Clinical and Counseling Psychology Student’s Dedication to Change in the Community

Posted on February 11, 2022 by Branda Walls
Branda Walls

Victoria Dixon standing outside on campus. data-lightbox='featured'

#StudentSpotlight: Victoria Dixon is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical and Counseling Psychology at the University of South Alabama. She previously earned a master’s in clinical mental health counseling and bachelor’s in psychology at South. 

While pursuing her doctorate, Dixon’s graduate assistantship has allowed her to work closely with Dr. Trés Stefurak, associate dean and professor for the College of Education and Professional Studies. A recent project included an evaluation of the local Child Advocacy Center, a non-profit that serves as a one-stop-shop for Mobile’s maltreated children. 

“This project has provided me with a fruitful learning experience in community collaboration and engagement as well as given me the opportunity to serve in a capacity that is unique to our field,” said Dixon, who is originally from Mobile, Ala. “It is my hope to build off of these experiences in ways that allow for continued engagement and navigation of the systems in place to best serve our children.” 

Prior to her work with the Child Advocacy Center, Dixon also assisted Stefurak in working with the Mobile Police Department Special Victims Unit to conduct data collection analysis as part of the Promise Initiative, a program established to address the police department’s Sexual Assault Kits (SAK) backlog. 

Beginning in 2015, the MPD applied for and received a series of grants from the Department of Justice to fund this initiative, which was named the Promise Initiative given its goal to fulfill the promise of justice for victims. Stefurak has led a research team for the initiative, which includes College of Arts and Sciences psychology professor Dr. Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling and three South clinical and counseling psychology doctoral students. As part of the ongoing grant project, the team collects data on the victims whose SAKs were never submitted and document the reasons the DNA evidence was never utilized, as well as study the attitudes, well-being and professional practices of police officers as it pertains to sexual assault crimes. The research team has presented 11 times at national conferences and is currently submitting scholarly manuscripts on their findings to journals for publication. 

“The Department of Justice grants for the Promise Initiative in Mobile have funded the process of cataloguing unsubmitted SAKs, submitting these kits for testing, putting in place new practices to prevent the backlog from reoccurring, and promoting trauma-informed investigation practices with sexual assault victims,” Stefurak said.

Dixon also participated in a randomized controlled trial of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy through psychology associate professor Dr. Kimberly Zlomke's Healthy Youth and Families Lab. She continues to provide clinical and counseling services at Strickland Youth Center. She completed an internship at AltaPointe Children's Day Treatment in Fairhope, Ala., conducting a sitewide needs assessment and screening for trauma while there and Strickland Youth Center.

While a student in the College of Education and Professional Studies, Dixon mentions she met multiple positive mentors, including Stefurak and Dr. Yvette Getch, a professor in the Department of Counseling and Instructional Sciences.

“The College of Education and Professional Studies' community outreach and commitment to continuing education makes the college unique,” Dixon said. “This mentorship has been absolutely paramount to my success throughout my graduate studies. Having someone open, knowledgeable and passionate about student success assists me in navigating each process while understanding my own unique needs is not something to be taken lightly. As a sole parent, this aspect of mentorship has been particularly important to me. There is so much that we must learn to achieve our goals and most of that learning is outside of the classroom. High-quality mentorship fills in those gaps, leads to answers to the unasked questions, and in my case, serves as a model for future career goals.”

Psychology first sparked Dixon’s interest during an undergraduate course titled “Human Sexuality.” She decided to officially pursue psychology after realizing the field could include all of her interests: investigation, justice and implementation of positive change. Dixon would like to work at both broad and narrow levels conducting research, teaching, building community partnerships as well as clinical work with individual children and families.

During her time at South, Dixon received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award in 2021 and her thesis was nominated for Outstanding Thesis of the Year Award in 2021. She also serves as a member of the Chi Sigma Lota Counseling Honor Society. 

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