Psychology grad to study implications of COFA migration at Clemson University
A University of Guam alumnus will be studying the implications of Compact of Free Association migrants in regards to the public health, mental health, and detention systems in Guam and Hawaii as part of a doctorate program he starts this month at Clemson University (S.C.).
Vincent Leon Guerrero graduated from the Master of Science in Clinical Psychology program at the University of Guam in 2013. Now, following six years of work as a mental health counselor in the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, he will pursue his Ph.D. in policy studies.
His interest in policy started in a Micronesia and Mental Health class that he took at the University of Guam.
“I learned how Guam, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Northern Marianas all have unique current and historical relationships with the United States that affect the larger economic policies of the Micronesian region,” he said, “and I began thinking about ways that the Compact of Free Association affects social issues, like mental and public health, in the places people migrate to from the Freely Associated States.”
For his master’s thesis project, he worked to develop culturally informed interventions for youth in Guam’s Department of Youth Affairs. He taught classes on CHamoru cultural identity and the unique cultural strengths of the CHamoru people to influence the youth to take a greater interest in their community.
“While I was focused on the CHamoru youth, I found that the largest community in need was the youth of the FSM,” he said. “I remember hearing many stories from FSM youth of a hope for a brighter future, a lack of opportunities for the FSM people, and a lack of internal family support. It was from this experience that I felt that over-representation of FSM youth at the Department of Youth Affairs was caused by larger policy issues rather than case-by-case mental health issues.”
By partnering a doctorate in policy with his background in psychology and mental health, he said he hopes to contribute research toward improving the Compact of Free Association and guiding future policies that will positively benefit the Pacific community. He plans to eventually return home to Guam to work in the area of public policy research, analysis, and development.
“Vincent has always had tremendous passion for helping others and serving the Guam community,” said Professor Iain K.B. Twaddle, Leon Guerrero's mentor when he was at the University of Guam. “In his work as a psychotherapist-in-training at UOG’s Isa Psychological Services Center, he was always extremely dedicated to taking care of his clients and helping them to succeed in life.”