Masters Matter: Dr. Kurt D. Michael and Morgan Brazille, Psychology - Clinical Psychology

Dr. Kurt D. Michael, professor of clinical psychology, and second-year graduate student Morgan Brazille discuss the Master of Arts in psychology, with a concentration in clinical psychology. The program is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology.


  • Morgan Brazille: Hey, I’m Morgan Brazille. I’m a second year clinical psychology grad student, so I’ve been in Boone and at App for about two years now.

    Kurt Michael: I’m Kurt Michael, I’m a clinical psychologist, I’ve been here for seventeen years. My research--and Morgan’s been a part of this since she arrived--is mostly school mental health. So, where we are today is in Smith Wright which is where we do the traditional classroom kind of work, the research lab kind of work, but our lab actually is not just in Smith Wright but it’s actually out in the communities and we work in Ashe, Alleghany, Watauga counties in the schools, in those communities primarily with kids. And whatever research questions we have, whether it be trying to do suicide prevention, we might so the traditional thing here, but we take that stuff out of Smith Wright and into the communities pretty much every day.

    MB: Since I got here, I’ve pretty much been doing mostly research on suicide and suicide prevention. I’ve done a few projects for conferences looking at risk factors for suicide within an adolescent population and then specifically for my thesis I’m doing--I have a bunch of data from emergency departments around the United States and I’m kind of looking at data on suicide attempters and trying to figure out what methods they are using to attempt suicide, such as firearms or knives or whatever, basically so that we can better inform suicide prevention through reducing access to those means when kids are at risk. Kurt and I, especially for my thesis, we meet throughout the semester oftentimes around once a week, it kind of depends on how deeply involved I am in the thesis at the time. So, we have one on one meetings where we either do editing or I just ask for advice if I’m freaking out about trying to get it done on time or we’re getting to a point where we’re going to run statistics together for it. And then, outside of my thesis, just on smaller projects we do kind of do the same things--we meet, go over edits, and the plan and everything like that together. It’s a really open relationship, I would say it’s very--I mean we’re professional--but it’s not super professional, we joke around, it’s very comfortable. If I’m having a really stressed out week, he’s someone that I can come to and be stressed out for a minute. It’s very supportive overall, and I’ve learned a lot from the relationship.

    KM: We kind of have a reputation in our lab of being very hard working, but we also can laugh. We work with very serious topics, and sometimes taking yourself too seriously, can kind of get in the way. So we try to have the atmosphere in the lab be very nurturing in some ways. We hold each other accountable, but I think the work is difficult, so we feel like we have to have a certain level of comfort with each other to do the kind of work that we do. We work with serious issues, we take things seriously, but I think to take some of the edge off of that we have to have a pretty healthy sense of humor, so I think the entire lab has that atmosphere that we work hard, but we can let our hair down and laugh.

    MB: So I applied and interviewed at I think four different programs for clinical psychology, and when I came to App I just really liked the environment here. The grad students that I met were very open and supportive and it seemed like the cohorts were more friends than competitors, and I really liked that. And then the faculty was very open, and it just seemed like a really friendly environment to learn in and I know for me personally, I learn better when I feel like I’m supported than when I feel like I’m competing for something. So that is pretty much what sold me on it, and then also just my undergrad--I went to Campbell University and they told me that this was a really good program to come to, so it was kind of already on my radar.

    KM: Well, I think the biggest incentive to come here would be that we’re based on what we call a scientist practitioner model, so I think we appeal to a broad array of candidates who want to do a mixture of research and clinical practice. We do prepare our grad students to take a licensing exam once they finish, so they can immediately become licensed, so I think that’s an advantage because the state itself provides opportunities for Masters, Licensed, Psychological Associates, so I think we get folks ready for the main exam that we would take. And our track record with the state, with the national exam, is actually quite good. Virtually everybody who takes it passes it at the Doctoral level, so we offer a very competitive program, so if they want to stay in practice at the Masters level I think it’s a good place for them and if they have aspiration to go on for a PhD, we prepare our students quite well for the Doctoral programs. We feel like we can offer a lot to virtually anybody from any program from across the country.