M.S. Psychology Program Alumni Success Stories

Adrian Cox

I work for a tech company that develops educational and training solutions for customers in the government, academic, and healthcare sectors. The work I perform is quite wide-ranging but mostly involves analyzing requirements and designing solutions that solve problems in the areas of job performance, educational outcomes, and training effectiveness. My responsibilities fall broadly into three categories: Designing solutions; managing projects (executing the solutions); and business development (to bring in new contracts). Because of the nature of the projects i work on, I need to understand and apply principles of adult learning, andragogy, pedagogy, developmental psychology, and cognitive science. I collaborate regularly with professionals in the areas of industrial/organizational psychology, cognitive psychology, user experience design, user interface design, human/computer interaction, among many others.

When it comes to the technologies I work with, we are basically talking about applying current and emerging technologies in the service of learning. This includes modeling and simulation, gaming, interactive media, virtual environments, artificial intelligence, intelligent tutoring, mobile app development, distributed/cloud delivery of content. I can provide more detail on the technologies (E.g. software applications, languages etc) if you need it.

MS helped me to get my current position, and I apply it in my work in several ways:

  • First of all, simply having a Masters degree in any discipline bumps up earning capability, and in fact on graduation I was able to negotiate a 10-15% raise in my salary, since higher degrees are valued in the field in which I work.
  • Broadly speaking, psychology as a subject has direct relevance to the kind of work I do. It allows me to effectively communicate with other professionals and colleagues with educational background in psychology, and professional psychologists (despite the fact that I am not working in a clinical setting). Although further to the last point, I have had occasion to work with clinical psychologists - on a proposal for a TBI rehab tool that uses virtual reality.
  • Technically, the types of solutions I develop and manage require an understand of subjects, areas, concepts, and phenomena that are touched upon in the MS program at PAU. This includes elements of our current understanding of brain and behavior, cognition and affect, the history of ideas/systems in psychology, learning and memory, and aspects of childhood and adult development.
  • I have to be able to survey, understand, and apply the results of large numbers of academic and scientific studies. I wouldn't have the ability to effectively interpret and critique results without the knowledge and skills I learned in Research and Stats classes on the MS program.
  • The discipline of Modeling and Simulation has a lot of crossover with the effective design of experiments, and again I find myself applying a lot that I learned in Research and Stats classes.


Xiaochang (Jasmine) Huang

“I grew up and finished my graduate study in China. Before I started PAU on-line M.S. program in 2015, I had been working as a psychological counselor for several years both at school and private practice settings. For pursuing a PhD in Clinical Psychology, I saw taking the M.S. program as a chance to see whether I could fit in some U.S. academic training program. It turned out very well, and I even got more than what I could expect at the first place. I could take classes in the middle of a trip while working in another city. I could interact and learn from classmates who locate in different places around the world through those “tiny shinny boxes” on the screen. Though sometimes I got stuck with technical problems, I always could get support from faculties and staffs to work through all those issues. Some professor even helped me to watch some video material through Zoom outside the class, since I could not find it in China. After the M.S. program, I transferred to the PhD program. Currently I am doing external practicum with refugees/asylum seekers while my research emphasis is on cross-cultural trauma recovery work. I am pretty happy that I keep going further and deeper regarding my professional development. I feel taking M.S. program is really challenging but deeply rewarding.”


James Jewett

“I believe the program is perfect for a working professional like myself who couldn't attend a traditional graduate level program. I actually transferred to PAU from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology because I needed a program that was a little more challenging. I also like that the majority of the test needed to be proctored. I am currently an attorney and working overseas in the Foreign Service, which is the only reason why I haven't pursued a PhD in psychology. However, my goal is to continue with my PhD with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology.”


Brian Seo

“The M.S. Psychology program was a great opportunity for me. I knew I wanted to eventually get a Ph.D., but I didn’t have all the information I needed. Being in the program allowed me to take classes while working, and gave me time to consider my professional development. Having online classes allowed me to engage with the material and really understand why I wanted a Ph.D. The one week required on campus was brief and a great opportunity to learn more about the campus and community. I was concerned about possibly being behind the other Ph.D. students when I transitioned as a second year into the doctoral program, however I found I was at the same pace as my cohort. The course design provided the education and training that the doctoral students were receiving. I think some of the skills used in the M.S. program translated well, as I learned to take an initiative in my development and was more accustomed to finding information on my own. I also found a lot of support available to me during the M.S. program and during my own transition into the Ph.D. which I believe was essential in joining the existing cohort and finding success.”


Monica Done

“When I started the program I was in my current position as a social science research professional at Stanford University. I wanted to get my masters because I wanted to grow in the field that I am passionate about and also prepare me for a Ph.D. program, which it has. I have greatly enjoyed the program and feel that I have benefited from my education goals and see that the MS program could open doors for me in higher positions at Stanford. I am applying for a program manager position at Stanford University and feel that the MS has prepared me for this as well as my current position.”


Paula Alvarez, Ph.D

Paula Alvarez, Ph.D., is a bilingual (Spanish/English) clinical psychologist who specializes in community mental health, working with minorities.

Dr. Alvarez immigrated from Colombia to Los Angeles, CA in 2000,at age 16. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and entered the Palo Alto University M.S. Psychology Ph.D. Prep program in 2007. Through this program, she transitioned directly into Palo Alto University's Ph.D. in clinical psychology program where she earned her doctoral degree.

Because the M.S. Psychology (Ph.D. Prep) program is online, with only a one-week residency requirement, Dr. Alvarez was able to complete the first two years of her doctoral studies while working full-time as a case manager in the community.

“The distance learning program was great because, although it was challenging, it allowed me to continue gaining practical experience in the community, while still learning academic fundamentals of clinical psychology,” she says.

"The program also allowed me to bridge into the Ph.D. program as a second year student, which was wonderful because I didn’t have to start from scratch, as other peers had to do when they had completed their master’s program in a different school. I feel doing the M.S. Psychology program strongly prepared me to be successful in the Ph.D. program.”

During her doctoral studies, Dr. Alvarez received a scholarship from the California Department of Mental Health for her dedication to providing mental health services to underserved populations. She completed her doctoral internship at the APA accredited site, Heritage Clinic, a division of the Center for Aging Resources in Pasadena, California.  Her research focuses on Latino/a geriatrics mental health, and caregivers of family members with Alzheimer’s disease.

Selected Articles
  • Alvarez, P., Rengifo, J., Emrani, T., & Gallagher-Thompson, D. (2014). Latino Older Adults and Mental Health: A Review and Commentary. Clinical Gerontologist, 37(1), 33-48. doi:10.1080/07317115.2013.847514
  • Gallagher-Thompson, D., Tzuang, M., Hinton, L., Alvarez, P., Rengifo, J., Valverde, I., . . . Thompson, L. W. (2015). Effectiveness of a Fotonovela for Reducing Depression and Stress in Latino Dementia Family Caregivers. Alzheimer Disease And Associated Disorders.


Ivy Hall, Ph.D.

Ivy Hall entered the Palo Alto University M.S. Psychology Ph.D. Prep program in 2007. From there, she transitioned into the PAU Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology program, earning her Ph.D. in 2013. She is now a licensed psychologist employed as a staff psychologist at the California Department of State Hospitals in Vacaville, CA.

Having previously earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in Clinical Psychology from University of California San Diego, she was seeking a program that would enable her to continue working while becoming acclimated to the demands of graduate studies.

“The M.S. Psychology Ph.D. Prep program at Palo Alto University gave me flexibility to continue working while gaining valuable experience that contributed to my growth as a clinician," she says."

In PAU's M.S. Psychology Ph.D. Prep program, all course work is delivered online, and the residency requirement at the Palo Alto campus is only one week. Students only relocate to the residential Ph.D. program after they have completed their master's-level coursework.

Through Master's and Doctoral studies at Palo Alto University, an APA internship at the Southern Arizona Psychology Internship Consortium, and postdoctoral training at the California Department of State Hospitals, Dr. Hall has become a skilled professional with extensive clinical experience across multiple modalities with diverse populations. She has treated individuals with substance abuse and dual diagnoses, anxiety, depression and mood disorders, chronic pain and illness, PTSD, and end-of-life issues. Populations she has served include veterans, dually-diagnosed, Axis II, young adults and families, and incarcerated persons in inpatient, residential, and outpatient settings.

"The M.S. Psychology program provides an opportunity for students, like me, who wonder if a Ph.D. or Psy.D. program would be a good fit for them. I am glad I did the program and would recommend it to others.”