Red Cloud alum prepares to finish PhD program

posted on May 15, 2012

To say that Alicia Mousseau has been busy for the past dozen years would be an understatement.

The 2000 graduate of Red Cloud Indian School took just 3½ years to graduate from Creighton University with a double major in psychology (her primary field) and political science. Mousseau then returned to the reservation, and spent the next few years working with the tribal Youth Opportunity program and with the tribal college’s Diabetes Prevention Program. At the same time, she enrolled in a life sciences program at Oglala Lakota College, graduating with an AA in 2007.

That fall, Mousseau started graduate school at the University of Wyoming (Laramie). She received her Master’s of Science from the University in clinical psychology two years later. Now, Mousseau is preparing for the culmination of her academic career. This past Friday, she walked in the University’s commencement ceremony as a PhD candidate, and in August, she will finish her internship at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and officially complete her degree program.

Mousseau graciously agreed to take time out of her busy schedule to sit down and put some thoughts on paper about her academic and personal journey these past several years. What follows are her own reflections:

“After I returned home from undergraduate school, I thought I wanted to go into medical school. With that in mind, I started taking more classes at Oglala Lakota College for my pre-med requirements. However, when I started working at OLC as a lifestyle coach for the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP), I realized how awesome it was that people could change their thoughts, feelings, and actions through empirically-supported cognitive and behavioral interventions. This phenomenon reminded me of when Calvin Jumping Bull would talk to us at the OLC staff meetings about the power of the ikče wičhaša (“common person”) and how everyone has the ability to learn and grow.

“My experience working at the OLC DPP, seeing my clients change their lives by using scientific research on human behavior, and my experience listening to Lakota elder professors, like Mr. Jumping Bull, helped guide me into the clinical psychology PhD program at the University of Wyoming. More specifically, I felt that an advanced degree in psychology was the most suitable academic area to understand and merge both American Indian teachings and common knowledge of human behavior to create better interventions and outcomes for American Indian people.

“I chose the University of Wyoming because I was able to do research with American Indians and because it is a great program. In addition, I was given a graduate assistantship that paid for my tuition and a monthly stipend during the school year. At the University of Wyoming, I had the amazing opportunity to work on the Wind River Reservation for my first two years at the Arapahoe School.

“My program and advisor were very supportive of me and of my desire to do my research with American Indian communities and programs. I have been able to collaborate with a number of organizations that serve American Indian youth and communities to do community-based participatory research including South Dakota GEAR UP, OST Health Administration, and the University of Colorado. Thus, my research spans a variety of areas including values, depression, alcohol use, PTSD, historical loss, preconception health, stereotype threat, and academic achievement.

“A PhD in clinical psychology is a versatile degree because we are trained to do research, teach, and do clinical work (therapy). Also, as a PhD I am better able to write grants and be the principal investigator. To attain a PhD in clinical psychology, it takes a minimum of five years of graduate school, including one year of clinical internship at an APA accredited pre-doctoral internship site. After internship, to be called a clinical psychologist, I will have to do one year of post-graduate work and then pass the South Dakota licensing board exams. I plan to return home to God's Country when I am done with my internship at the University of Kansas Medical Center in July and continue to collaborate with organizations to provide services and do research and clinical work for American Indians.”

Those of us in “God’s Country” are very proud of Alicia, and looking forward to her return!