Students of a Certain Age

Posted on November 22,2010 by pfuentesmoadmspp

While growing up, some people thought I was strange because I had friends of very different ages, and of course at MSPP this is not an exception. One of the things that really enriches the MSPP atmosphere is that there is a lot of diversity in terms of the people you get to know, and of course age is not an exception. My father used to say that when one is in a group, the group experience can be measured by the sum of the years of experience of that group, and I believe he is right.

Recently, I interviewed my peer and friend Heidi Wells to talk about her perspective of going back to school, changing careers, and having a family while studying for her PsyD degree. Here is what she has to say:

1) What is your background/work experience?

I've worked in the business world managing small - medium size companies. I worked at the fine jewelry industry, as a consultant, and most recently (and currently) I work for a social innovation non-profit (you can check it at:, which is kind of a think tank for social change.

2) Why/When/How did you decide to change careers?

I decided to change careers during a major life transition. I was getting divorced after being married for 26 years. It was a bit of a revelation that let to me to realize that I really needed to do something that nurtured my soul. The business world was not doing that. I decided to pursue a BS in Psychology. Originally I was going to get a Masters in Social Work, but I got hooked on Psychology. The curriculums for Social Work were just not as interesting to me. It is important to me that the journey be as fulfilling as the destination. I ended up moving from Maine to Massachusetts, and here I am at MSPP.

3) What would you like to do with your degree? Would you like to work with a specific population?

I'm open to all sorts of possibilities when I've finished at MSPP. There are so many things I could do. I know I want to help survivors of trauma. This might be domestic violence, childhood abuse, or rape. I love adolescents. Family work is also interesting. My background in business might also lead to working as an administrator in the mental health field. There are so many options and opportunities...

4) As a mom, how do you manage your work load and field site? Do you have advice for other parents looking to begin grad school?

My children are older: 20, 24, 25. I'm still a mom and still spend time with all three children. I'm super lucky that they all live in the Boston area. However, there are weeks when the balance is tough. I also work and volunteer at BARCC (Boston Area Rape Crisis Center) so days in general are crazy. My advice to parents: have a calendar, color code it, make lists, and remember to breath!

5) What do you think you bring to the school with your previous experience?

Well at 51 my experience includes an entire career in the business world, raising three children, and navigating some tough life events. All those things have shaped how I look at the world. Every day is an opportunity to do things new, look at things fresh, be open to whatever will happen. I guess I bring that perspective with me.

6) Hypothetically, what advice would you give to a friend in your situation (changing careers, being a mom, etc.) who was thinking of applying to MSPP?

Look within. Try to understand what your passion is. For me (at this stage of my life) passion dictates, although logic and pragmatism have their place. I want to wake up everyday and be excited about what's before me. Whether it's working with patients, talking with classmates, or sitting in class. That's what MSPP has brought to me.

For those interested in career change, don't miss the opportunity to attend the following event:

"Career Change into the Field of Mental Health" hosted by President Nick Covino
Tuesday, November 30th from 6:00-7:30 PM
Register Online:

Thank you Heidi!