Ketty Fernandez is passionate about research that unlocks the mysteries of the brain. A senior majoring in psychology she is “amazed at how the brain works and how people interact with each other.” Fernandez has devoted her time to several stand-out research projects and has presented at statewide conferences like the Latino Psychological Association of New Jersey (LPANJ).
Fernandez’s faculty advisor, Psychology professor Daniel Cruz Ph.D., pointed out that she has already made great strides in a field where Latinas are underrepresented. “Ketty is taking advantage of networking opportunities at the conferences,” he said, “presenting herself as a professional and building connections.” Whether she realizes it or not, “she is an advocate for Latinas at such an early stage of her professional life.”
It is important to Fernandez that Hispanic men and women work to make a difference in psychology research. It is crucial that more bilingual Hispanics enter the field, she said.
Fernandez presented her findings on Trauma & Racial Discrimination at the Tri-collegiate Psychology Student Research Symposium. She and other students presented on “Bell’s Palsy: A Clinical Neuropsychological Case Study Investigation on Cognitive, Emotional, and Psychological Functions” at the LANJ conference in November. She has worked with her peers on research on school bullying and its psychological and academic effects on students; another project focused on nutrition and memory performance among college students, and an additional paper looked at racism as a source of psychological trauma in adolescents. Research is part of Fernandez’s being. “I do it as a hobby. I like research a lot,” she said.
The Educational Opportunity Fund has been a great foundation and a “phenomenal” program for Fernandez during her college career. In partnership with Caldwell University, the program provides financial and educational assistance to eligible students who come from lower-income families. “You grow as an individual, as a student. It is great support system,” Fernandez said. She has welcomed that support. There is a lot of pressure since she is the first in her family to attend college. “Not that my parents put that pressure on me,” she said, but since she is the oldest and her parents are from Chile, she feels a need “to make them proud” and to be a good role model for her younger brother.
This semester she interned at the college’s Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis, and it has been “a great program,” she said. Although Fernandez will be pursuing a career in clinical psychology, she will apply what she learned at the Center to her future work. Her sights are set on attaining a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. The main goal will be to use her clinical psychology background to help children who have been abused. She wants to help them “advance, continue growing and try to have as normal a life as possible.” Most cases of abuse, she contends, “just focus on the offender and getting him or her out of the way,” and there is not enough focus on making sure the victims, the children, get the help they need. That is where she would like to apply her passion and make a difference.
Caldwell University has been a home away from home for Fernandez, enabling her to grow personally and academically. Everyone knows each other at Caldwell, she said, and it has been like a “second family—a whole new big family.” She is certainly grateful for the opportunities she has received and already wants to pay it forward. “I would love to give to other Hispanic young people and help them”.