Academics People and Community

Graduating senior finds her calling in the classroom

After earning a degree in community and applied psychological studies, Teresa Vazquez will begin a Ph.D. program in counseling psychology. She plans to do some clinical work but ultimately become a research professor.
Teresa Vazquez

Education was a value instilled in Teresa Vazquez by her family, so it’s not surprising that the graduating senior from the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development envisions a career in academia.  

It’s a path she started down while earning a degree in community and applied psychological studies (CAPS). As someone who always had been passionate about social justice and achieving social equity, Vazquez said she was drawn to the unique major.

“The values of the CAPS major are very similar to my values—equity, education, social justice, and community. All of those things I find very near and dear to my heart,” said Vazquez. “Although I was interested in psychology in high school, I felt like declaring that as my primary major didn’t pay enough attention to ecological factors and context and systemic things we see. CAPS just felt like the perfect place to foster that curiosity and learn more.”

With an insatiable quest for knowledge, Vazquez supplemented her studies with roles as an undergraduate teaching assistant and research assistant, which allowed her to contribute to a journal article and present at two conferences. It was through these experiences that she realized that she has a strong appreciation for the transformative benefit of therapy and a true passion for teaching and research.

After graduation, Vazquez will begin a Ph.D. program in counseling psychology at the University of Florida. She plans to do some clinical work in counseling but ultimately become a research professor.

“I’m interested in the development of culturally informed therapeutic interventions. That’s taking aspects of an individual’s culture, the ecological context, and creating a therapy to help them achieve their well-being,” explained Vazquez. “Going into my graduate studies, my project will delve into therapy among LGBTQ people of color and children of color, typically a population not served in the field of psychology. I’m very interested in expanding the therapy interventions and different resources these individuals will have.”

To accomplish this, Vazquez will call upon lessons learned from Scot Evans, associate professor in the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies and director of the CAPS undergraduate program.

“Dr. Evans was such a great mentor to me. I value social equity and addressing more systemic issues and he does a great job of that in his research. It really inspired me and developed who I am as a researcher and how I want to conduct research going into my graduate program,” shared Vazquez. “Additionally, Dr. Evans embodies how I want to be as a professor. He gave me a great example of how I want to conduct the classroom.”

Evans has complete confidence in Vazquez’s future success, stating: “In addition to being an excellent student and dynamic leader, Teresa is an emerging scholar. She joined my Engagement, Power, and Social Action research team last year and has made important contributions to our community-based projects. She brought energy, passion, and a spirit of conviviality to our group and will be missed.”

That’s a sentiment that seems to be shared by other faculty members as well. Vazquez will be receiving the top Department of Educational and Psychological Studies Award for Scholarship from her school.

Vazquez may be graduating but her lasting impact will be felt throughout the University. As food sustainability chair of the Student Government ECO Agency, she founded the ’Canes Food Pantry. It provides food relief for low-income students and campus community members and helps reduce food waste from local grocery stores.