October Graduate Student of the Month Winner

The Indiana University Graduate and Professional Student Organization (GPSO) and University Graduate School (UGS) congratulate our October student of the month, Cara Maffini. Cara is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology.  Her research interests focus on the intersections of ethnicity, culture, and mental health. In particular, she is interested in Asian Americans and understanding psychosocial and developmental protective and risk factors related to negative experiences such as violence, delinquency, and victimization. “My research evolved out of my passion to bring attention to and amplify voices that are often over-looked in society,” she explains. “I focus on factors that may exacerbate or reduce participation in at-risk behaviors as well as psychosocial strengths that can reduce the deleterious consequences of negative experiences such as violence and victimization.  I am passionate about the experience, role, and complexities of identity, which comes out in my research, teaching, and counseling. I also enjoy exploring and discussing strategies to create culturally-inclusive classrooms and counseling environments.”  Cara feels she has gotten valuable guidance from her mentor, Dr. Joel Wong, in that he has encouraged her to seek out a variety of different opportunities.  “Coming into grad school, I thought I knew what I wanted to do, but I tried to keep an open-mind and tried different experiences that I thought I would hate. I have struggled through experiences when I didn’t like the material or the situation, but tried to focus on the skills I was getting out of the experience. Throughout grad school, I have volunteered for seemingly benign opportunities that helped me develop skills that were appealing in other realms. I have noticed that having a lot of different experiences and skills has made me more marketable. I never imagined how nicely it would all come together. In the process, I was able to hone in on what I am passionate about. Finding what I really enjoy makes my work much easier. I look forward to doing my research. I look forward to teaching my students and discussing topics I love, such as multiculturalism and counseling. I look forward to working with clients through their challenges and watching them grow.”

Cara is also an avid reader and traveler who volunteers at a youth camp each summer in her native California.  She completed her BAS in psychology and dance at UC Davis and her MA in psychology at CSU Sacramento.  Cara experienced quite a bit of culture shock upon her relocation to Indiana, and shared some of the lessons she learned with us:

10. There is A LOT of corn and soy beans. One should not run through the corn fields (I was schooled on that by a 13-year-old). There is a difference between a tractor and a plow – not sure what it is though.
9.  People tend to move slower and I need to be patient.
8.  When the lightening is green, take cover. DO NOT sit and watch the tornado approach,
7.  Horse drawn buggies, camels, tractors, obscene amounts of road kill, deer walking through traffic: just another day in Indiana.
6.  Adults can play bean bag toss too (they used to call it “corn hole”). Apparently, here is skill involved in this bean bag toss situation.
5.  The weather is unbelievably unpredictable and intense. Always carry extra shoes, an umbrella, and a sweater/coat.
4.  Four seasons exist. Fall is beautiful!  Snow isn’t just something you drive to see.
3.  Sports are taken very seriously. Go all in or hide.
2.  G-chat is awesome and helps make it easier to maintain friendships across the country.
1.  Talking about how awesome California is all the time does not help one make friends. However, finding fellow Californians does.

Despite missing her beloved home state, Cara reflects that she has enjoyed her experience, both for the educational opportunities and the connections she has made.  “I’ve had so many opportunities here and have made awesome friends here. They have been willing to explore Brown County and sit through a weird bonfire/hay ride, though we were the only folks from out-of-state. Others willing to take a day off from research to go through the beautiful woods nearby.  Friends that host annual luaus to help make winter suck less. Friends that sit and watch lightning storms and even a tornado come at us; friends hide out in the locker room of the SRSC during a tornado; friends that send texts to make sure I’m safe, offer refuge, or ware willing to do an informal Rorschach during power outages.  Friends that sit and watch as a monsoon-like rainstorm flood the backyard during my birthday party. All in all, friends who are supportive and encouraging.” On that touching note, we turned the interview to more serious matters: does Cara prefer cake or pie?  “Well, I LOVE fruit, so cake or pie is good with me as long as there is fruit involved. Maybe some chocolate in there too. Or carrot cake; I love good carrot cake — without raisins. I really love dessert. Especially Vietnamese desserts with avocado. But I don’t like ice cream. Well, except if it’s mochi ice cream. Wait, what was the question again?”

Thanks for the inspiring words, Cara, and for being an inspiration yourself!  Would you like to be considered for our next Grad Student of the Month award?  Talk to your adviser about nominating you!

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