When Lauren DeJoie ’15 graduates Saturday, she will have changed her major three times, settled on a dual major, added a minor, completed three internships and found the route to her career path.
“It feels like I have gotten the biggest bang for my buck,” says DeJoie, who put in one year plus another semester as a neuroscience major before deciding it wasn’t for her. “I had thought maybe I would be a doctor or a nurse. I would never have imagined that I would have ended up here.”
“Here” is looking for jobs based on a bachelor’s degree in psychology and justice studies with a minor in forensics, fueled by the hands-on experience she gained during a four-month internship in crisis services at YWCA New Hamsphire.
Twice a week for the last four months, DeJoie has been assisting clients in the Manchester area — mostly women, but sometimes men — who have been victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or human trafficking. She has visited victims in the hospital, accompanied them to court, referred them to other agencies for such services as legal advice and housing, and provided overall support. She also has taken bi-monthly 12-hour shifts answering the 24-hour crisis hotline.
“People come in needing help at all different stages. Some aren’t sure if they are in a domestic violence situation, some need shelter, some need a safety plan,” DeJoie says. “Some are trying to flee their situation immediately. They lean on us a lot.”
Part of what has surprised DeJoie is how constant the demand for assistance is; there is always a steady stream of clients, all day long. The telephone rings constantly. All of that has given DeJoie a view of a world she’d previously only read about.
“Domestic violence, sexual assault — you hear about it but you don’t really realize it happens until you see it. I have to say I had no idea what I was getting into. It’s heavy and emotional but if I could be there every day instead of just two times a week, I would be,” DeJoie says. “A lot of intense things happen but I think someone like me needs to be there to help these people.”
She describes herself as a person who always has a full plate — someone who is “very good at taking on a lot and getting through it.” At the same time that DeJoie was working at the crisis center, she was also interning at the New Hamsphire Psychological Association, examining legislative issues. That included looking at states’ data on human trafficking — a problem she was becoming familiar with.
Prior to starting the YWCA internship in January, DeJoie underwent 30 hours of training that included spending time with the Manchester Police Department’s domestic violence unit and found out that human trafficking is an issue they deal with all the time.
The issue was also the focus of an internship she did during the summer 2014 with the Montgomery County, Maryland, district attorney’s office.
“I read a lot of things I didn’t want to read about and listened to a lot of jail calls,” the Medway, Mass., native says. “It was my first exposure to the need for a human trafficking campaign.
“I can’t stress enough the value of an internship. I never thought I would want to work in this field. And now I’m looking for jobs. Everything I’d been studying — it all collided in those internships.”
And it confirmed that the direction she has chosen is the right one — something that can happen when one gets to try on a career ahead of time.
“I always encourage students to take the most challenging internship that they feel comfortable with, and in Lauren's case this really paid off,” says Joan Glutting, clinical associate professor of psychology. “Her time at her internship was challenging professionally but she dug in and really grew through the process. I think quite simply she has found her professional path.”
DeJoie isn’t certain yet exactly where that path will take her but she knows it will involve direct service. For now, she is OK with letting things just unfold.
“I’m not in a huge rush,” she says. “I want to see what the days bring me and where my heart sends me.”