s a 36-year-old with a master’s degree and nearly
10 years of experience working for the federal government,
Luciano Lima expected a bit more respect when he went back to
school to pursue his doctorate in psychology.
Now a second-year clinical psychology student at
the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy
University, Chicago, Lima says he’s felt disempowered as
a student because he’s had little ability to shape his own
education. Rather, students are told what courses to take,
what materials to study — and within a particular course
— are rarely asked what they are interested in and how they
would like to structure the class.
As an experienced professional with his own interests,
Lima expected a more collaborative, rather than a top-down,
approach to education.
“Having worked my way up to become a really valued
employee in my field, it was very jarring,” he recalls. His
program and professors “didn’t really care about the resources
and knowledge that the students might bring to the table.”
Of course, most graduate students recognize that they don’t
have the experience that established psychologists do, but
sometimes they feel that they are victims of ageism, or as some
call it, “studentism”: They feel they are treated as incompetent
or with disrespect simply because they are younger or not as
experienced in the field. This feeling can continue into their
early career years.
“I’ve actually had staff try to kick me out of my classroom
— during a class, unfortunately — because they assumed I was
a student,” says Amanda Kraha, PhD, 31, who graduated with a
doctoral degree in experimental psychology in 2013 and is now
Graduate students and early
career psychologists share their
experiences with ageism, as well as
advice on how to handle it.
By Amy Novotney A
Insights for and from Graduate Students