Sean Taylor selected as Psychology's Outstanding Senior for Spring 2023

May 11, 2023
Psychology Senior Sean Taylor

By Adam Gonzales, College of Science

This spring, departments in the University of Arizona's College of Science nominated an outstanding senior who went above and beyond during their time as a Wildcat. We are pleased to share their stories as they reflect on their time at UArizona. Next in the senior spotlight series is Sean Taylor from the department of Psychology.

Sean Taylor

College of Science: Why did you choose your area of study?
Taylor: The last 22 years of my life have been spent in law enforcement. Eleven of those years have been spent assigned to sex crimes units. I watch as lengthy prison sentences never seem to give victims closure and serving those penalties seems to rarely rehabilitate offenders.

Humanely separating violent offenders from the rest of society, can be gratifying. We stop victims’ suffering and save future victims from ever experiencing abuse. Be that as it may, I often think of those who suffer from psychological trauma shaped by their past. Two specific experiences served as the catalyst for my return to higher education. I attended Crisis Intervention Team training, a training objective was to understand the plight of those suffering from mental illness. One component of this training was meeting with individuals housed in a psychiatric facility. These meetings were eye-opening and life changing in that they completely transformed my understanding of the mental illness crisis. Around the same time there was a lengthy court process for one of my investigations. The trial and subsequent sentencing of a serial sex offender I arrested. This subject has a criminal history spanning four decades. During the sentencing, which can include testimony from prior criminal acts, a 53-year-old sex abuse survivor, of the offender, testified about the weeks-long sexual abuse he suffered as a child. Obviously tormented by decades old memories, he became emotional during his testimony. The offender was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. Still emotional after hearing the sentence, the 53-year-old survivor screamed at the offender telling him he hopes he dies in jail. The offender couldn’t hurt his victims anymore, yet they continued to suffer. For me, this moment was a summons into the world of mental health. I returned to school in pursuit of a doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

COS: Tell us about a class or research project you really enjoyed
Taylor: A research project I really enjoy is one in which I am currently involved. Last semester I began to work as a research assistant on a project supervised by Dr. Ashley Jordan.

As a research assistant, I have been responsible for conducting literature searches and logging related data on these topics, focusing on recent empirical article publications. This semester, I have continued with my role in this research. Working with a de-identified secondary data set, we have conducted a grounded theoretical thematic analysis on free-response questions in which students provided feedback on different pedagogical techniques. I participated in work to create a poster and a paper with findings that can be presented at an academic conference related to the scholarship of teaching and learning.

I dropped out of college in the late 1990s due, mostly, to difficulties with focus. I have a personal connection to this research which has immense value in addressing the issue of student retention and has the potential to benefit students at risk of dropping out.

COS: What is one specific memory from your time at UA that you'll cherish forever?
Taylor: One specific memory is quite difficult. In my short time here, I have had some awesome experiences for which I will always be grateful. Winning an Outstanding Senior Award is something I never expected and something I will never forget.

COS: What is next for you after graduation?
Taylor: My next step will be a graduate program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I believe this program will be rigorous but possible while I am still employed as a Police Detective working 45-50 hours a week. Thus far, I have been accepted to one of the programs to which I applied. I have hopes of entering a doctorate program upon retirement in 4-5 years. During these pursuits, I also hope to participate in research on the effects of vicarious trauma and its impact on the emotions and decisions in first responders.

Original article