How/why did you choose Psychology as a major?
Studying the human mind always fascinated me. I also wanted a broad based area of study the would be applicable for many professions.
What specific skills did you develop by taking Psychology courses?
I learned to ask a lot of questions and that things are not definitely black and white. Being open to new ideas and different philosophies has been important to my professsional development.
Outside the classroom, what opportunities/experiences were most beneficial?
The internships were wonderful. They allowed me to put what I was learning into a real world context.
Did you believe that you “had to” obtain more schooling after your bachelor’s degree?
Absolutely. An undergraduate degree in psychology is a great general education, but if you want to pursue a career related to mental health or law or medicine--an advanced degree is obviously necessary. The field is always growing and developing, therefore ongoing education is a must. My studies in neuroscience and brain development have no relation to what I learned forty years ago. We have learned so much and I have to participate in ongoing education to stay on top of the subject matter.
In retrospect, what would you have done differently as an undergraduate?
I would have taken more writing courses and classes in cultural anthropology. I definitely would have done a semester abroad.
If you continued more schooling after your bachelor’s degree, share your reasons.
I am a judge. I went to law school after receiving my bachelor's degree. It never occurred to me that I would not pursue an advanced degree because all of the professions I was interested in required one.
Describe how you utilize your undergraduate Psychology skills in your current job/career.
Throughout my career as a prosecutor and now as a judge I deal with psychological issues every day. From issues of sanity or competency to adolescent brain development. I have always specialized in crimes against children and juvenile delinquency--so mental health issues are at the heart of most of my cases.
What pearls of wisdom can you offer to current undergraduate students?
Be creative and open to new ideas. Commit yourself to some public service, whether as a volunteer activity or as a career. The personal rewards are enormous as well as the benefits to whatever group of people or program you choose to work with. Try everything and remember the learning does not stop.
The Honorable Jill-Ellyn Straus was featured in the issue of PsychologyTimes_Fall2015. You can read her article, "From Abnormal Psychology to the Bench" at: Newsletters