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State association recognizes student

April 4, 2008

State association recognizes student

When she started her undergraduate degree at Western Washington University, Amanda Montgomery decided to major in physics.

However, she quickly realized that while she liked studying electrons, fission and atomic numbers, it wasn’t what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. She discovered she liked people and changed her major to psychology.

After graduating, Montgomery enrolled in PLU’s Marriage and Family Therapy master’s program, from which she’ll graduate this summer. Recently, the Washington Association for Marriage and Family Therapy named her the 2008 Student of the Year, an honor given to only one student in the state.

“It’s pretty humbling,” Montgomery said.

Selected by her peers and professors, the nomination letter hailed Montgomery’s academic excellence, clinical abilities, leadership skills and unique contributions to the program, including promoting multiracial issues, her compassion and her ability to make others feel secure during therapy sessions.

“She truly is someone who desires to understand people, she wants to make significant and meaningful change in the lives of people who sometimes are missed in society,” said David Ward, assistant professor of marriage and family therapy.

In the past four years, a PLU student has received the award three times.

“It’s a validation for our belief that we’re providing students with quality education,” Ward said. “We continue to attract student who will have an impact in our field and the communities they’ll serve in after they graduate.”

On campus, Montgomery is dedicated to raising awareness about race issues, as she herself is multiracial. She is committed to participating in two campus groups that discuss multiracial and racial issues.

Montgomery also participated in an “Unlearning Racism” workshop in Eugene, Ore., earlier this year. It examined the concept of race, how racism is unwittingly supported and strategies for effectively confronting racism. She said the workshop was powerful, and she is actively working to bring it to campus.

“There is this philosophy that we all have racial tendencies,” she explained. “The best way to defeat that is to start with ourselves.

“The college generation is sensitive and open to learning,” she continued. “But it must be taught.”

Currently, Montgomery is completing her internship at the behavioral healthcare program of Puyallup’s Good Samaritan Hospital. Along with learning the ins-and-outs of a medical agency, she’s getting hands-on clinical experience working with real patients one-on-one.

“It’s difficult when you have a breakthrough with a patient and then they go back the next day,” she said. “It’s hard to believe in the process and that it’s normal.”

After graduating, Montgomery would like to work with sexual abuse survivors, specifically with child prostitutes. More research needs to be done to help survivors move past anger to forgiveness, and to develop strategies for assisting spouses of sexual abuse victims, she said.

Montgomery hails the PLU master’s program. Along with preparing students for future jobs in the field, it provides a network of contacts – fellow students and professors – who are always available to answer questions or provide support, she said.