Marisa DeCollibus ’17

Marisa DeCollibus graduated in 2017 and received a B.S. in Psychology and a Minor in Education. She has now completed my Masters of Education from Penn State in School Psychology and is a PhD candidate in the Penn State School Psychology program. Learn how she connected with Honors professors and how she continues to work with URI professors.

Tell us about a favorite memory from your undergrad days. What do you think of the Honors Programs and your time at URI?

Many of my favorite memories at URI involve advising sessions I had with honors professors and advisors, whether formal or informal. I am still in touch with many of the honors professors I had and find conversations with them from undergrad arise in bits of wisdom and support in my life still to this day. The classes I can look back on and say – that course changed my life – were all held within the honors college. It gave me a place to feel at home, seen, and supported. Specifically, I remember having these “Aha” moments with Dr. Dr. Jay Fogleman, who taught my Honors Introduction to American Education course. During his office hours we’d talk and these “AHA” or big realizations would arise. I’d leave filled with inspiration and excitement for the field of education. That energy is something I think back on in my graduate program when I need a refresher on why I do what I do.

Tell us about the work you are doing today. What is your job, title and responsibility?

I am currently a graduate research fellow in The Lab for School-Based Prevention with Dr. Jennifer Frank at the Pennsylvania State University and a 4th year doctoral student in School Psychology. My research centers on how contemplative practices may inform pedagogy for socio-emotional development. Currently, I examine contemplative practices as scaffolding for identity development and meaning-making in emerging adolescence. In my research I use innovative technology to address issues of implementation and skill transfer. I also engage in school psychology practice in the local school districts here as part of my clinical training.

What did the path to your current role look like? What are some interesting jobs or experiences you had along the way?

As an undergraduate student at URI, I began to learn the work I would want to do in contributing to the field of social emotional learning in schools would require an advanced degree. What URI showed me was that the path to getting to the PhD program would be well served by experience. I worked for two years as a post-secondary advisor at Rogers High School in Newport RI, having served in the College Advising Corp. This experience was just as valuable and informative, if not more so, as any advanced education I have received since. During that time I also continued to work with my professors at URI to a) best serve the students I was working with, b) make meaning and reflect on my experiences ,and c) maintain academic momentum for when I was ready to apply for PhD programs. In all honesty, it was hard to leave Rogers High School and my experiences there helped confirm that my PhD program would need to have a clinical and therapeutic component.

What would you like to highlight about your post-grad experience that you feel URI and the Honors Program uniquely prepared you for?

URI’s honors program has truly been the foundation of any success I have had as a graduate student. The honors program fostered in me the ability to think creatively, to approach problems thoughtfully, and to connect with the community. It has helped me be unafraid of challenge and setbacks. I have to say, and I believe this is easily overlooked, my ability to write and communicate my ideas was profoundly shaped by URI’s honors program. Being able to write is a skill I use every single day in my PhD program, and it has been a catalyst for much of progress here as a graduate student.

Have you maintained connections with URI through alumni networks? Are you involved in any mentorship or outreach programs through URI? If so, please describe. If you are open to students reaching out to you, please indicate your contact preferences in your response.

I am involved with URI’s CareerConnect platform and have mentored a few students virtually using it. I would be open to students reaching out to me via e-mail at I reached out to former URI graduates on linked in when I was pursuing PhD programs based on their current positions and it was really beneficial to me.

What advice do you have for current students?

1. Don’t feel you need to rush on to the next thing, having deep and meaningful experiences is worth more than a lengthy resume in the long run.

2. Be daring in connected with professors and asking for their wisdom on things. It can be hard to do this people work, but you and your future matters, and those connections are what make the difference between gaining a degree and gaining an experience that’s going to stay with you long after you graduate.