In his Introduction to Psychology class, Jared Viz ’19 listened to Maria Cuddy-Casey, Ph.D. ask her students to draw a house, a tree, a boy and a girl. It seemed like an odd assignment, but Viz sketched out a drawing.
Cuddy-Casey collected the papers and shuffled them, so no one could tell whose was whose. She drew Viz’s drawing out of the pile and started to interpret what its composition might say about him. She had not told the class that it was a projective psychological test, designed to reveal hidden aspects about people.
“I hadn’t grounded my tree in anything, and it had a lot of branches,” Viz remembers. “Dr. Cuddy-Casey interpreted this to mean that I was being pulled in lots of different directions and feeling stressed. I was surprised that just a drawing could describe me so well.”
Interpreting projective tests is not an exact science, but Cuddy-Casey’s conclusion about Viz was accurate. That semester, Viz had started working in the campus life office and was shouldering numerous responsibilities.
“Subconsciously, all of that was coming out in the drawing,” Viz says. “I put a lot on myself as a student leader, because I’m passionate about the work I do. Knowing my limits is a challenge. But if I get burned out, I’m not really helping anybody. I have to reflect on what I’m doing.”
During his sophomore year, Viz attended an IU retreat focused on self-exploration and gaining more personal and professional insight, with the goal of helping students choose their majors. Although he was excelling as an allied health major, he realized that working in health care didn’t excite him.
“You could have all the capability in the world to pursue a career, but if you don’t love it, it’s not worth it,” he admits. The retreat helped him realize that for him, passion matters more than practicality when it comes to choosing a major and a career. He thought of how much he enjoyed his student affairs work with the campus life office. “Why not make a career out of it?” he thought, and so he changed his major to psychology.
Jessica Morrell, IU’s associate director of campus ministry and retreat organizer, as well as other student life staff rallied behind Viz and fortified his decision. They encouraged him to attend student affairs conferences, such as the Campus Philly Inclusive Leadership Conference and the Delaware Valley Student Affairs Conference, where he interned.
Out of all of his campus leadership positions, Viz’s favorite was serving as a first-year experience mentor. “The first year is filled with this sense of energy and an openness to new things,” he says. “But some students are lost—they don’t know where to go or what to do.” So Viz built close relationships with them and found out about their personalities and interests. “I find fulfillment in helping them better understand themselves and realize all that they are capable of,” he says.
Next year, Viz will pursue a master’s degree in student affairs at Rutgers University. He earned a graduate assistantship as a residence hall director, which will help him further his experience in serving students. “Because the people here recognized that I had the potential and drive to make a difference for the students, and offered me an opportunity to make that difference, I found my passion for students and am now pursuing a career to continue the work I started here,” he graciously explains. “I’ve honed my leadership style, I have a better sense of self, and I possess a strong understanding of my skills, strengths and weaknesses that will help me better serve students.”
He adds, “Immaculata is a place where you can discover who you are and who you want to be.”