Class of 2014 alumna Francesca McCarthy next to her presentation board.A love of sports took class of 2014 alumna Francesa McCarthy on a journey of pursuing a master’s degree in sports psychology in clinical mental health counseling at Indiana State University, but an impactful internship at a maximum-security men’s prison changed her path to pursue correctional psychology.

After earning her Master of Science and discovering a passion for correctional psychology, she decided to continue her academic career joining Wright State University’s School of Professional Psychology to earn a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). She is currently a fourth year student and is involved in many different projects including co-developing the “Building Better Parents” parenting class for inmates in the Montgomery County Jail, working with mothers in the “Achieving Baby Care Success” nursery program at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, and completing her dissertation titled “Pregnant Inmates’ Knowledge of the Teratogenic Effects of Tobacco and Alcohol.”

Since her life changing internship, most of her work has been with female inmates. “I find working with female inmates, an often overlooked and underserved population, very fulfilling. I decided to be more involved with female inmates specifically, because I want to be a part of improving their treatment in jails and prisons,” notes McCarthy.

Discovering gifts

Undergraduate studies at Holy Cross College helped her discover her gifts and map a future that would include personal fulfillment.

“I think the most important thing I learned at Holy Cross was that I can make a difference. When I went to Peru for my global experience this concept was apparent in so many ways. I didn’t need fancy gifts or a perfect grasp on Spanish to connect with the people I met there,” remarks McCarthy. “That concept has carried over into the work I do with inmates. A specific example of this is the Moral Reasoning Group I co-developed for women in prison. I used my hobby of table-top role-playing games to help them practice engaging in ethical decision-making. I turned on the silly, pretending to laugh like a goblin, and they loved it! Holy Cross taught me that by simply being me I can make a difference in the lives of others. I’ll never forget what one of the women said at the conclusion of the group: ‘I think in the 6 years I have been here, I have never felt as good about waking up as I have on the days we had our group.’ ”

Memorable moments

One of her most memorable moments on her academic journey was the capstone presentation at Holy Cross College.

“As all Holy Cross students know, the capstone presentation is a big deal. I prepared for weeks and practiced over and over. When it came time to finally present, I found my groove and really nailed it. That process and presentation gave me a newfound confidence in my presentation abilities that I still carry with me today. I’ve done professional presentations in places from New Orleans to Nairobi, and I am now teaching college courses. None of that would be happening without my capstone experience,” said McCarthy.

Up next is the start of her internship and completing her final year at Wright State.

“After graduation, I hope to continue my work in corrections in either a prison or jail setting. I have also discovered a love of teaching and hope to continue to teach at the college level. Most importantly, I want to relax and read books with my nephew Raymond (age 5) and niece June (age 2),” shares McCarthy.