Ever since high school, I have preferred classes that have unique structures. Whether it was studying abroad for a semester of 10th grade, or designing an independent study project to serve as an elective during 12th grade, I was constantly seeking educational experiences outside of a typical classroom. However, these alternative educational opportunities required extra work and flexibility on my part to not only create a project or raise money for the experience, but also to overcome obstacles that my school placed in my way, including persuading various administrators to approve my ventures.
I chose to apply early decision to Brandeis, partially because I understood that Brandeis encourages alternative educational opportunities, as opposed to putting up boundaries to hinder access, like what I experienced during high school. The ease of alternative educational opportunities has been one of my favorite aspects of my Brandeis experience. From taking courses with unique structures, such as Sociology of Empowerment and Psychology of Love, to serving as a teaching assistant, to studying abroad on a program with interactive experiences peppered into it, I have obtained academic credits in multiple creative ways. These experiences have taught me the importance of flexibility within a structure, which reflects Dr. Philip Kendall’s phrase, “flexibility within fidelity.”
For example, in Sociology of Empowerment, my professor followed a syllabus – like most other professors – that included readings, assignments, and guest speakers. However, he also included multiple class sessions where students would choose readings to be assigned and/or lead class sessions relating to the theme of the course. One of my fellow students assigned us to listen to a podcast that shined light on racial injustices and for us to watch the movie 13th. I organized our class to have a bystander training led by Brandeis’s Prevention, Advocacy, & Resource Center. This not only helps the class become more relevant to the students, but also it helps students develop independent and creative thinking.
Employing flexibility within a structure is also a crucial factor of treatment and research at Rogers Behavioral Health, the organization for which I am working as an intern this summer. Rogers produces research and provides evidence-based treatments, but they do not keep to a strict structure when administering the treatments in order to maintain their “individualized approach [which] empowers patients, helping them gain control of their symptoms so they can develop effective lifelong coping skills” (https://rogersbh.org/what-we-treat/ocd-anxiety). They act flexibly based on each patient’s needs and they meet each patient where they are in order to treat them most effectively. This flexibility in treatment includes, but is not limited to, going outside the office with patients to conduct therapy, involving a family member, friend, or teacher in a patient’s therapeutic journey, or creating unique exposures (behavioral exercises to systematically reduce patients’ anxiety of whatever stimuli they fear). As part of the Rogers team, I am currently working with Dr. Martin Franklin on writing about flexibility within fidelity in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder in adults. This chapter will serve as a chapter in Dr. Philip Kendall’s book.
At Brandeis, I have learned how to think flexibly while remaining in a structure. Now I can implement this skill in my research, and I will hopefully be able to also implement this in my future career as a clinical psychologist.