Graduate psychology student heads to doctoral school on journey to help others
University of Guam graduate student Sophia A. Sablan, the granddaughter of former and longest serving governor of the Northern Mariana Islands, Pedro P. Tenorio, said her childhood was fairly similar to that of other children growing up in Saipan, with most of her time spent bonding with her parents, grandparents, siblings, and cousins. But one difference was that social, cultural, and political issues were often the topic of discussion at the dinner table. This upbringing opened her eyes to the social problems in the Northern Marianas and the Micronesian region.
“I felt that in order to begin to make a difference in the lives of the people in our community, I first needed to learn about human beings — why we do what we do, why we feel the way we feel, why we love and want to be loved, and why we find it so difficult to cope with life sometimes,” she said.
Sablan was recently accepted into the doctoral clinical psychology program at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University in San Diego and will be moving to San Diego this August with her husband and two children to begin her studies.
Her academic journey into the field of psychology started when she moved to Guam to attend UOG. She completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2014 and was accepted into UOG’s Master of Science in Clinical Psychology program thereafter.
“I received an amazing education at UOG — an education that will continue to guide me throughout my academic journey. I was particularly blessed to have been accepted into UOG’s Master of Science in Clinical Psychology program. The MSCP program has given me the rigorous academic background that I need in order to succeed in doctoral school,” she said.
“My studies in clinical psychology have helped me to begin a journey to develop the wisdom and skills to listen to others...”
During her graduate studies under the mentorship of Psychology Professor Iain K.B. Twaddle, Sablan worked as a staff counselor at UOG’s Isa Psychological Services Center, providing mental health services to UOG students, faculty, and staff, as well as the broader island community. She eventually took on a leadership role at Isa, serving as the head counselor from 2017 to 2018.
“My studies in clinical psychology have helped me to begin a journey to develop the wisdom and skills to listen to others, to understand their suffering, and to help them rediscover their inner strength so that they can face life with confidence,” she said.
Sablan is in her final semester of her master’s program at UOG and is working on the final stages of her master’s thesis, a National Institutes of Health–funded study titled “The Lived Experience of Pediatric Cancer in the Pacific Island of Guam.”
“I chose to pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology at CSPP-San Diego due to its commitment to multiculturalism and diversity,” she said.
She will be a part of CSPP-San Diego’s Multicultural and International emphasis area under Assistant Professor and Clinical Psychologist Julii Green.
For her doctoral dissertation, Sablan plans to study the rise in child sexual abuse in Saipan in order to contribute to the development of culturally relevant prevention programs.
Her long-term goal is to return home to Saipan to give back to her community and to help meet the island’s need for mental health services.
“None of this would have been possible without my mentor, Dr. Twaddle, who continues to dedicate his career to ensuring that students, such as myself, achieve their dreams,” Sablan said.