Marsha BROWN, Ph.D. ’97, Psychologist

Marsha BROWN, Ph.D. ’97 is a licensed psychologist with specializations in forensic and clinical psychology in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. An avid reader of true crime novels since she was nine years old, Marsha’s interest in human behavior and how it is related to crime began young and grew with age. After receiving a theater degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Marsha dabbled in different fields before deciding to attend graduate school and eventually pursue her Ph.D. in psychology. In her work as a forensic psychologist, Marsha conducts psychological evaluations to assess, address, and diagnose mental disorders in clinical and forensic settings. A proud Ellis alumna celebrating her twentieth reunion this year, Marsha shares lessons she’s learned from her career, her best Ellis memories, and her advice for young women entering the workplace.
Years at Ellis:Grade 9 to Grade 12
Location:Fort Lauderdale, FL
Occupation:Forensic Psychologist
Education:B.F.A. Theater, The University of the Arts; M.A. Psychology, The City University of New York; Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, The City University of New York

Why did you pursue a career as a forensic psychologist?
After conducting extensive research on career options, I stumbled upon forensic psychology. Forensic psychologists work within the legal system to provide expert opinions on areas at the intersection of psychology and law. Initially, I was interested in working with people with severe mental illness and a history of violent behavior. As I progressed through graduate school and gained more experience in the field, my focus and clinical interests shifted toward evaluation and assessment. I completed an internship that provided ample opportunity to conduct forensic assessments and my postdoctoral residency was exclusively forensic evaluation and assessment. I am currently a licensed psychologist in private practice. I work predominately in criminal and family courts with some work in dependency court. I conduct a variety of assessments including sanity, competency, violence risk, sex offender risk, sentencing mitigation, substance-abuse, and child custody.

Have you sought out advice or mentorship from Ellis alumnae since graduation? Have other Ellis alumnae supported you professionally and/or personally?
Over the years, I have maintained regular contact with Tomar BROWN ’97 and Allison BERGER Garcia ’97. They have both been extremely supportive and given great advice about professional and personal endeavors. I have spoken with other Ellis alumnae over the years as well and they have all been positive and supportive of my endeavors.

What lessons has your work life taught you?
One lesson I have learned over the years is the importance of balance in good mental health and overall well-being. This is especially important in my line of work because most of my cases involve adverse experiences and trauma. As I love my job, it often doesn't feel like I am working and it is easy to get lost in many aspects of the cases I am working on. Also, I generally work six or seven days a week, so I do not have a built-in period of rest each week. In order to remain able to perform my job well, I find it especially helpful to set time aside for self-care. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, reading, and running. I live 1.5 miles from the ocean, so that makes the running part easier! Also, I recently adopted a dog named Luna and playing with her is a great stress-reliever.

If you had one piece of advice for women at the beginning of their career, what would it be?
You have more time to figure things out then you may think. With any luck, you will be learning, developing, and growing as an individual for the rest of your life. Don't feel like you have only one chance to 'nail it' in terms of career choice. Also, learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. Enjoy high school, college, and life in general because the time will fly by and you will wonder where the years have gone.

What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship, and mentoring others from your career?
I have learned that everyone's journey is unique and what may work for one individual may not be effective for another. Listening skills are crucial to success and survival in many areas as you navigate your career. It’s also important to remember that someone is always watching and one cannot pick and choose times or places to lead by example.

What is your best memory of Ellis?
I have a number of fond memories of my time at Ellis. Studying in the library carrel desks, hanging out and having discussions in the sophomore and senior lounges, celebrating Heritage Day. I will always remember Ellis’ supportive environment where learning, reasoning, and intellectual curiosity were encouraged. Not many environments are as intellectually stimulating as Ellis.

Was there a teacher or teachers who had a particularly strong influence on your life?
Mrs. Callomon provided me with firm but kind guidance to meet the rigorous academic expectations at Ellis. My first two years at Ellis were difficult, as I had come from a school where I never had to study or think a great deal to do well. She was very clear on what was expected of me and did everything she could to help me through my growing pains. I would not have made it through my years at Ellis without her.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Curious. Logical. Ambitious.

What woman inspires you and why?
This is a difficult question because so many women have inspired me over the years and I continue to cross paths with new female inspiration on a seemingly daily basis. Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou are famous women who stick out in my mind as brilliant, classy, accomplished, and inspirational. However, in general, I would say I tend to be inspired by women who follow their heart, create their own path, make a difference in the lives of others, and refuse to allow naysayers or non-believers to hold them back or stand in their way.

What does 'Esse Quam Videri' mean to you?
To be rather than to seem: It's all about having integrity, substance, and being true to who you are as an individual.

What is the last book you read?
I am currently finishing End of Watch by Stephen King. It's the final book in the Mr. Mercedes trilogy. I read tons of research and academic literature for work, so when I can actually read for pleasure, I keep it light.