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Q&A with Fulbright Scholar Lauren Pitts

September 25, 2014

Lauren Pitts, MS Couple and Family Therapy ’13, EdD ’17, will be traveling to Barbados to study the impact of father-daughter communication on adolescent daughters’ sexual decision-making. Pitts was the recipient of the Couple and Family Therapy Department’s Ivan Boszomenyi-Nagy Social Justice and Clinical Excellence Award as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Health Resources and Services Administration Scholarship. She is one of two 2014 Fulbright Scholars from the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

Chartings: What led you to Drexel?

Lauren Pitts: In 2009, after residing in Florida for almost 10 years, I returned home to Southern New Jersey. I was really disappointed because I had not been accepted into the programs to which I had applied in Florida. My mother suggested I explore to see if one of the schools in Philadelphia offered a program. As fate would have it, Drexel was the first school she told me to look into. Drexel not only had the program I was looking for, but it is considered one of the top programs in the country. I never looked at any of the other universities to determine if they had a Master’s in Family Therapy (MFT) program. The panel interviews were rigorous but more importantly, the information that came forth and the embrace I received throughout the admissions process further affirmed for me that I wanted Drexel to be my home for my advanced degree pursuits. The experience, stellar education, support, and guidance I received in my Master’s program made me certain I wanted to pursue my doctoral degree at Drexel also.

Chartings: Describe what kind of student you are.

Pitts: I often joke with my family and friends that I entered the MFT Program emotionally obese. The MFT Program served as a vehicle instrumental to my personal healing and added tremendous value to me as a professional. It truly was an extraordinary time personally and professionally. Dr. Aponte’s POTT (Person of the Therapist) training was influential  in helping me to use what used to be life’s stumbling blocks as life’s stepping stones. Throughout the entire program everyone made it clear we were valued for our humanity as well as for our scholarly potential. Each of my professors made me feel embraced; however, Drs. Harry Aponte,  Eric Johnson, and Christian Jordal consistently held me accountable for pursuing my best self. The MFT Program created a platform that I believe directly contributed to my selection as a Fulbright Scholar. My training better prepared me to be a stellar candidate personally and professionally.

Chartings: How did you react when you found out you were awarded a Fulbright Scholarship?

Pitts: Being awarded the Fulbright was humbling and staggering. My hometown of Salem, New Jersey has been recognized for a wealth of negativity and social dysfunction for many years. As a resident of Quinton Township, Salem County, New Jersey, a graduate of the Salem City School District, and being reared in a single-parent, impoverished home, this opportunity is not just about me. Receiving such a distinguished and prestigious honor serves as a voice of hope to my family members, friends, and members of my community who believe that Salem is representative of the best life has to offer. Furthermore, this award positions me to embrace my passion of helping underprivileged and underserved youth globally.

Chartings: Tell us about your research project.

Pitts: My research project is examining how the absence, or the presence, (father-daughter attachment) of the Barbadian father in the adolescent daughter’s life may affect her decision-making about educational attainment, sexuality, and reproductive health. My research is being conducted from varying perspectives in that a portion of my observation is being conducted in a residential treatment facility serving men and women struggling with substance addiction.

Chartings: Do you enjoy the topic? What led you to this project?

Pitts: This area of research is near and dear to my heart. It is my life’s story and the story of so many young women of color. Conducting this research not only provides me the opportunity to be empathic to these young women, it is also an opportunity for me to offer help and hope. This work is my life’s work and happy and overjoyed aren’t descriptive enough words to express my feelings.

Chartings: What advice do you have about students embarking on research projects?

Pitts: Remain open to platforms that go beyond what you envision for your proposal. People here have been extremely supportive and have expressed great interest in my study. As a result, many individuals have provided a wealth of additional resources I had not considered for the purpose of ensuring rich and valuable data can be obtained. Also know it is okay to ask for help and to be transparent about any concerns or additional considerations you may have. Lastly, stay grounded because it is very easy to get caught up in all the assistance that is being offered. It is imperative to remain focused.

Chartings: How would you rate your experience as a Drexel graduate student?

Pitts: OUTSTANDING! Obtaining my MFT and doctoral degrees from Drexel positions me for an extraordinary career. What is also interesting is, when speaking with family and friends in similar fields, they concur that my education at Drexel is unsurpassed! GO DRAGONS!