Marshall Ganz on narrative & social movements


Please take the time to check out my conversation with Dr. Marshall Ganz at the Kennedy School of Government. Marshall Ganz is a senior lecturer in public policy at HKS, and a  leading expert in narrative, social movements and leadership. Dr. Ganz was a civil rights activist in the 60, and worked with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers in California. He is also credited with devising and orchestrating the successful grassroots organizing model in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.


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It’s all a balancing act.


Has anyone ever told you that graduate school is crazy? If not, let me be the first, because do I have a reality check for you. I’m sorry, but there’s really no other way to accurately describe graduate school.

There’s always a never-ending pile of books and articles you have to read, and you may continuously feel like you are behind. All your professors may assign assignments with due dates all on one day, and just when you think you have a grip on your practicum/internship, something will happen to make you think otherwise.

Graduate school is a balancing act. As you are juggling a million things, life may start tossing its own bowling pins at you. I do not know what it is about students, but I firmly believe that no one gets through graduate school without life throwing you a few curveballs. Graduate students are a magnet, attractive to any and every possible situation.

I just got hit with more than a couple unforeseen surprises. The past few months have been intense, to say the least. When one thing ended, another started, and I was not sure if there was an end in sight. Gradually, I have been able to put out a few fires, while managing to get a hold on some of my bowling pins. There are still a few extra being thrown at me, but I found a rhythm.

Finding a method to balancing it all is ultimately what gets you through graduate school. You need to figure out the best way for you to juggle, and it is important to realize that what works for someone does not necessarily work for you.

The first step to discovering your own system is breathing. When things get hectic, people forget to take a deep, long breath. Taking a moment out of your day to just breathe can be altering; it can relax your body and mind and help un-fog all the craziness around you. Oftentimes, when you find yourself in situation where you’re juggling a million things, you may be running on adrenaline; breathing will reset your body, so you do not hit empty.

Once you feel calm again, write a list. Prioritize what needs to be done and work on crossing off items, one thing at a time. You can work on the tiny things first, or you can complete the time-consuming tasks. Either way, I can promise that you will feel amazing when you begin to see lines across your list, signifying that you are almost done with it all.

Set a schedule. You may already have a routine set, but by scheduling what needs to be done, you are more motivated and determined, thus kicking procrastination to the curb. The most important thing you need to make time for is yourself. The same way you took a few moments to breathe, take some time for self-care. Relax. Do some yoga. Watch Sherlock or House of Cards. Whatever you do to unwind, make sure you do it every day. If you have a chance, do it at night, before you go to sleep, so you can go to bed easily, without your worries sitting over your shoulders.

Don’t forget to reward yourself also. When you cross off a certain amount of items, or get through the most daunting tasks, take a moment to recognize what you have just accomplish. Taking pleasure in the simple things really does change your mindset and your approach.  You are also more likely and more motivated to get through the rest of the list when you have something exciting waiting for you. A celebration truly does serve as the light at the end of the tunnel.

These few, simple steps have really helped me get a grasp on life. Although graduate school is just as crazy (if not more than last semester), I feel ready and eager to barge on through the many obstacles. I keep reminding myself that at the end of this semester, I will be a ½ of a therapist, and that is pretty darn amazing.

Keep going, you can do it :) 


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Hallmark Hurrah

This can be a tough time of the year for some people. Here in the Boston area, the luster of freshly fallen snow has worn out (don’t worry – we’re due for more soon!), and some of us might be getting sick of scraping the ice off of our windshields in the wee hours of the morning. In addition to an increased frequency of the expression “wintry mix,” this time of year marks Hallmark’s dominance. From here through Father’s Day (that’s in June, folks; you’re prematurely welcome), there’s a Hallmark holiday to keep you going. While I have my own thoughts regarding the corporate drive behind many of these holidays, I must say that there is something about receiving a card – or letter for that matter – in the mail. But what is it that makes snail mail so special? Well, since you asked …

 1. It takes thought. These days, with the availability and wit of someecards, taking the time to select the perfect card for someone is meaningful. Then, if you’re lucky, you get a card with a note inside, too. On the flip side, sometimes there is a card you pass that screams out to you and seems destined for a specific someone in your life. 

 2. Personalization. In addition to the card being shockingly perfect for that special someone, the message inside is personal. It’s a flashback to my youth when I ran to check the daily mail and was overjoyed when a tattered envelope with my name was nestled in the box. When writing cards or letters, you may want to consider clearing your mind before you put pen to paper.

 3. Scarcity. Emails and texts have taken the place of old fashioned mail. This means that most of my postal inbox is full of subscription spam announcing that I’m “qualified” for yet another credit card. Ha, the joke’s on them. But due to the scarcity of good ole’ fashioned snail mail, I’m so pleasantly surprised when there’s a handwritten envelope with my name on it waiting for me at the end of a long day.

As you consider ways to show someone you care about them, or if you’re looking to bring some warmth to a friend or family member during these cold winter days, consider sending a letter or card. It doesn’t have to be long or poetic; the authenticity of your message is the most meaningful, even if it’s just a simple, “Hi, been thinking about you.” After all, reconnecting, like a Forever stamp, doesn’t have an expiration date.    

Greetings from a Global Mental Health Student

Greetings all!

My name is Terna (say Tay-na). I am a first year Masters student in the Global Mental Health program. I have lived in 6 countries and several cities in the US. I am half Nigerian and half Liberian.The place I’ve lived the longest is New York City. I have a Bachelor’s degree from University of Chicago and also hold graduate degrees in International Conflict Analysis and Teaching. MSPP brought me back to Massachusetts, the place of my birth.

MSPP is a wonderful community of professionals and students in the field of psychology. I have particularly taken by the school’s commitment to social justice and multicultural perspectives. Also, the faculty and staff are incredibly supportive, knowledgeable and keen to help each student grow, in the classroom and even in unexpected encounters in the hallway. MSPP’s Global Mental Health Program is unique. When I learned of the program I jumped for the opportunity to study here. The program is very much interested in what mental health support looks like in an international context where Western constructs and understandings may not apply or make sense in the cultural context of a place. With that in mind, how do mental health workers with a Western education meaningfully support folks across a variety of contexts? How do we work with refugees and other who have experienced trauma? What is our role and what are our responsibilities? I am excited to be in a program committed to exploring these questions, and providing meaningful experiences in doing so.

I look forward to sharing some of what we are learning over the next few months!

Be well.

Pearls of Wisdom… no, really!

Among the myriad of Facebook posts (Side note: Facebook is 10?? Really? It makes me feel old to remember a time [high school!] before Facebook existed) there was the all too familiar link to a quasi-deep post that makes my eyes roll before I even finish reading. Then, however, I noticed who had posted it. Not a typical person to go in for the Oprah-like messages of transcendent learning. So I checked it out. And, I have to say, you should too.
One the reflections offered was the following:
Do not carry broken people who are not in the process of rebuilding themselves.
There have been a lot of professors who have said this in a lot of different ways. One metaphor that has stuck in my mind was shared by a man who taught us counseling: “As school psychologists we are flashlights. We can shine a light on a person’s growing edges, show them the way to bettering themselves, but it is up to them to change, to want to change.”
I truly believe this. You can lead a horse to water, and all that. But in some places, such as schools and courts, our clients are not seeking us out for change. They are assigned to us, or mandated. The real task, then, lies in guiding the person to desire change as if it were their own idea. I have been struggling with this for almost 3 months with one of my students, until today when she finally said “I wonder why I don’t have as many friends as Sarah.” Bingo, a way in! Wish me luck!

Posted in Counseling Psychology, Personal Growth, School Psychology

Snow Day for All!


Offering a much-needed break from all things graduate school. It has really been great to be on a fixed schedule again, but boy did I need a day off. There’s something about snow days that allows you to let out that breath you didn’t know you were holding. I, for one, also manage to be super-productive on snow days. I get to focus on what’s going on in my life at home, rather than planning for tomorrow, thinking about what readings need to get done, and making sure I’m ready for individual sessions. Instead, I cook, clean, do laundry, and turn my music waaaay up. The best part, I think, is not feeling guilty about it. Because it’s a snow day! Make snowballs! Wrestle in the snow with a friend you don’t see often! Make snow angels! Sled! Throw yourself into a snowdrift! Maybe it’s just me and the fact that I didn’t grow up around a lick of snow, but those are all things I enjoy doing on snow days.

On a connected note, we were having a discussion in one of my classes the other day about Theory of Mind, and the benefit of the attachment relationship in developing theory of mind. For those who may not have come across the term before, it speaks to the developmental process of being able to take a perspective that is not your own and realize that both can exist at once, and that your own truth is not necessarily someone else’s. To stand in someone else’s shoes. To look through someone else’s eyes. You’ve heard about this, and it all relates to our ability to empathize with others. What I was drawn to, though, was the idea that a primary caregiver will be the main person to nurture this ability in a child. But even further, the caregiver (and others who interact with children in general) also ends up looking at things with a child-like mind. Children revitalize us. They give us energy (and, yes, they taketh), and help us to see the joy and wonder and magic in everyday things. Like… snow (see what I did there!). It isn’t surprising that most adults see the onslaught of snow and groan inwardly as the thoughts of shoveling and salting their steps and slow driving immediately jump into their minds. But see if you can, even for a moment, let that inner child build a few snowballs and jump into a pile of fresh snow. Your mind will thank you for the moment of vitality!

In order to honor that feeling of being a child again and enjoying the snow for what it is, I direct you to this blog, manned by Boston’s own Craig “Cappy” Caplan. He has many suggestions for fabulous things to do in the winter, and it wouldn’t make sense for me to repeat them and pretend I know fun things to do in the Boston area when it’s snowing out. Plus, plagiarism!

~ Na



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The Big Super Game

Being a Colorado native, that game was an ultra-disgrace. Like, beyond mortifying.

Because I am from Colorado, it was easy for me to know who I should root for in tonight’s horrendous “big game”.

(The NFL gets touchy about using the game’s official title on public forums, so…)

Otherwise, I don’t have any football preferences. I don’t follow it because I don’t like it.

There. I said it.

I’ve tried to like it. Everyone else seems to find it on some scale of entertainment. People have even tried to convert me. They’ve failed, bless their hearts. It’s just not gonna happen. I can think of thousands of other activities that would behoove me more than watching those 24 guys set up yet again after a call that pleased approximately half the viewers, and disappointed, frustrated or even enraged others.

I just find no connection with it.

Maybe it’s all those Sundays and Mondays of aired Packers games in which my dad would yell at the television using his “stadium voice”–as though his ribbing of the refs and poo-pooing of opposing players would affect the game’s outcome–eternally turned me off to the sport. By the time I was in high school, Mom and I had finally wised-up and sought the comparative solace of…the shopping mall.

Now had a team other than the Broncos been playing today (which, in fact, I now wish they would have), how would I have selected which team to cheer for? There’s some real psychology to this.

Would I look solely at their stats? Which stats would be important? Would it merely be a logo preference? The attractively contrasting colors of their uniform?

If I personally knew one of the players on a team–if I’d grown up with him, or even if I’d had a brief encounter with him where he spotted me a quarter at Starbucks–it’d become an easy decision. If I know you and you’re a relatively decent person…I’ll support your initiatives or your organization.

What I’m interested in is this: How does the majority of the United States overwhelmingly choose a favorite professional sports team?

I’d love to hear how you do.

I have a feeling that Venus and Mars will offer some level of variation on this survey.

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Kid President

Maybe some of you are more in touch with trending videos than I am and have heard of Kid President. Maybe this is new to you, too. Regardless, you should watch some of his videos, like the one here:

This is a fourth grade boy who, with the help of his uncle-in-law, started making some videos about his take on the world. They are heartwarming and impressive, but most of all they contain some of the simple messages that we should all be hearing and saying every day, but are too busy to.

And, beyond what it brings to us in our lives, it is a great reminder of what kids can do with the support of a caring adult. I love the way this boy communicates, and am looking forward to a particular friend of mine who would probably do some great sharing if she got to make a fun video and post it. I can’t wait to see her proud smile!

Posted in School Psychology | 4 Comments

Dr. Gregory on Organizational/Leadership Psychology Program

Here’s a recent conversation with Dr. Erik Gregory, sharing his thoughts on MSPPs organizational & leadership psychology programs.

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What Lies Ahead

Around here when the wind howls it shakes the ducts in our ceiling. There is a resulting metallic clang of thunder which sounds ominous as it echos through the drop ceiling of our office. It is the perfect sound for a Monday morning.
There is not a lot on the docket this morning: 4 meetings, and some classroom observations, and one block of coverage for the math specialist who is out today. However, classwork has kicked into high gear, with a lot of reading and responses. I also have multiple assessment cases (finally!) which all need testing completed and reports written. Additionally, spring is lurking just around the corner. This is usually cause for smiles and fond thoughts of purple crocuses erupting out of the ground overnight. This year, though, it brings thoughts of resumes, letters of recommendation, and the ever intimidating Job Hunt.
We have done mock drafts of this Event every year, applied to many field sites and brought out our best outfits for the interviews. We have all turned in our resumes to our supervisors for editing and overhaul, and are thankful for all of the experience provided by MSPP’s program that fills its pages.
What intimidates me, and reverberates through my brain at the quiet moments between activities in time with the thundering ducts above me, is the thought that my Career will begin with whatever choices I make next. While I have an idea of what I would like my job to look like, I am aware that compromises will most likely have to be made. Which means I will have to make some choices… and what if I make the wrong ones? I have been so fortunate to love my job prior to graduate school, to love all my field placements, and yet I worry I won’t know what I have gotten myself into until it is too late. For the first time, I need to get the most out of an interview, to understand the community I am applying to, and make sure it is a fit for me. This is not a temporary situation, a time when a bad match can be chalked up to a learning experience with the knowledge that the following year will be different.
So, I will quietly tell myself that no job has to be forever, and that I will take my time to make good choices (despite my lack of income over the past 3 years). I know I am ready to be a great school psychologist, and I will remain hopeful that I will find a school system that fits me!