She Stands With Our Veterans: Meet Cristina Ruiz-Stephens ’10
“After I graduated from Bay Path, I was in the army for seven years. It has been one of the greatest experiences in my life—I felt I was doing something very important for my country. While I was commissioned, I pursued a master’s degree online in psychology with a concentration in military psychology from Adler University in Chicago, IL. I knew once I left the army I wanted to work with our veterans.”
That is the short version of the story, but Cristina would be the first to tell people that the army shaped who she would become and put her on her current career path. It offered her a plethora of experiences: training as an officer, traveling around the world, and building her confidence.
In the army, she began in the ordnance area and her duties included overseeing the maintenance of military vehicles and equipment. When Cristina became a captain, her skill set was expanded to include logistics, which is a mixture of ordnance and transportation, and ammunition and supply management. “The army is a well-oiled machine and my learning curve went way up,” noted Cristina.
She served seven years. Soon, she was seeing the world beyond her hometown of Waterbury, CT. Cristina went to eight or nine different countries, including South Korea, and different bases in America: Fort Irwin in southern California, Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX, and Fort Lee in Virginia. Along the way, she met her husband in South Korea. “Overall, I had some great adventures. And I learned about myself as a leader. Looking back, going into the army was one my best decisions,” remarked Cristina.
While she was in the army, she pursued an online master’s with a concentration in military psychology from Adler University. “The online program had its challenges. While I was in the program, I moved three times. But it was the only way for me to study. I was deployed for the last portion of my program. The professors were very understanding of my situation. For example, there were times when I didn’t have access to the internet.” In 2016, Cristina graduated with her master’s degree.
Her plan after leaving the military was to go on to earn a doctorate at Adler. Cristina is now enrolled fulltime, and she and her husband call Chicago, IL, their home. Currently, she is in the PsyD generalist program with an emphasis on military psychology and substance abuse. At one point, Cristina decided that if she was going to return to have a career in psychology she wanted to work with veterans.
“Why Adler? They integrate military psychology classes into their program. It’s important because if you want to help veterans, you need to know that the military has its own unique culture. For people who have military veterans as their clients, it helps them to understand the impact and role of that culture on people, and consequently, the counselor becomes more effective in helping the veteran.”
Adler is also a very special place. There are only three or four schools in the country that have programs that address issues with veterans. And it also has a mission of social justice that drives the school. Adler’s goal is to create socially responsible practitioners who can address mental health issues at both individual and community levels.
“I feel very happy and blessed. I am still connected to Bay Path, and I remain in contact with several professors,” added Cristina. “They’ve always been there for me—recommendation letters, advice, and support. I’ve made some good decisions, starting with choosing Bay Path, and I am in good place in my life.”