My name is Michael Mullarkey, and I’m an alum from 2013-2014, back when JSC was JIP! I still remember one of my JSC interviewers asking me why I wanted to join the program. I had been out of college for a couple of years, sat at a lot of tension-filled kitchen tables as an intensive in-home counselor for court-involved youth, and was frantically finishing up my thesis project for my master’s degree. I had a clear professional path in mind: a PhD in clinical psychology focusing on research.
People can join JSC for many reasons, but a primary one (at least back then) was vocational discernment – figuring out how to turn ideals into a job worth doing. If I was relatively certain about my career path, what would JSC be offering me?
A lot! There are many ways to do any job; I was looking not for a what, but a how. While writing my cover letters for clinical residency match last year, I thought back to my time at the Dispute Settlement Center helping run a program called Family Table. Over pizza dinners in fluorescent-lit cafeterias, court-involved teenagers and their parents hashed out devastating difficulties. After I dropped the (highly anticipated) leftover pizza off for my seven housemates, I would go onto the porch, and scribble in a notebook.
One point I kept returning to was our seemingly never-ending wait-list for the program. If I ever started to forget about who we weren’t helping, impassioned, frustrating, hotly contested, and grounding conversations with my housemates helped me refocus on people our best intentions were still leaving behind. If I needed a brief respite from those interactions, I could always go watch football or baseball with my riotous JSC mentor Charlie Kast.
I also don’t know if I would have made it to where I am now, one clinical residency year away from my clinical psychology PhD, without JSC. I met a key advocate and research collaborator due to an e-mail sent out by our indomitable social chair Emma Sternlof. I have no idea how my life would have turned out if she hadn’t thought of me.
My JSC year still reverberates in the specific work I do now – developing brief, easy to access treatments for people with mental health difficulties. I work in a lab focused on getting treatments to the many people who currently don’t have them, and I’ve created a free treatment manual therapists can use to reduce their current patients’ suffering more quickly. These projects started out as scribbles in my notebook during my JSC year. JSC was a crucial element in figuring out how to do research that actually matters for others, and I’m incredibly grateful for that gift.