Feature Interview: Tiarra Currie

I met Tiarra through DamselsinSuccess! She was born and raised in Washington D.C. and is an incredibly driven grad student in New York. Here is more of what she has to tell us about herself: I am a recent graduate from Syracuse University with a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and a triple minor in sociology, child and family studies, and early childhood. I am currently receiving my Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia Teachers College in New York City. My long-term goal is to receive my PhD and become Dr. Currie. I knew since 8th grade I wanted to be a child and adolescent clinical psychologist. I am scholar, mentor, leader, and woman of distinction due to many titles I have held as a Ronald McNair Scholar and receiving awards in my undergraduate education such as the 2012 Woman of Distinction and the Associate Vice President Award for Positive Advocacy.

1. Tell me about yourself and what you are currently working on.

Well, I am 21 years old and born and raised in Washington, DC, mostly the southeast area. I come from a single parent home raised solely by my mother but with collective help from my entire family and I am a product of the catholic school system. I just recently graduated from Syracuse University in May of 2012 with a Bachelors in psychology and triple minor in sociology, child and family studies, and early childhood. Two weeks after I graduated I flew to Miami for the summer and worked with Florida International University and the Center for Children and Families as a counselor in their Summer Intensive Treatment Program for Adolescents. Then another two weeks after that, my mom and I drove to New York City where I am currently completing the Masters Program in Clinical psychology at Columbia University Teachers College. My end goal is to receive my PhD, so I can be Dr. Currie and become a licensed child and adolescent clinical psychologist. However, I am working on a lot of things at this current moment. Not only am I a full-time graduate student, but I recently joined a research lab with one of my professors that analyzes data involving affluent youth and parenting, I am a mentor with NY Youth at Risk with the Woman-to-Woman program that consists of young teen mothers in NYC, I am a Respite Worker/Skill Builder with the Bendel Youth Empowerment Program and I will be joining the Black Girls Rock team soon. I just recently started engaging in speaking events and joining panels covering topics from college preparation, my personal journey and life story, self-esteem and finding your purpose, or any discussions that involve inspiring younger generations to reach their potential.

2. What has been your biggest struggle in getting to where you are?  

My biggest struggle in getting to where I am now was me. It’s easy to blame an external source instead of looking at yourself and realizing you are stopping you. I didn’t understand how much of a blessing I was because I wasn’t protecting God’s purpose in my life. It is scary when everything you said you want out of life is coming true. I didn’t know me as a young woman. I have been through a lot and I just went over it and didn’t go through it. So I had to go back and embrace my pains and see the struggles I endured were to set me up for something much greater. An example is I just forgave my father at the age of 21, so for 21 years his decision to not be in my life affected my life decisions. I was consumed with working hard to prove I can be great despite what statistics say about girls who grow up without a father, instead of embracing reality that he was the first man to break my heart. Many of the people around me painted this image of perfection to describe me or stressed the idea that I was “born with a silver spoon in my mouth” and because of this I started to believe it. But that’s not me. The day I proclaimed the hurt, the struggle, and my imperfections is the same day I realized my purpose and that I was ready to change the world.

3. Why did you choose to pursue clinical psychology in upper education and what do you plan on doing with it in the future?  

I chose a higher level of education in clinical psychology because I had to. To be a clinical psychologist you need your PhD and there is little you can do with just a Bachelors in psychology. I knew since 8th grade I wanted to be a child and adolescent clinical psychologist. Where I grew up, the kids around me had little hope for themselves as well as no self-esteem and confidence in their future. I couldn’t understand it, but I felt I had to change it.  There are a few things that can happen as a result of my advanced degree in clinical psychology including helping the field of psychology through therapy and diagnosing children with disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, expanding the necessity and essentialness of psychological research, but also being and giving hope to many young people who look like me that this is possible.

4. How did you choose which school and program to attend?  

I applied to about 18 graduate schools before I graduated from Syracuse. After spending four years at this big and well-known university I had to look at schools for their prestige, location, and amount of diversity. I also had to research the professors to see who had research interests and had published articles that explored topics I was interested in. My top school was always Columbia, who doesn’t want to go there?  But I was very intrigued by Dr. Suniya Luthar’s work on vulnerability and resilience in adolescence but also the dynamics of early maternal relationships with their young children. So when I got accepted, I said yes because I wanted to work with Dr. Luthar, NYC is a great place to be, and the bonus being this school is Ivy League

5. Where do you find inspiration in life?  

I find inspiration in life from my purpose. I stress seeking, finding, and fulfilling your purpose because there is no greater feeling. I want to help children see hope and develop confidence to pursue their dreams. I fear for the next generation because we are seeing cycles of hurt and little change. My favorite quote is ” I am perfectly beautiful searching for truth through my own path and telling my own story”. I want young girls and young boys to be confident in their own story and not have to search for answers in someone else’s. I want younger generations to use me as evidence that dreams can come true and whatever you put your mind to you can achieve. Knowing that this is what God has set out for me to accomplish, I work hard every day to make this possible.

6. What is the thing you look forward to most during your days and time at school?

The thing I look forward to most at school is the message I come away with in each class. There is a difference between being smart and intelligent. Being smart is memorizing a textbook or the lessons from class and repeating the answers out for a test but being intelligent is using the information being fed to you and making choices and decisions independently. I consider myself a scholar because I take the information learned in school and formulate my own ideas to take to another level. In my graduate school experience, I live for the theories I can apply to my own life but also take evolve in my future work endeavors.

7. Who are the women in your life that most inspire you?

I adore women who show us we can have it all like Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Beyonce. But the women who have had direct impacts in my life inspire me the most. My grandmother is a woman who puts the needs of many before her own needs. She is a pure definition of a selfless woman and it takes enormous strength to put everyone’s troubles on your back. She has gave me a flawless understanding of love. I see her as the most beautiful woman that could have graced this earth because my life could not have the same meaning without her. Then there is my mother who inspires me because I have seen her struggle and strength trying to give me the best that I deserve but I also seen her at her weak and vulnerable moments. My mom shows me the beauty of being a woman and the truth in that life will never be pretty. We will make mistakes but with good intentions we can recover from anything because anything is possible. I am so grateful and blessed for both of them.

8. What advice do you have for women who are working or seeking higher education?

The advice I can give to women who are working or seeking higher education is never give up. What you are doing is much bigger than you can imagine for that little girl sitting at home playing with her easy bake oven. I would also stress that it will not be easy and you have to find something or someone that will keep you going when it gets tough. I work and grind extremely hard; some nights I get little to no sleep and some nights I cry from being drained and exhausted. What keeps me going is my family and knowing that everything I do is making them proud and setting an example. It’s knowing there is a little girl back home name Shaniya who looks up to me. Another important factor is making sure your grind and hustle has meaning. Everyone is grinding, what makes you or me different? You must work towards a legacy and something profound you can leave behind when you are long gone. Don’t just work for fast money or a career. Don’t be complacent in your professional aspirations and mediocre in your career potential. I am working not for money but for my purpose that will still stand when I cannot. Lastly, what is for you is for you and only you can define your greatness. There is more than enough room for all of us women at the top. I can never be jealous of another woman because I know how hard we have it. Be motivated by each other because we have so much power to change the world. I am convinced there is not another person doing what I am doing so each day I’m battling with myself to advance. I think women need to know only you can deliver your purpose to the world.





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