B.A. Psychology ’01, M.S. Clinical Psychology ’03, Ph.D. Clinical-Community Psychology ’12
Hometown: Pasadena, Calif., and Anchorage, Alaska
Fun fact: Attends every UAA v. UAF hockey game, and his dad catches any UAA basketball game in Washington that he can.
Graduating from UAA last spring with his doctorate in clinical-community psychology is especially meaningful to Jaymes Gonzales because it was 11 years ago that he walked across the stage at the Sullivan Arena to accept his B.A. in psychology in 2001, and then again in 2003 for his M.S. in clinical psychology. At that time, he was busy raising three young children and committed to remaining in Alaska.
If you had met him in middle school, though, his sentiments were a little different.
“I’m a Mexican-American male who was brought to Alaska from California at age 14. I hated it and wanted to leave the instant I could,” he says as he thinks back to when he moved to Anchorage because his father was stationed here as a military psychologist. Besides a stint in Germany, his family had mostly remained in different parts of California for his dad’s job, until he got the call north.
Luckily, things turned around when Jaymes was 17.
“I met a white woman who was born and raised in Palmer. We were worlds apart when we met, but we became extraordinarily close. We got married at age 19,” he says.
By the time he graduated high school, he appreciated, too, the connections his family already had to UAA. Both his father (during his first deployment to Alaska more than a decade before) and mother (who was a psychology advanced nurse practitioner) received their master’s degrees from UAA. In addition, having grown up with two parents in the psychology field, he grew to know and love the profession itself.
“I really love psychology; I love the concept of it,” Jaymes says. “And since I grew up in a large Mexican-American family, the idea of working with underserved populations has been kind of a lifelong goal for me.”
He always knew he wanted to study at the doctoral level, and the joint UAA/UAF Ph.D. in Clinical-Community Psychology program was the perfect fit, and perfectly timed. Waiting until his kids were older was key, so Jaymes got his master’s degree and worked for several years for Anchorage Community Mental Health in the meantime. By the time the UAA/UAF program came to fruition in 2006, he was ready to dedicate his time and energy to that pursuit.
“This is the only program of its kind in the country, and it was brand new with a lot of ambition behind it,” Jaymes says of starting with the first cohort six years ago. Since he was one of two students who entered the program with advanced standing, he was also expected to take on a level of leadership and mentorship. “It was a really intense program, and really a dual degree in every sense of the word. It wasn’t community psychology watered down or clinical psychology watered down.”
“When I graduated, I was obviously happy to be done with such an intense program, but I was equally as happy for UAA, and for everything that it meant when two weeks prior to graduation last year, they attained degree-granting status,” he continues. “I’m so proud of UAA. And proud of having been a part of that.”
Notably, Jaymes is also the first ethnic minority student to graduate from the joint Ph.D. program—not an insignificant milestone for a degree rooted in cultural psychology—as well as the first person to officially receive all three levels of secondary and postsecondary degrees from UAA.* He currently works as a Telebehavioral Health Program Coordinator at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API), serving remote communities throughout rural Alaska.
“As a sidenote,” he says, “the state invested a lot of money in the clinical-community psychology Ph.D. program, and they get us back. It’s a cool investment that the state of Alaska can be proud of and will reap the benefits of. I know that the program’s graduates will have a positive impact on individuals, agencies and communities throughout Alaska.”
UAA, for one, is proud to have been with Jaymes throughout his education. Proud that his wife is a student here now. And we look forward to seeing his three teenagers (ages 17, 15, and 14) graduate and become Seawolves. (Maybe we should start working on the 14-year-old now just in case she’s anything like his dad was at that age. Though, we’re confident Jaymes will be a good influence on her for us.)
* According to our records, three Seawolves have ties to UAA through three levels of post-secondary and graduate level education. Before UAA had official doctoral-granting status, alumna Virginia Cress received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UAA prior to earning her doctorate in clinical-community psychology, jointly administered by UAA and UAF but awarded by UAF, in 2011. Shortly after Jaymes Gonzales received one of the first UAA-awarded doctorates in spring 2012, alumna Erin Johnson became the next Seawolf to have received all three degrees from UAA, earning her doctorate in clinical-community psychology in summer 2012. A hearty shout-out to Virginia Cress, Erin Johnson and Jaymes Gonzales for their history and dedication as Seawolves!