Psychology Grad Heads to Ireland for Master's

Tanelle Ciempa '16

Tanelle Ciempa '16 (second from right) and a few classmates at graduation, with psychology professors Dr. Maria Bartini (far left) and Dr. Deborah Foss (far right).

Now working on her master's degree in psychology at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, Tanelle Ciempa '16 of Adams, Mass., aims for a career as a researcher of behavior and crime patterns for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "My freshmen year I would have never imagined that I would be accepted into a top graduate school, and that I would travel halfway across the world to attend it," Ciempa said. "If I'd gone to another undergraduate school, I don't think I would have been given the countless opportunities that MCLA has provided me with."

An internship for the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District during her senior year at MCLA helped to prepare Ciempa for her future career in psychology. Her work with the district's autism and behavior specialist benefitted her in a myriad of ways, as she gained valuable experience in an applied setting.

"I discovered that I enjoyed working with special needs children," she said. "I saw first-hand how Individualized Education Program meetings are handled, what classroom observation looks like, and I made behavior intervention suggestions."

A student-athlete at MCLA, Ciempa was on the women's softball team and part of the campus's lacrosse team for the new sport's first two seasons. "The most important quality I gained from being a student-athlete was confidence. It is ingrained into an athlete to be competitive; we want to be the best we can be. So when you are a student-athlete you not only want to be the best on the field, but also in the classroom," she explained.

That drive pushed her to spend extra time revising research papers, making flashcards to help her study, and to read through every chapter assigned to her as homework. It's also what led her to apply to graduate school, Ciempa explained.

She ended up selecting Trinity College after noticing a poster for the school on a psychology department bulletin board, which advertised multiple graduate schools. "In the bottom corner I saw the poster for Trinity College, Dublin," she said. "Right there, I decided if I was going to continue with my education I was going to do it somewhere exciting. I had lived in Adams for 22 years and I figured it was the perfect time to take this opportunity."

According to Ciempa, MCLA's psychology program provides an excellent opportunity to diversify one's knowledge of the field.

"As a freshman, you take the introductory course and then there are many ways to branch out," she said. "Students are required to learn about many aspects of psychology." MCLA best prepared Ciempa for success, she said, by making her into a well-rounded student. "I am thankful I had the opportunity to take all of my psychology courses, as well as math, science, and a couple art classes. The background of multiple disciplines from MCLA has widened my range of knowledge and in turn created more opportunities for me in the future."

Because of this work, Dilthey, who double majored in English and environmental studies at MCLA, recently won the 2016 New England Outdoor Writing Association's Award.
 
"I write about things that mean a lot to me, and I think anyone can connect with someone's experience if the story they're telling is meaningful and honest," Dilthey said.
 
"I think it's great that a lot of my work resonates with people. I especially love the community on my site, where I have regular readers who comment and tell me what they think about my articles. That feedback really makes me want to write more and more," he added.
 
Dilthey originally planned to major in art. He switched to English after a positive experience in a writing course. Then, during his sophomore year, he became "hooked" on biology after taking a course to fulfill a science prerequisite, and ended up adding the environmental studies major soon after.
 
"I don't think I'd have picked either of these majors if I wasn't inspired by the courses and professors at MCLA," Dilthey said.
 
Now a graduate student in the Sustainability Science program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he is completing his master's degree and beginning work on his Ph.D., Dilthey's many activities include working with a team of Ph.D. students and faculty to co-author a paper on adaptation and mitigation for climate change resilience in coastal environments.
 
Dilthey also teaches his own class," Sustainable Living: Solutions for the 21st Century," a four-credit course for first-year UMass students.
 
In addition, he's working with the Residential Academic Programs Office to develop new connections for first-year students and programming partners across the University of Massachusetts system as they create a general education course on life at college.
 
"I push the benefits and importance of a diverse, rich, and multifaceted education to my students any chance I get, using my time at MCLA as an example of the power of interdisciplinary learning. I am immensely proud of our school, and I am lucky to have started there. I would not be here without MCLA," he said.
 
In fact, Dilthey finds himself spending a good deal of time telling students about the benefits of his experiences at MCLA, such as how they can find opportunities in clubs and the value of  learning from a diverse selection of classes.
 
Dilthey, whose writing also is featured in Adventure Cycling and Bikepackers magazines, discovered his love for camping, hiking and backpacking during his senior year through the MCLA Outdoors Club. There, he learned everything he needed to know to eventually lead trips himself. The experience, he said, was "transformative."
 
At UMass, Dilthey said he has one of the strongest backgrounds in environmental law among others in his department. "MCLA taught me that the courses outside of your major or focus can sometimes be the most valuable to your career. 
 
He recommends MCLA – and the English and environmental sciences programs, in particular – to prospective students.
 
"Both of these degrees are absolutely as rigorous and comprehensive as degrees from other colleges, and I have never once felt underprepared for my career and graduate school. I know a lot of my peers that graduated with me would say the same thing," Dilthey said. "Our entire group is doing amazing things, and we're all still connected because of the sense of community we had at MCLA."
 

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