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Dr. Monica Tsethlikai - Psychologist
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Have you ever called out to a friend and been ignored? Because they didnít react, you might assume that they were angry at you. Maybe you would even ask them if they ignored you on purpose. If your friend gave you a good explanation, would you remember the event differently, or still remember being ignored? As a psychologist, it is my job to study the human mind and its effect on our behavior in everyday life. My research focuses on memories. There are many factors that affect our memory, like those that are displayed in the scenario above.

When I was younger I experienced a series of unfortunate events, which caused unhappiness when I reflected upon them as I got older. In particular, I was expelled from middle school due to a misunderstanding that occurred at a school dance. The humiliating event quickly caused my life to spin out of control, until I met a female psychologist that was able to help me make sense of everything. She helped me to see that not every problem in my life was my fault and that I shouldnít be so quick to blame myself. She offered me a different perspective on the events of my life which was much more positive. For example, I remember visiting the Zuni reservation when I was a child and seeing how poor everyone was and it made me feel bad. My psychologist helped me to realize that although my family was poor moneywise, we were rich in our traditions and our culture. My aunties never let me leave without giving me a piece of jewelry they had made just for me; they taught me the importance of generosity and sharing with others even when you think you donít have very much to give. These experiences really made me appreciate my American Indian heritage. Now that I am an adult, I look back on my memories as a kid and where I grew up and I am grateful for my experiences because it made me the person that I am today.

If it wasnít for the therapy I received from my psychologist, Iím not sure if my life would have improved and I most likely would never have become a psychologist myself. I was so inspired by how dramatically her help changed my life that I wanted to learn how to do the same for others. Currently, I study why some memories change over time and I am really interested in what causes some children to be more resilient than others in the face of adversity. By researching how memory changes over time and whether some changes are more beneficial than others, I hope to help discover a way to ensure success for children who are growing up in less fortunate living conditions.

Growing up in a struggling family myself, I can testify that it takes a lot of effort to overcome these types of conditions and somehow find a way to be resilient. Now that I have become a professor, I feel that it is my obligation to help children that have to overcome the same difficulties I had to face as a child. I have also done research working with American Indian children. There are additional obstacles that go along with growing up American Indian, and I hope Iím able to find a way to make them more manageable. Growing up and seeing how generous the Zuni culture is, I have realized that I can be most generous by giving back to younger generations with my knowledge and experience. For me, psychology is a tool that can be used to better understand child development and to find a way to create a better understanding of human nature. I hope that being a developmental psychologist will help me discover a way to improve the lives of children, while at the same time teaching psychology will allow me to empower my college students to become more caring and giving adults.

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