Sydney McDonald, Ph.D. '98

How has your Hood education benefited you?

I greatly benefited from the nurturing, supportive and academically rigorous environment at Hood. As an undergraduate psychology major I presented an honors thesis and this helped prepare me for conducting my master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation. Additionally, I felt Hood’s emphasis on liberal arts and community connection helped me get into and be prepared for graduate school. I completed an internship and volunteered at the Frederick County Hotline, both of which were amazing ancillary learning experiences. Finally, I felt my adviser, Professor Linda Boston, was incredibly supportive and a great mentor to me.

How did your time at Hood prepare you for the graduate school coursework?

As I mentioned above, I felt Hood’s academic opportunities and encouragement of other types of learning prepared me well for my graduate work. I also feel it helped me get into graduate school. The small classes at Hood were invaluable to me; I always felt I needed to be well prepared for class, engaged and accountable. As a result I learned a lot and felt ready to take on rigorous graduate work.

How did you find the transition?

I took two years off between Hood and graduate school. I felt I needed this time to do front-line work. My experiences at Hood prepared me well for my first job. Specifically, my internship at a residential facility for adolescents with behavioral and emotional problems mirrored my first job out of college. Having this internship helped make me competitive for the job and feel more efficacious once on the job.

Did you decide your major right away?

I did decide my major right away because I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a psychologist. However, I don’t think that’s the right path for everyone. I was able to make the most of my college experience in terms of preparing for graduate school because choosing my major right away allowed me more time to be focused on that goal.

What is your favorite memory of Hood?

I have many fond memories of some of the traditions at Hood, particularly the ring ceremony. This felt like an important rite of passage and I valued the historical context.

What were your extracurricular experiences?

I was the president of Psi Chi while at Hood and this leadership experience served me well in future leadership experiences.

Who were your mentors at Hood?

Professor Linda Boston, who I understand is no longer there. She was so warm, supportive, challenging. A great mentor!

What is your opinion on the value of a Hood education?

Hood was a great place for me to get my education and I felt well prepared to enter the work force and apply to graduate school. The undergraduate experience at Hood was very positive and truly invaluable. I am certain I would not have done as well at a large public university. Luckily, Hood was also helpful with scholarships, grants and work-study, so this made it financially feasible.

What is your opinion on the value of a liberal arts education?

The skills acquired in a liberal arts education are life skills. Knowing how to think critically, communicate effectively, work independently and in groups are skills people need in any profession. In my opinion, nothing compares to a liberal arts education.

What would you say to students applying to Hood?

I would say I felt nurtured, challenged, supported, engaged. I never worried about “falling through the cracks.” I loved that I had relationships with my professors and that everyone was involved in the community. I got an amazing education, had a great time and sincerely value my time at Hood.

What role has your Hood education played in your career?

Hood has a good reputation and my success there was paramount in getting into graduate school. Obtaining my doctorate in psychology was a dream I had while at Hood and the opportunities I had while at Hood provided the foundation required to move toward this goal. I love being a psychologist in part because it allows me some autonomy, flexibility and financial security to give my kids the kind of live I want them to have, and to be around some to watch them grow! I work at a university counseling center so I have the privilege of working with college students and also benefit from the university closures when my kids are also out of school!

Why did you choose to attend Hood College?

I liked that it was a predominantly women’s campus at the time, I felt freer to focus on academics. I also liked the small size, the individual attention, the good reputation and the fact that it was close to home.