Elizabeth McDermott’s soft voice belies the enormity of both her academic accomplishments at Lorain County Community College and her career aspirations.
The 21-year-old Amherst Steele High School alumna will graduate from Cleveland State University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology through Lorain County Community College’s University Partnership. Then she will begin earning her master’s degree and a doctorate in clinical psychology, in hopes of landing a job with the FBI or as a U.S. Air Force psychologist.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I have looked up to and admired our military,” she says. “I would love to give back to the people who have served me and my country. Being a military psychologist will allow me to provide counseling to service members and their families, which I find very exciting and rewarding.”
McDermott chose LCCC because it was close to home and less expensive than other schools, and she says other students can reap the same benefits from a college that works with them to meet their individual needs. When she began classes, she wasn’t yet clear about her career path, but she quickly found that psychology is a perfect fit for her interests and personality.
“Because I am introverted, I am a great listener, empathetic, observant and a problem-solver, which are all vital qualities in a therapist,” she says. “Psychology lets me use all of my strengths and is a challenging field, especially academically, which is fun and exciting to me.”
A helping hand from a favorite instructor
One of McDermott’s favorite instructors was Professor James Jordan.
“The first class [Quantitative Methods in Behavioral Science] I had with Professor Jordan was really challenging, but he was willing to meet with me to help me understand the material better,” McDermott says. “He has helped me tremendously throughout my college career and has provided me with several opportunities to set me apart from other psychology students, which will help me get accepted to grad school.”
Jordan says LCCC gives students the tools and knowledge they need to excel in the classroom and in their field of interest. He’s proud of the college’s ability to not just teach, but to build partnerships with students. He says LCCC faculty members excel at establishing relationships with students and strive to understand individual needs to help each student determine the best path toward a fulfilling career. And when that path is determined, the college’s enhanced psychology curriculum prepares students quicker than most other colleges.
“Our quantitative methods course is pretty accelerated,” Jordan says. “We do in four credit hours what others do over two or three courses. We have a research methods course that is not seen at every community college. And with Dr. Michelle Foust, who leads our Psi Beta group, we invite students to do their own research. We’ve had a lot of success with that. It’s the students who are doing this and coming up with ideas. We’re just guiding them.”
Reaching higher in and out of the classroom
McDermott has been active with both Psi Beta and Phi Theta Kappa, honor societies for students at two-year colleges, and served a term as Phi Theta Kappa co-president and a term as Psi Beta secretary. She has also led a research team, along with Foust, that sought to uncover why students who need psychological services aren’t seeking professional help. The team examined help-seeking behaviors in community college students and the stigmas associated with these actions.
The team’s work was featured at the Ohio Undergraduate Psychology Research Conference at Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, where McDermott also met with legislators who expressed interest in seeing her research. And the research was accepted to the Association for Psychological Science’s annual conference in San Francisco in May. Their presentation, “Stigma and Non-Stigma Related Barriers to Help-Seeking Attitudes: Are All Students the Same?” compared four-year student behavior to that of community college students in regard to seeking professional psychological counseling.
In addition to her research, McDermott is applying her studies to make a difference right now, volunteering on the Human Rights Committee of NCCC Solutions, an organization devoted to helping those with developmental disabilities reach their full potential. She meets with other committee members to talk about patients’ treatment, generally when they are going on a new medication, or have a new treatment plan.
She first became acquainted with the organization through Jordan, whose connections give students access to real-world experience. She shadowed him on the job, read case studies, met clients and sat in on a hospital visit. Shortly after, he invited her to join the committee.
“We act as the patient’s voice and make sure that everything is ethical and in the best interest of the patient,” McDermott says. “We make sure that none of their rights are being taken away from them. We will talk about possible issues and solutions, or reasons why things may be causing a problem.”
Jordan says McDermott is always looking forward to what else she can do.
“Every semester, it’s been, ‘What do you want to do above the curriculum?’” Jordan says. “She takes advantage of every opportunity. I can easily rank Elizabeth in the top 1 percent of the students I’ve encountered.”
Hard work pays off with honors and scholarships
McDermott’s efforts in and out of the classroom have earned her numerous honors at LCCC. She received the All-Ohio Academic Top 10 First Team award, which earned her a $1,000 scholarship. She was also named a 2018 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar — one of just 50 students in the nation to win the award. She received the Gold Scholar award in April at the Phi Theta Kappa international conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
That makes two Gold Scholars in three years from LCCC, says Jordan, both of whom came from the psychology department.
LCCC President Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D., says McDermott is an excellent ambassador for the college.
“Elizabeth is a top student, and I am thrilled to see her recognized on the national and state levels,” says Ballinger. “Elizabeth was an all-star high school student who chose LCCC and has taken advantage of every opportunity afforded to her. She’s accomplished amazing things in our community and is a wonderful example to other community members who want to have positive experiences both on and off their college campus.”
McDermott arrived at Lorain County Community College uncertain of her future, but when she leaves, she’ll have a clear vision of her path forward.