Jennifer Attila came to Avila to earn her Master of Science in Psychology. She started rapidly developing new health symptoms, which complicated her studies. She was diagnosed with Dystonia. “Upon consulting with my teachers I chose to complete my MS in Psychology and it was the best decision of my life,” said Attila, MSP ‘12. Attila was officially diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD) in 2021.
“I received what I needed to build a full successful career as a disabled woman from Avila.”Jennifer Attila, MSP ’12
What is your current role and what does it entail?
I’m a Prevention Specialist in the Marine Corps. Behavior Health Prevention focuses on how to stop things that haven’t happened yet. Last month I met with over 1200 people to present on this topic. I write, research, and create because deaths caused by addiction and depression are preventable.
I’m currently working on a documentary on living with Young Onset Parkinson’s, which is an amazing opportunity. I was given the funding for the documentary based on my success as a prevention specialist. Avila set me up to be in the public eye so I could be offered this chance.
What would you tell a friend who is considering a similar path about Avila’s program?
Avila’s instructors helped me understand that psychology is more than being a therapist. Initially, I wasn’t sure which path was right for me. All of my instructors were willing to chat and troubleshoot with me. Ultimately I chose the MSP program and I’m grateful to all of my teachers who helped me on that decision journey.
How did Avila prepare you for your career?
Avila’s smaller environment fueled my inquisitiveness without feeling overwhelming. I realized I love research while I was at Avila! We worked through research concepts in small think tanks. Those experiences built the foundation for the open forum conversations that I have in my current job, which ultimately become research studies, programs, or presentations.
Avila taught me the value of the research process.
What professional goals do you have for the future, and how has your Avila education prepared you to pursue these goals?
I currently research and write about military cultural competency for civilians with no military affiliation. Approximately 152,244,687 Americans have either served in the military or are direct relatives of someone who served.
My goal is to research and study military psychology and eventually collaborate with my peers to write a textbook and coursework on the topic. My time at Avila exposed me to diverse studies and fueled my desire to research and study experiences outside of my own.
Who at Avila (faculty, staff, or other students) did you form an inspired relationship with, and how did they assist you?
Dr. Wagge has always stood out to me and influenced my career. She taught me the fun side of psychology (or at least that was my perspective), which helped me believe that every time I ask a “why” I can create a study to find the answer.