ASU graduate completes degree with hopes of creating more accessible mental health resources

By

Carrie Peterson

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

ASU Online student Shauna Hughes has been hard at work achieving her lifelong dream of earning a Bachelor of Arts in psychology.

Hughes was originally an English major, but as she neared the completion of her degree, she decided to follow her passion for making therapy more accessible to all by switching to psychology. After discovering EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Hughes was inspired to reignite her college journey and complete her degree.  

As a mother to two teenagers — one, a college freshman studying psychology in their home state of Florida — Hughes wanted a degree program that was completely online but still matched ground school programs in quality. This factor played into her decision to attend Arizona State University.

“The professors online are the professors on campus — that’s significant,” said Hughes. “I recently had a professor who is a researcher and is teaching the class in tandem, which makes me feel like I’m getting a high-quality education.”

Hughes plans to continue with graduate school and become a licensed mental health counselor.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: As an English major as I got closer to finishing my degree, I knew I might be limited in career choices as an older adult. I was interested in making therapy accessible to more people using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). It’s a form of therapy that is used to deal with PTSD and is a very effective. When I learned about it, the idea of providing it to more people was exciting.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: One of the biggest things I learned while at ASU was in my psychology courses about the differences between genders and the foundations in human sexual behavior.

I learned a lot about the variations in these classes because many people don’t feel comfortable talking openly about these subjects. I know that what I learned is something I can use with clients someday and I will have more of an understanding on these important topics when they come into my office.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: There were many reasons ASU was the right school for me, but two of the biggest were that the faculty teaching online courses are the same professors who teach students on campus. I also knew I wanted to select an accredited university.

ASU has a very well-structured platform which is super easy to navigate through the courses, scheduling and any student need. I found that the library search engine was helpful by providing a place where I could find tons of access to peer-reviewed journal research to utilize in my papers.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: There were so many professors I adored. However, I can say Dr. Lee Spencer was very influential with her in-depth lectures in her special-topics course on foundations of human sexual behavior. I also enjoyed Dr. T.M. Barrett, who provided extensive lectures about abnormal psychology which helped spark many interests.

Dr. Laura Clemons taught a course focused on why critical thinking is so important. I didn’t know at the time that the class would change the way I think and write because I found myself considering the other side’s arguments and what a valid argument looks like, which I feel greatly improved my writing style.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Stay on top of things, keep yourself organized and set aside time to study. Online there is a lot of reading so it’s important to make sure you take breaks and try not to cram, or it will not sink in.

Q: As an online student, what was your favorite spot to study or to just think about life?

A: I have a little corner on my back porch by the pool with a fountain. I also like to study in the kitchen — which I call the heart of my home. Being in the kitchen allows me to still interact with my family and check in with everyone.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am going to grad school and will work toward my master’s degree as a licensed mental health counselor.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would start centers that train and specialize in EMDR to help with trauma and PTSD. I would want to make it possible that more mental health care providers have access to free training in EMDR.