Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni:Kathryn Hefner

Name: Kathryn Hefner ’05
Occupation: Psychology Predoctoral Intern at Hunter Holmes McGuire Veteran’s Hospital (current). Beginning 10/2014: Postdoctoral Fellow at West Haven VA/Yale in Addiction Research & Treatment
Education (UR and additional): BA in Clinical and Social Psychology, University of Rochester, 2005 ; MS in Clinical Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2008 ; PhD in Clinical Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, anticipated May 2014
Current city/state of residence: Richmond, VA
Family: Husband – Isaac Ray (UR Class of ’06)
Community activities: I’m not sure working on my dissertation counts, but that’s what I do in my spare time!

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

My dad encouraged me to consider it, because he had wanted my brother to go to UR so he could do engineering and also pursue his music interests at Eastman. He ended up going elsewhere, but anyway, when I visited the campus, I kind of fell in love – the campus is beautiful, it was a good size for me, and it is a great school. Another selling point was the fact that Rochester is so strong in Psychology and Brain & Cognitive Sciences. When I visited, I met with Barbara Ilardi, a professor emeritus from the Psychology department, and we hit it off. I later TA’d for her twice.

When and how did you choose your major?

I was able to take IB/AP Psychology during my junior year in high school. Up until then, my favorite subject was English, but I discovered a new passion for psychology and didn’t look back. I had the advantage of knowing what I wanted to study before setting foot on campus. Because I completed most of my Psych major requirements early, I was also able to double minor in English and Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was involved in choir, which allowed me to maintain engagement with my love of music. Actually, if there is anything I regret it’s that I wasn’t involved in more activities as an undergraduate.

 What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I did an Intramural Research Training Award fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. This is a program designed for students who are planning to attend medical or graduate school to gain more research experience. I worked in a behavioral neuroscience lab, and although it was a bit of a departure from my ultimate goal to do clinical work, it was a great experience to have and made me much more competitive for graduate school, and has continued to benefit me throughout my career.  Also, the 2 years I spent in the DC area were some of the best of my life. I highly encourage others to apply to this program.

How do you balance your work and professional life?

This is something I think about a lot, given the importance of balance for a clinical psychologist. Graduate school can be demanding, and there’s always more you can be doing – but if I worked all the time, I wouldn’t be a very good therapist to my patients.  I try also to nurture my relationships with friends and family members, who live far away, spend time with my husband, walk my dog, and talk to other students in my program about our experiences. Of course, it’s also very important to have time to myself doing things I like to do. Sometimes it feels like a juggling act, but it’s not impossible.

How are you still connected with the University?

The fact that I met my husband at UR means that it is very close to our hearts. We still have some friends who live in Rochester, and try to visit when we can. Amazingly, just about everyone from my freshman year dorm hallway is still close and stays in touch.

What advice do you have for current students?

Choose to study what you really love and what you can realistically see yourself doing for the next several years (at least)! Following a career path that you are pressured into by your parents or think is what you “should” be doing is not going to make you happy in 5 years, and you’ll have to start over. In contrast, not thinking seriously about your future career options can also land you in the same boat.