KOKOMO, Ind. – Flor Valdes has always wanted more.
“I always wanted to have the bigger title, I always wanted to be Dr. Valdes,” she said. “I’ve always wanted more out of my education.”
As part of the first class of graduates from Indiana University Kokomo’s Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling, she’s ready for the next step towards her goal to earn a doctorate in counseling psychology.
“I’m just grateful I’ve been able to come this far in life. It means a lot to have attained this education,” Valdes said. “IU Kokomo has been the greatest place I could have gone for my degrees. I feel like I’m really prepared to go into my doctoral program. My internships in this program gave me a feel for what I will be doing in my career.”
Valdes, who was born and raised in Frankfort, appreciates her parents for their contributions that made her dreams possible — including immigrating from Mexico before she was born.
“It means even more to me that I’ve come this far, especially with my parents’ sacrifices, and all they’ve done for us,” she said. “They made huge changes in their lives, and gave up so much, to give us bigger opportunities like this. They are so proud.”
She first came to IU Kokomo as an undergraduate, completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2018, shortly before the master’s program enrolled its first class.
While earning her degree, she worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of Admissions, helping with recruiting visits to area high schools.
She also had a positive undergraduate experience, taking advantage of travel experiences. She went to South Korea with the School of Nursing, to Poland with the School of Business, Italy with the New Media, Art, and Technology program; and Yellowstone National Park with the School of Sciences.
Even though the trips did not directly relate to her psychology degree, they enriched her experience.
“I was able to see mental health aspects in our activities, and connect them back to our area,” she said. “It helped me see how I can do different things in the mental health care field, how to promote it, and the need for it.”
Through both programs, she found a mentor in Rosalyn Davis, clinical associate professor of psychology, who is director of the graduate program.
“Dr. Davis has been the biggest influence on me, especially in pursuing and helping me get the opportunities I was able to get,” Valdes said. “She was right with me throughout the process of applying to my doctoral program.”
Davis said because they are both women of color, they’ve had good conversations about the importance of diverse voices in psychology, to best serve all clients. She described Valdes as “an amazing student,” who is able to assess her own skills and asks to be pushed to improve.
“Flor is curious, and always interested in taking information to the next step on her educational journey,” Davis said. “She’s quiet, but she’s always thinking, and you can see that in her work and her comments in class. She’s always ready to attempt anything we have challenged her with, and that’s been from undergraduate throughout her graduate training.”
Valdes appreciated Davis’ efforts to find clinical placements for graduate students, so they can graduate with the requirements met to take the state licensing exam, to begin serving as mental health counselors. She completed her hours at Community Howard Behavioral Health and Four County Counseling Center.
“As interns, we were doing the work of a therapist,” she said. “It’s an excellent way to confirm this is what you want to do. It’s a growing field, and there is big need every day for mental health care services.”
While she could go into practice immediately after completing her master’s in August, Valdes chose to continue into a doctoral program for the opportunities it offers in mental health assessment.