Grad School Insights

An Interview with Melissa Keyes

Her story: I work as an attorney in Indianapolis. Prior to getting my law degree, I was in graduate school pursuing a masters/doctorate in clinical psychology. I use skills from both degrees in my work to promote the civil rights of people with disabilities.

Why did you pursue additional education? When I was in college, I was very interested in psychology. I loved learning about behavior. Everyone said if you want to pursue a career in psychology you MUST get a graduate degree.

Looking back was it the right path? I don’t regret any choices I’ve made in life because each choice has led me to where I am. My path, however, was difficult. After college, I took some time off to work and gain real-life experience. When I went back to graduate school, it was not what I imagined. I became so frustrated with what appeared to be arbitrary decisions by policy-makers in how mental health treatment should be administered. It wasn’t based on science or fairness. Once of my professors encouraged me to explore the law as a way to address the system. I earned my Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology and decided to make the big decision to leave the program and turn to the law. I actually loved law school. Sure, it was tough, and there was a lot of work and reading, but I found the material engaging, and the critical thinking and discussion really spoke to my heart. I still had a passion for helping those with disabilities in enforcing civil rights. However, when I graduated law school, the economy was in shambles and I took the best attorney job I could. It was a great experience, I learned a lot, but it was not the type of law that I wanted to be doing. Instead of drudging through it, I tried all I could to keep involved in the disability rights community. I wrote blog articles and participated on not-for-profit boards and eventually, my work was discovered by an employee at the organization I am at now. If I hadn’t stayed true to my passion, and put in the work, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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What was the best part of the experience? I love learning. I’m glad I waited until I had the maturity to appreciate the time to learn topics that interested me. I’ve also met life-long friends and my husband during this time.

What was the worst? There were times when the work was overwhelming. If I had children or other obligations outside of school, I’m not sure I would have been able to get through it as unscathed as I did.

Advice for folks pursuing any additional education? It sounds folksy, but follow your instincts. If you’re in a program or job and it isn’t speaking to you, or it doesn’t make you happy, then don’t force yourself to push through it just because you think it will make you more money in the end or because you think you’ve already invested too much time and there isn’t an opportunity to change. If you are passionate about what you do, the money will come and there is always time to follow your heart if you make it a priority.

Suzanne JoyceComment