Jennifer L. CARTER, Psy.D. ’92 is a licensed clinical psychologist who knew from the time she was in the fourth grade that she wanted to work with people. With plans to become a psychiatrist, Jennifer majored in pre-med at The College of William & Mary before ultimately realizing that psychiatric care was not the career for her. So she switched gears and pursued graduate and doctorate degrees in psychology. Dedicated to helping people through their mental, emotional, and behavioral issues, Jennifer spends her days talking to people, listening to their stories, and understanding their lives at her private practice in Frederick, Maryland. Attending Ellis for her Upper School years, Jennifer shares her advice for young women in the workplace and reflects on how Ellis shaped her path.
Years at Ellis:
Grade 9 to Grade 12
B.A. Psychology, The College of William & Mary; Psy.D. Clinical Psychology, The Virginia Consortium
Tell me about how you got into your line of work. Why did you decide to become a psychologist? From the time I was in fourth grade, I knew I wanted to work with people. I discovered what a social worker was back then because an aunt of mine had foster children, and in talking about that situation my mother stated she always wanted to be a social worker. That career path and profession was not open to my mother as it was the 1950’s and her high school counselor told her black girls don’t go to college—despite my mother being one of the top students at Peabody High School and graduating a year early. So in talking to my mother, I learned what social workers do, and I became interested in the field. Do you have a mentor? How have other Ellis alumnae supported you professionally and/or personally? Several of my clinical supervisors served as mentors to me. They assisted me in honing my clinical skills while learning to navigate behavioral health systems (private and public). Many of my Ellis classmates supported me throughout college and graduate school. Time and our own families have put distance between us, but I still remain in touch with friends from Ellis. I am very grateful for the friends I made at Ellis because they were important in my life and coming into my own sense of self.
How did Ellis prepare you for college and career? Wow, I don’t have enough time to respond to this question! Ellis is a large contributor to where I am today. The academic rigor at Ellis prepared me well to attend The College of William and Mary. After attending Ellis—where girls ran everything—I felt empowered. In college, graduate school, and the workforce I never second-guessed my ability to compete or perform in any situation.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace? Always keep your eyes and ears open, and ascertain the dynamics and politics that exist in a work setting. After assessing the situation, plot a personal course for your success. Was there a teacher or teachers who had a particularly strong influence on your life? Judith Callomon! She inspired me to have and state my opinions clearly and concisely. Mrs. Callomon also taught me the necessary and essential skill of making sure to have evidence to support my opinions. She inspired me more than words can express. For Ellis students reading this: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know? If you always try to do your best, you never have to second guess your efforts. Attempt to ask yourself three questions before you speak: Is it kind? Is it truthful? Is it necessary?
What does ‘Esse Quam Videri’ mean to you? To always strive to be my authentic self, in any and every situation I encounter. If you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be and why? I should be more profound, but I am going to be honest, I would want to interview Prince! I am a HUGE fan of his music, and would love to ask him about his musical genius. How would you describe yourself in three words? Intelligent. Empathetic. Sensitive. What woman inspires you and why? Oh, there are so many, but I would say, Misty Copeland. Her story is the American dream come true, and at the core of it is hard work and tenacity. She is a woman who, by virtue of her work ethic and God-given talent, ascended to the role of Principal Ballerina. A place and position never before occupied by an African American woman. She has wrestled with so many of the issues women today contend with—body image, eating, weight, race, socioeconomic disadvantages—and come out on top. For these reasons, Misty Copeland is one of my (S)heroes.
What is the last book you read? Passing by Nella Larsen.