Child Emphasis Ambassadors

Nikki Dalton

3rd Year | PsyD Program | Child Emphasis


Undergraduate Institution | Whittier College, Whittier, Calif.

Hometown | Duvall, Wash.

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific University specifically because of its Child Emphasis. Within the PsyD programs that I had researched prior to deciding upon a graduate program, this was the sole one that I found that had a specific track in which I could take specialized coursework and receive specialized training dedicated to the population in which I am most passionate in working with. Though I had unfortunately been unable to attend my own Admissions Day in person (thanks to an unexpected four feet of snow coupled with a power outage!), my interview with Dr. Cathy Miller and having been connected with a number of different students already within the Child Emphasis really helped me to establish a connection with the program, in addition to helping me to make my final decision on a school. Hearing about the breadth of different practicum placement opportunities within our emphasis, as well as the diversity in research topics chosen for dissertation, was something that was so exciting for me to hear about and that I felt were unmatched by the other programs I was considering. I also am so smitten with the Pacific Northwest! Though I escaped to California for my undergraduate years, I knew this region ultimately had my heart so I was so thankful to return to the area and be going to a school only a few hours away from close friends and family.

Favorite PsyD course | Child Psychopathology & Interviewing: This is a required course for students within the Child Emphasis during their first-year of the program and, for most, is the first course that we were able to experience that really dived into developmental psychopathology. One of my favorite aspects of the course was our group assignment in which one other student and I chose a mental health disorder occurring within childhood and were connected with individuals within the greater Portland area who specialize in the treatment of that particular disorder for an interview. This particular project only further strengthened my passion for working with individuals presenting with an array of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Hobbies | I have two very snuggly cats at home (Kahlua and Bailey!), so any amount of spare time spent between classes and sessions with clients, I can usually be caught cuddling with them (though they have loved to make their presence during Zoom classes known, too!). Games of all varieties (though especially board games!) were a favorite past-time in my family growing up, so I love getting together with friends for game nights. Recently, my partner and I have loved working on the "Hunt a Killer" mystery subscription boxes together to fulfill all investigative whims! Though I grew up in Washington and had been to Oregon a fair amount growing up, I have so loved being able to explore different areas of Oregon over the past two years. The coast, specifically, has my entire heart, so I've really enjoyed weekend day-trips to the coast as a small break away from school, too! This area of Oregon in particular has such a great winery scene as well, so that's been something I have enjoyed partaking in with friends in the program, though I'm still very far from a sommelier unfortunately. :)

Jennifer Garcia

4th Year | PsyD Program | Child Emphasis


Undergraduate Institution | Arizona State University

Hometown | Tucson, Ariz.

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific University because it best aligned with my interests and training goals. I was also looking for a program in which I could focus on working with children, and Pacific provided just that. Being able to see child clients throughout my practicum training experiences has been immensely rewarding! At the end of the day, I felt that Pacific was a good match for me, and vice versa. Plus, being in the beautiful state of Oregon doesn’t hurt.

Favorite PsyD course | Interprofessional Care for ASD: I really enjoyed this course because it allowed me to interact with students pursuing other professions (e.g., occupational therapy, audiology, etc.) and collaborate about care for autism spectrum disorder across settings. In this way, the approach felt more holistic and allowed me to gain insights I otherwise might not have been exposed to. I would highly recommend taking interprofessional classes when you can. 

Hobbies | One of my favorite things to do is play video games, and it has been amazing to see mental health professionals become more integrated into this community. This interest has also influenced the course of my dissertation (feel free to reach out and ask about it if you’re interested!). I also enjoy being outdoors, whether it’s a hike, kayaking, or a trip to the local dog park. I am a big fan of museums and observatories, and am always up for a spontaneous road trip. I also make art on non-traditional canvases.

Hiba Jbarah

3rd Year | PsyD Program | Child Emphasis


Undergraduate Institution | Ariel University

Hometown | Taybeh, Israel

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific, because I believed it will provide for me the best experience, knowledge, and clinical practice to pursue my passion in becoming a competent clinical psychologist. Reading about the program’s values and focus, I very much related to the fact that it provides different emphasis in psychotherapy and assessment, as I see myself working with children and their families in the future. As a program that has its own clinic and one that put much emphasis in clinical training, I perceived Pacific as a place that can equip me with many significant practical tools and skills into becoming a contributing member of the community of mental health care in general and in the Portland area in particular.

Favorite PsyD course | Basic Clinical skills: I really enjoyed taking this class and being part of its practical lab because it connected me to the rich world of psychotherapy and treatment. During this course I was introduced to many clinical skills that are inherent to having a meaningful and effective psychotherapy, and had the opportunity to practice these skills in many role-plays during lab. This course provided me with much space to ponder over my own roles and responsibilities in becoming a meaningful therapist, and raised my awareness towards my own capabilities and limitations in clinical therapy. During this course I was fortunate to have a meaningful and inspiring learning experience that has shaped my perceptions of therapy, the role of a therapist, and my own self-expectations and ambitions in becoming a therapist.

Hobbies | I enjoy traveling to new and exotic countries. For me I find much joy in meeting new people, learning about different cultures, languages, and trying new cuisines. I also enjoy watching movies, cooking, listening to music, and spending quality time with friends and family in both the outdoors and the many beautiful restaurants of Portland.  

Emilio Zalzman

3rd Year | PsyD Program | Child Emphasis | Sabiduria Emphasis


Undergraduate Institution | Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Hometown | Caracas, Venezuela

Why I chose Pacific | I chose Pacific for its deep ties to the Latinx community through the Sabiduria program and its focus on community engagement through providing services and care. Pacific is also located in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and one I had not explored. Unwinding with a sunny walk through the park or a simple drive to the Columbia Gorge is one of the things that can help keep you sane through a doctoral program.

Favorite PsyD course | Treatment Planning and Interventions | This class provided such a grounded way of learning different approaches to interventions, and finally made me feel like I might be ready to see clients. The actual application of different treatment strategies helped me envision what therapy might look like in the long run, beyond just what happens during the intake and assessment stages. It is exciting to see concrete examples of who we might be working with and how to best fit the needs of different people from a Bio-Psycho-Socio-Cultural perspective. We are also provided opportunities to be creative with our vignettes! If you want to diagnose a young Tarzan with Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder, this class might be for you! (also you have to take it so it's kind of out of your hands haha) 

Hobbies | I am a big fan of playing video games and board games! A friend of mine in college got me into a trading card game called Magic the Gathering and now it consumes pretty much every free moment of my graduate school career. I also love playing guitar and singing. I've been trying to learn all the songs from Bo Burnham's "Inside" and it has been an emotional trip, but a very fulfilling one. Another hobby I have is helping out prospective students for Pacific's PsyD program, so if you have any questions feel free to reach out and we can set a time to chat!