PSY Undergraduate Internship Spotlight: Laura Lojacono

June 12, 2023 - Shelly DeJong


Name: Laura Lojacono 

Year: Incoming Senior 

Hometown: Buffalo, New York 

Major: Psychology with a minor in Law, Justice and Public Policy 

Internship: Mental Health Advocates of Western New York 


Thanks for talking with us! Did you come to MSU knowing you wanted to major in psychology? 

Yes, I started out at Michigan State as a psychology student. From when I was in high school, I wasn't totally sure what I was looking to do. It felt like a lot of my friends had a very set path of what they were going into like nursing or medical school, but I wasn’t like that. One of my friends once told me that I was a really good listener, though, and it just kind of stuck with me. I realized I could see myself in a counseling role for the rest of my life. And also, the whole basis of psychology has always interested me. I've always been a huge thriller and true crime fan, so that also played a part in it. 

Where are you interning this summer and what do they do there? 

I'm interning this summer at a nonprofit outreach center called Mental Health Advocates of Western New York.  We’re a resource hub for the people in the western New York area. They call us, let us know what is going on and what issues they are facing, and then we can connect them with community resources. There are paralegals there, mental health advocates, and other support like that there. So, if people are calling for legal aid, we can send them to our legal advocate. Or if someone calls with a family problem or an adolescent issue, we have family advocates as well as youth peer advocates. There are a bunch of different avenues that you can connect with in our facility, but we can also refer them out to different facilities within the area of western New York that could help them the best. For example, someone might be calling for their son who has bipolar disorder who needs specific housing. We're able to then connect them with somewhere that can help them. We're this hub that helps direct people where they need to go. 

What are you doing there for your internship? 

I'm a Community Outreach intern, so I help with answering the phones and do a lot of database logging.  For us to get state funding, we need data of who calls. So, we ask demographic questions at the start of the calls and then I log that into the database. It’s early in my internship, so I’m doing basic level work. I’m excited to continue to learn from the people here, they really care a lot about helping others and it’s awesome to be around. I have a great group of advisors around me as I learn.  

I’ve loved being in this setting because I get to see so many different careers and focuses at work. Psychology is a broad major, so it can sometimes feel overwhelming. So, I was happy to be able to intern at a place that wasn’t focused on one area but gives you a taste of everything. If you find something that you’re interested in, you can then learn more about it. Or it can help you know what you don’t want to do, which is also important. 

Has anything surprised you since you've been there? 

Some of the calls we get just break my heart. It's been surprising to see the number of things that people are going through. You just don’t see what people are going through every day. To be a small part of helping people get the resources that they need, especially as the stigma around mental health is finally beginning to give a little bit, has been the best part about it. 

It's also surprising how specific the needs can be and how many resources there are out there that are the perfect fit for the specific need. It's been eye opening to see how many different resources are out there that aren't getting the recognition.  

Do you feel like your background in psychology is helping with this internship? 

The field of mental health and social work is hard to break into because a lot of employers are looking for people who have experience and education. So, I was excited to break into it a little bit and to be working somewhere that I'm able to apply what I've learned. I think it definitely helps knowing how to talk to people. Communicating with people has been a huge part of the job that I don't think everybody understands. I don’t have a degree yet so I'm not diagnosing anybody, but being able to speak, relate, and empathize with people has been so important. And that's something I learned while being at MSU. 

Do you have any advice for people who might be looking for an internship in the future? 

I would say start as early as you can. Internships aren’t always on the forefront of anybody's mind until they're like a junior. But I would say start as early as possible. I kind of wish I had done one last year too. Also, don't sweat the whole not being paid thing. My internship isn't paid, but it's all about getting the experience. I'm really happy where I'm at because of the experience that I’m getting. Focus on what you want to do and not so much on what it's going to get you. 

What are you hoping for in the future? 

As of right now, I'm planning to apply to grad school this fall. My goal would be to pursue a Master's in forensic psychology or forensic counseling. Down the road I would love to have my own private practice, but that's way down the line. My immediate goals are to get into grad school and keep pursuing my goals and dreams of working in this field. 

Have you taken any classes or had any professors that have really impacted you? 

One that really stuck out was a social work class with Professor Glenn Stutzsky. He was awesome because he was extremely passionate about what he was doing. And he really cared about his students. After the February 13th events, he contacted all his past students and made sure we knew he was there for us.  

I took a Multicultural Psychology class as well that I really enjoyed. It was a small class that was very conversation focused.  After this class, I felt so much more comfortable speaking in front of groups of people, sharing my opinions, and asking questions that I was having. And it just gave me like a whole new outlook on different cultures and perspectives. I don't know why everybody doesn't have to take a class like this to get even a very basic understanding of different cultures and what people are going through. It helps make sure you’re not so narrow-minded. 

Dr. NiCole Buchanan was awesome, too. At the beginning of the class, she had us talk about what fears we were having for the class. A lot of people said they were worried about saying the wrong thing that would offend somebody. By the end of the year, it was cool to hear everyone say they felt more comfortable talking with others without being so fearful of offending them. And to know that if we do offend someone, we know how to correct that. How to confront and acknowledge our bias and then move forward.