Student Ambassadors | PhD in Clinical Psychology

Student Ambassadors 

Our Ambassadors offer insight about Pacific University School of Professional PhD in Clinical Psychology program to prospective students and any other party requesting information about student life or the area. In addition to this, the Ambassadors help assist with open house, interview days, and other events. They also work very closely with the Admissions office in providing an invaluable resource for prospective students.

If you would like to speak with a current student about their experience applying to or choosing Pacific University, you are invited to contact one of our student ambassadors. They will be happy to help you.

Dr. Emily Bower's Lab

Taylor Loskot 

2nd Year | PhD Program | Orange County, CA


Faculty Mentor | Dr. Emily Bower 

Research Focus | Social connectedness in late life, ageism, veterans, and cultural diversity among older adults

Undergraduate Institution | University of California, Berkeley

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific because Dr. Bower's research focus is in perfect alignment with mine. I was also drawn to the Sabiduría program, since I am hoping to return to California to work with Spanish-speaking populations. 

Favorite PhD Course | Applied Clinical I, which you take in the first semester of year 1. The class involves a lot of therapist/patient roleplay and discussion of case examples and reinforced my enthusiasm towards clinical work. 

Hobbies | Gardening, yoga, exploring with my dog, and finding new ways to work feminism into every conversation I have


Melissa Zammitti

1st Year | PhD Program | Charlotte, NC and Boston, MA

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Faculty Mentor | Emily Bower

Research Focus | Topics surrounding older adults, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and risk factors for age-related cognitive impairment. 

Undergraduate Institution | Cornell University

Why I chose Pacific | I felt a sense of belonging on the campus! During my interview, the program members seemed to be supportive and kind. Furthermore, a few students were warm enough to answer my many questions before and after my interview. One student took the time to meet me at a quaint local cafe for a coffee chat about the program. I appreciated how welcoming the students were.

The natural beauty of Oregon was also a factor in my decision to choose Pacific. The rivers and gorges are accessible to unwind after class, lab, and clinic. Finally, my research interests in geriatrics and cognitive impairment aligned well with Dr. Emily Bower's, thus I was excited about engaging in her research lab.  

Favorite PhD Course | Applied Clinical Psychology 

Hobbies | Running, thrifting, playing pickle ball, and exploring nature spots 

Dr. Christopher's Lab

Marissa Ferry

3rd Year | PhD Program | Portland, OR

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Faculty Lab/Mentor | Dr. Michael Christopher

Research Focus | Intergenerational trauma and resilience in BIPOC populations

Undergraduate Institution | Santa Clara University

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific due to the focus on both research and clinical work, small cohort size, celebration of diversity, and positive environment created by the people in the program (students and faculty alike!).

Favorite PhD course | Advanced Statistics in Psychology I and Applied Clinical Psychology II. I have never been one to enjoy mat, but statistics at Pacific was engaging, informative, and actually fun! Applied Clinical Psych has given a really in-depth understanding of not only diagnosis, assessment, and treatment, but also how we treat patients in general and how to be not only competent but also compassionate.

Hobbies | I enjoy reading, traveling (when it’s an available option), and spending time with my family, friends and dog!


Nicole McCullough

4th Year | PhD Program | Hillsboro, OR

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Faculty Lab/Mentor | Dr. Michael Christopher

Research Focus | The research focus is risk preference in decision-making, aggression, and mindfulness interventions. 

Undergraduate Institution | Brigham Young University  

Why I chose Pacific | I was interested in the Sabiduría program offered at Pacific. I have a lot family in the area as well. I adore the Pacific Northwest and could not pass up the chance to come home. 

Favorite PhD course | GPSY 903: Applied Clinical Psych – This course is taught by Dr. Harold Rosenberg. Harold has an amazing way of eliciting discussion and sharing real-life examples of the principles he is teaching. I walked away from this class feeling very confident in my clinical interviewing skills.

Hobbies | I enjoy long-distance running, surfing and fly-fishing. I love to camp in the back of my Prius. I recently took up beekeeping.


Akeesha Simmons

3rd Year | PhD Program | Portland, OR


Faculty Lab/Mentor | Dr. Michael Christopher

Research Focus | My research interests include mindfulness-based interventions, chronic stress, and resilience

Undergraduate Institution | Hunter College, City University of New York

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific University because of the collaborative nature of the program and supportive environment. I also enjoy living in the Pacific Northwest, where I can partake in academic activities and nature-based hobbies!

Favorite PhD Course | Science and Practice of Mindfulness – This course incorporated multiple approaches (critical readings, class discussion, and experiential exercises) to help us better understand the theoretical basis of mindfulness meditation and its utility for clinicians. I enjoyed the balance of in-class dialogue regarding its scientific basis and engaging in daily embodied practice.

Hobbies | I enjoy hiking, camping, and spending time outdoors with my loved ones


Alicia Vasquez

4th Year | PhD Program | Forest Grove, OR


Faculty Lab/Mentor | Dr. Michael Christopher

Research Focus | Examining treatment outcomes and adaptations of mindfulness-based interventions for underserved and underrepresented populations.

Undergraduate Institution| Pacific University, Forest Grove Campus

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific University for a number of reasons, including: (a) the PhD program offered in-depth clinical training as well as research opportunities geared toward my interests, (b) the program is one of only a few to offer a Latinx Psychology Emphasis which has allowed me to gain competencies in Latinx psychology and culturally informed work, and (c) I was able to stay in the Pacific Northwest and enjoy the beautiful scenery as well as the bonus of having family nearby.

Favorite PhD course | Applied Clinical Psych II – This course, currently taught by Dr. Harold Rosenberg, explores current and historical conceptualizations of mental disorders. This course helped me get acquainted with the diagnostic criteria of psychopathological disorders and evidence-based practices for treating such disorders. The applied nature of the course allowed me to practice basic clinical skills and helped me feel prepared for practicum at our training clinic.

Hobbies | I enjoy reading, traveling, spending time with my dogs, playing Nintendo 64, doing freelance makeup, and any sort of quality time with my nieces.

Dr. Lafavor's Lab

Billie Carter

3rd Year | PhD Program | Spring Creek, NV

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Faculty/Lab Mentor | Dr. Theresa Lafavor

Undergraduate Institution | University of Nevada, Reno

Research Focus | Pediatric psychology, well-being, self-efficacy, intersection of mental and physical health in adolescents, specifically anxiety and chronic illness (past experience with type 1 diabetes).

Why I chose Pacific | One of the reasons I chose Pacific was the welcoming and collaborative atmosphere of the program, faculty, and students. Just from my experience at Interview Day I could easily picture myself as a part of the program. Another benefit, as someone who wants to specialize in pediatric psychology (child health psychology), was the option of the health emphasis track in the program. Lastly, I knew Dr. LaFavor would be a wonderful match as my mentor with our overlapping research interests.

Favorite PsyD course | The Applied Clinical Psychology I & II courses have been my favorite. The first course went in-depth on psychotherapy intake interviews and the second course is focused more heavily on individual mental health disorders (symptoms, treatments, research, etc.). These courses have made me excited to get started seeing clients in my practicum placement next year!

Hobbies | In my free time, I love reading, painting, snuggling my three Boston Terrier pups, binging Netflix shows, being outdoors (mainly in the summer months), and trying to keep my plants alive.


Taylor Coats

2nd Year | PhD Program | Gainesville, VA and NYC


Faculty Lab/Mentor | Theresa Lafavor 

Research Focus | Resilience, stress, and trauma in adolescents and young adults/Intervention refinement and mixed methods

Undergraduate Institution | James Madison University 

Why I chose Pacific | Pacific University is a collaborative, supportive environment with extremely passionate faculty members. There is an abundance of opportunity to tailor your experience here. It was also clear to me that students in this program are eager to learn and grow together. The PhD program is housed within the College of Health Professions, so interdisciplinary work is common and encouraged. Not to mention, Portland, OR is a super cool city with tons of amazing nature close by.

Favorite PhD course | Applied Clinical Psych I/II and Advanced Statistics. These two courses challenged me to think as both a clinician and a researcher, while equipping me with crucial skills necessary to become a psychologist. Applied Clinical Psych I and II added to my understanding of psychopathology and highlighted the important nuances that cultural factors play in our understanding of diagnosis and mental health interventions. Advanced Statistics instilled in me the confidence to pursue my own projects. Both of the faculty members that teach these courses are engaging and warm.

Hobbies | I enjoy spending time with my friends, hiking and camping, live music, cooking, and trying new breweries.


Aly Pachter

4th Year | PhD Program | Sacramento, CA

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Faculty Lab/Mentor | Dr. Theresa Lafavor

Research Focus | Trauma, Risk, and Resilience in Minority Children and Families

Undergraduate Institution | Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific University because I was extremely excited at the possibility of working with Dr. Lafavor and contributing to the work she is doing. Additionally, I appreciate the focus on research throughout the PhD program and the opportunities for cross-lab collaborations.

Favorite PhD course | Advanced Statistics I — taught by Dr. Peter Vik — has been my favorite course in the program so far. Although I had taken several statistics courses in my undergraduate program, I never had confidence in my abilities until taking this course. Dr. Vik’s approach for teaching the course really helped me solidify my understanding of several methods of analysis within the framework of regressions.

Hobbies| Hiking, running, skiing, sewing, spoiling my pandemic puppy, and hanging out with my family and friends.


Dierdre Russell

4th Year | PhD Program | Jackson, New Jersey

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Faculty Lab/Mentor | Dr. Theresa Lafavor

Research Focus | Strengthening the relationship and quality of life of individuals with disabilities and their caregivers.

Undergraduate Institution | Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific University for several reasons, to name a few: (a) the PhD program offered and emphasized comprehensive clinical training to prepare me to work with underserved populations (b) the opportunity to work with others in a diverse array of settings both clinically and research-oriented (c) There are frequent opportunities to partake in enjoyable activities such as hiking and fishing in addition to being close to family.

Favorite PhD course | Clinical Assessment II – This course is an introduction to basic cognitive and neuropsychological measures, tests of specific domains (e.g., memory, attention, language, executive functions), screening measures, and personality and functional assessment. There is an emphasis on measures common to health care settings. This course familiarized me with foundational testing issues, including test and psychometric theory, culture, diversity influences, and ecological validity. It also supported my development in acquiring the basic skills necessary to administer neuropsychological assessments, interpret test scores, and construct comprehensive and integrated reports.

Hobbies | I enjoy weightlifting, spending quality time with my family, playing video games, and playing the piano.

Dr. Jacova's Lab

Dr. Vik's Lab

Ellie Embry

3rd Year | PhD Program | Batesville, AR

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Faculty/Lab Mentor | Dr. Peter Vik

Research Focus | Cognitive changes in older adults due to COVID-19

Undergraduate Institution | Lyon College

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific at first because the program has several faculty specializing in neuropsychology and provides several opportunities for both clinical practice and research in the specialty. However, the sense of community between the faculty and students was the deciding factor. Having a cooperative and positive working environment is extremely important to me. The close-knit atmosphere fosters a confidence to make mistakes and learn without fear that I don't think I would find at other institutions. 

Favorite PhD Course | Clinical Assessment- This course gives the in and outs of neuropsychological assessment for beginners. The lab component is extremely helpful in getting practice administering assessments and I am confident that the content I have learned will be useful when I start practicum in the training clinic.

Hobbies | I have several pen pals, enjoy hiking, watching Netflix with my cat, and working out. 


Kelly Harnsberger

3rd Year | PhD Program | Burlington, Massachusetts

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Faculty Lab/Mentor | Dr. Peter Vik

Research Focus | Adults & Older Adults, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Digitization of Clinical Assessments, Gamification

Undergraduate Institution | Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut 

Graduate Institution | Pacific University, Applied Psychological Science Master’s Program

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific University for my PhD after my experience in the APS Master’s Program. I learned so much from my professors and gained invaluable experience. I also chose this program for the flexibility and openness to explore any research interest you may have. The faculty are very collaborative and supportive of differing research interests and ideas.

Favorite PhD course | Applied Clinical Psych I – So far, my favorite course has been Applied Clinical Psych I. This course was taught by Dr. Harold Rosenberg and was an introduction to clinical interviewing as a psychologist. I enjoyed this course because Harold was able to include his personal experiences as a psychologist into the lessons. This helped to apply the lessons to real world experiences and to better understand the fundamentals of clinical psychology.

Hobbies | I enjoy hanging out with my husband, dog, and cat. I love trying new breweries (especially in the Portland area) and playing video games, between schoolwork, of course!


Keegan King

4th Year | PhD Program | Seattle, WA

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Faculty Lab/Mentor | Dr. Peter Vik

Research Focus | Psychology and Technology, Extremism, non-concussive repeated head traumas and CTE, Personality and Identity, Assessment and Diagnostics. Really, just a grab bag of things. 

Undergraduate Institution | Eastern Washington University for my BA and I also hold an MS from Pacific University

Why I chose Pacific | I really loved the small class sizes, the faculty actually works with you directly, and I’m a self-starter, but there is a lot of support for doing your own research. 

Favorite PhD course | Ooof. Hard to say. I really loved The DSK series and the stats series. But I’m a nerd for history and numbers.

Hobbies | I enjoy archery, composing and performing music, and some days I just ply video games or board games with friends. I also am a voracious reader, but often the books are weird or scary. So people stopped asking about them.