychology Program, she moved to Illinois, where she started her career as an Early Childhood School Psychologist for the Crystal Lake School District 47. After several years and countless hours of reflecting, Dr. Ratliff realized she wanted a more diverse experience. Dr. Ratliff worked in an elementary school in the Crystal Lake School District 47 for several years but eventually decided to take a position as a school psychologist in an elementary school in the McHenry School District 15 in Illinois. Several years later and after countless stressful hours of being a full-time school psychologist, Dr. Ratliff reduced her hours to part-time. Unfortunately, the majority, if not all, school psychologists know there is a national shortage. Even though Dr. Ratliff was a part-time school psychologist, administrators and districts would reach out and ask her to fill unfilled or leave positions. With the national shortage of school psychologists, Dr. Ratliff could not say no. It was a blessing in disguise because occupying unfilled and leave positions eventually snowballed into Dr. Ratliff starting her independent practice called Clarity Assessments. Dr. Ratliff currently has contracts with three or four districts in Illinois where she occupies the school psychologist positions that are difficult to fill. In the words of Dr. Ratliff, Clarity Assessments allows her days to be “different all the time” which constantly “keeps me on my toes.”
After several years of being a part-time school psychologist and engaging in Clarity Assessments part-time, Dr. Ratliff decided she wanted to continue to grow her independent work. With Dr. Ratliff’s growing passion for expanding Clarity Assessments, she knew she needed to head back to school and receive her doctorate. Dr. Ratliff did just that and after several stressful years, she received her Doctorate of Education in School Psychology at Loyola University Chicago! Dr. Ratliff believes her time at UWW not only prepared her for her career as a school psychologist but also for her doctorate. Dr. Ratliff expressed her gratitude towards the UWW School Psychology Program by saying how the overall education, real-life experiences such as practicum and internships, and the skills she learned throughout contributed to her accomplishment of being a successful school psychologist. Additionally, Dr. Ratliff emphasized how her strong foundation and experiences during graduate school gave her the competence and confidence to create Assessment Clarity and pursue a doctoral degree.
However, Dr. Ratliff’s story does not stop there. As mentioned, Dr. Ratliff wants to continue to grow Clarity Assessments and eventually receive additional certifications for clinical work. In the next five to ten years, Dr. Ratliff’s goal is to work directly with families by providing assessments, reports, and advocacy. Often, families receive outside evaluations from neuropsychologists and clinical psychologists that create tension with the evaluation from the school. Through Clarity Assessments, Dr. Ratliff wants to go with caregivers to schools to aid in their interpretation of reports and recommendations using her knowledge of special education law and understanding of services provided within the school. Moreover, at Loyola University Chicago Dr. Ratliff realized her desire to teach. As explained by Dr. Ratliff, she wants to start putting the information she has gained into the next generation. She expressed her aspiration to help students on their journey to becoming a school psychologist by allowing them to grow and learn about the best practices within the field. When asked what advice she would give students starting in school psychology or who have newly entered the field, Dr. Ratliff voiced “we (school psychologists) put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be flawless. You will make mistakes and not have all the answers right away. However, if you are diligent, persistent. and can learn from your mistakes, you will be able to help people find the right answers. It’s not about having all the answers and perfect evaluations. It’s about learning. It truly is a process.”
“An honor.” This is how UW-Whitewater School Psychology graduate, Dr. Niya Bealin, describes her role as a school psychologist in Milwaukee Public Schools for the past 11 years. Her journey to the field of school psychology started with an interest in helping people and a desire to channel her compassion for others into a purposeful career. With little knowledge about school psychology or what a school psychologist does, former UW-Whitewater faculty member, Dr. Randy Busse, sparked her interest with this idea. As a school psychologist, Dr. Busse taught her that she could be an advocate for students and families and ultimately change the educational trajectory for the students with whom she would work. She was sold!
Along with graduating with an undergraduate degree from UWW, Dr. Bealin also earned her Masters in Education and Education Specialist degrees from the UWW School Psychology program. Once time to complete her internship year, the choice to work as a school psychologist in Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) seemed easy for Dr. Bealin. As a student of MPS from Kindergarten to her high school graduation, she wanted to return to serve the school community in which she grew up. As a young school psychologist, Dr. Bealin spent much of her time evaluating and placing students in special education. In doing so, she saw first-hand the many and varied layers to these students’ difficulties in school. She desired more knowledge, tools, and resources to working with these students, and thus began a few classes at the Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology. A few courses turned into more courses, which lead Dr. Bealin to earn her Doctorate of Psychology.
Her continued education changed much of her approach to working with children and families. Particularly, she gained an in-depth understanding of the adverse childhood stressors and trauma that are unique to impoverished, urban settings. This shifts the focus from solely academic outcomes, and forces educators to focus on the well-being of the whole child, including meeting their needs for food and physical and emotional safety before expecting students to perform academically.
Where she saw a need to address these barriers, she envisioned a solution. In the next five to ten years, Dr. Bealin’s goal is to establish an urban boarding school that serves the children of Milwaukee. As Bealin described it, this school will work to dismantle barriers to academic achievement by decreasing students’ need to “code switch” between how they operate within their community in order to endure community stressors and the behavioral expectations at school. This school will focus on addressing the mental health needs of students and provide the intensive resources that traditional public school may not be able to provide for them. This type of setting, Dr. Bealin believes, will allow students to more fully access and benefit from academic instruction because their other, more basic needs are met.
Her vision is to provide other Milwaukee youth with the same critical supports that she received as a student and that she credits for her own academic and professional success. These critical supports are people—those who champion students, rally around them, and serve as mentors, guiding them as they reach their full potential. With gratitude, in addition to her parents, Billy and Alice, Dr. Bealin names Dr. Roger Pulliam, Dr. Richard McGregory, Dr. Randy Busse, and Dr. Jim Larson as essential in shaping her into the accomplished professional she is today. And when asked for a piece of advice for young professionals, she echoed this sentiment, urging new school psychologists to find mentors of their own.