The faculty of the CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology degree completion program all chose the field of psychology for different reasons, but all are dedicated to helping students find the same kind of fulfilling career they have enjoyed.

Professor of Psychology Virgil Adams III, Ph.D., was inspired to pursue his degree by an uncle who was a clinical psychologist. Observing family dynamics compelled Beatrice de Oca, Ph.D. to become a professor of psychology, and Professor of Psychology Kimmy Seok Lye Kee-Rose, Ph.D., decided on her career field while watching an episode of the 1980s hit “Dallas” from her home in Penang, Malaysia.

“There was some maladaptive behavior going on in the family and Sue Ellen brought her kid into a psychiatrist’s office,” Kee-Rose said. “I thought the psychiatrist would put the kid on the couch, but instead he gave him Crayolas and asked him to draw a picture of the child’s family, followed by an intervention. I thought ‘I want to become a psychologist!’”

Adams, Kee-Rose and de Oca have all been part of the CSU faculty since 2003, when the campus had just opened, and all three are faculty members who teach in the program, which is run through CSUCI’s Extended University (EU). It’s a two-year program for transfer students or professionals who would like to complete their BA in Psychology and much of it is online.

“It’s no different than a four-year program on campus, the curriculum is the same,” Adams said. “We do our best to make sure they come out knowing what they need to know, and we try to get them research experience.”

Kee-Rose often shares the unique pathway to her career, including the “Dallas” story. She is the first in her family to attend college, so she hopes to inspire other first-generation students with her own story.

Kee-Rose’s pathway involved traveling to the U.S. for her higher education, earning a BA in Psychology from Wooster College in Ohio, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University in Philadelphia.

While pursuing her Ph.D., Kee-Rose participated in a pre-doctoral internship at the UCLA Clinical Research Center, which was then housed in Camarillo State Hospital.

“Many renowned schizophrenia researchers were at the center,” she said. “And I met my husband, who was already a psychologist at Camarillo State Hospital.

After the hospital closed down, Cal State Northridge (CSUN) started a satellite campus where Kee-Rose was asked to teach, later joining the first faculty at CSUCI.

De Oca’s pathway to her career began in Glendale, CA, where she grew up with her mom following her parents’ divorce.

“My parents were immigrants,” she said. “I’m the first member of my family to go to college. Seeing the family dynamics of my parents’ divorce from a child’s perspective left me scratching my head.”

De Oca became fascinated with understanding why people do the things they do—how people who can do such good can also do such harm.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from CSU Los Angeles and her Ph.D. from UCLA. After five years in at Western New Mexico University in Silver City, New Mexico, she learned about a brand new university in Camarillo that would be named after the Channel Islands. She applied and was part of the first faculty hired at CSUCI.

“When I got there, everything about the campus seemed absolutely refreshing,” de Oca said. The positive attitude. From the beginning the campus was 100 percent focused on being there for the students. If you don’t have that attitude, I don’t understand.”

Neither does Adams. One of the places where he feels most alive is in the classroom.

“My God’s gift is in the classroom,” Adams said. “Sometimes I’ll be up there teaching and I get a chill up my spine. I feel fully aware, fully in the zone. I would describe myself as a dream-maker. For me, it’s all about helping students make their dreams come true.”

Adams’s path to his calling was filled with twists and turns. Both his parents have degrees so there was no question that he would enroll in college, but when he enrolled at CSU Sacramento, he felt the way he would come to feel many times during his higher education—alone.

“My high school was very diverse, but at the time, Sac State was not,” he said. “I remember walking to the library and there was this sea a white people with very few Black faces in the crowd. I didn’t have a connection in that school or to anyone.”

So Adams quit and started a landscape business, which turned out to be quite successful, but there came a time when he decided to make a 180 degree turn and go back to school.

“I had the good fortune to have an aunt and an uncle in my life who were professors at Fresno State,” he said. “I went to talk to them and two weeks later I was standing in line to get into classes at CSU Fresno.”

Adams decided to become a psychologist like his uncle, but once again he felt alone.

“For the entire time I was at Fresno State I was the only African American male in class,” he said.

When Adams went to apply for a summer research program, he knocked on door after door to find a faculty sponsor, but either no one was in, or the answer was no. Then he got to the very last door.

“I was so traumatized my hand was literally shaking when I knocked on the door,” Adams said. “And he said, ‘Come in,’ and I handed him the flier. He looked at me and looked at the flier and said ‘I don’t know anything about this program and I don’t know you…let’s give it a try.’”

Defining moments like that are what make Adams dedicated to making sure CSUCI students—especially Black students and students of color—don’t encounter the same obstacles he did.

Adams went on to earn his masters and PhD. at UC Santa Cruz, then accepted his first appointment as a professor of psychology and assistant research scientist at the University of Kansas, where he won the university's prestigious Kemper Teaching Award.

When he saw an opening for a tenure track professor at a new university in Camarillo, he interviewed and got the job that he believes was his destiny.

“All my life I’ve always been the only one,” Adams said. “But when I came here there was another African American in the Business program and he took he under his wing.”

Adams’ biggest commitments at CSUCI are to diversity in higher education, and—like de Oca, Kee-Rose and the rest of the EU Psychology faculty—preparing his undergraduate psychology students for the world of career possibilities a psychology degree can offer.

“Psychology graduates can do anything they want,” Adams said. “They can go onto grad school, law school, work in business, social science, behavioral neuroscience—on the cutting edge of the world.”

For more information on a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and other Extended University programs,
please visit: BA Psychology Online.

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