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Student of Distinction: Abbey Safos

Student of Distinction Abbey SafosCleveland State University celebrates graduating students who have overcome obstacles, made significant achievements or are fulfilling CSU’s mission in or outside the classroom.

Today, we celebrate Abbey Safos.

CSU: Have you had any significant Internships/Co-ops/Careers while at CSU?

AS: ?Throughout my college career, I have been working on gaining experience in the professional world of psychology in order to enhance my skill set. I have been working as an undergraduate assistant in the Language Research Lab (LRL) at Cleveland State University under the supervision of Dr. Conor McLennan and PhD candidate Bethany Cox. I aided Cox on her thesis on “Spoken Word Recognition as a Function of Musicianship and Age” by organizing data into a master document and calculating the results. I then became certified through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative to set up studies on my own. My experience in this lab has been so enriching. Math has never been my strong suit, but working with statistics pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and grow more confident in my mathematical abilities. Through this, I gained more independence. I was able to conduct research related dialogue with my colleagues about the work we’ve been doing, which made me feel validated as a professional.

Another transformative experience of my professional life came from attending the Psychedelic Science conference in Denver, Colorado. Here, I attended the workshop “Guiding Psilocybin Therapy Sessions” led by Mary Cosimano of Johns Hopkins University where I learned about the primary therapeutic competencies necessary for psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. In her workshop, Cosimano said that “love is letting go of fear.” I will never forget that statement, as peace of mind for myself and others is my goal. I also had the pleasure of attending the “Meditation and Contemplative Science for Psychedelic Practitioners” workshop led by Jamie Beachy, Sara Lewis, Jordan Quaglia, and Carla Burns of Naropa University. This workshop stressed the importance of mindfulness and compassion in psychedelic therapy. Coming into this conference, I’ll admit, I was nervous. I was afraid that, because I am so young and inexperienced compared to everyone else who was attending, I wouldn’t have anything to offer. However, I proved myself wrong. I made connections with licensed professionals and was able to inspire them as much as they had inspired me. Being around so many people who are just as passionate about psychedelics as I am made me feel at home. It reassured me that this is what I was meant to do.

Finally, as a queer individual, LGBTQ+ activism has always been important to me. When I transferred to Cleveland State University, I became the treasurer of the Queer Student Alliance (QSA). The QSA provided a safe space on campus for LGBTQ+ students to be their true, authentic selves. This organization holds such a special place in my heart. Making connections with so many amazing queer people gave me a sense of community and belonging. I wanted to pursue these feelings outside of Cleveland State as well, so I started volunteering with the Trevor Project. This job sparks my queer joy and helps me give back in ways that I could have never imagined. For example, Trevor’s training process has prepared their volunteers to be able to quite literally talk someone off the ledge, but even though this job can weigh heavy on the heart, I recognize that the work that I’m doing is meaningful. Knowing that I could be responsible for saving someone’s life makes it all worth it to me. This is an outlook that will live within me forever.

CSU: How would you describe the connections you have made with the faculty and staff at CSU?

AS: ?At CSU, the connections I've forged with faculty and staff have been instrumental in my academic journey and personal growth. Through regular interactions, I've cultivated meaningful relationships built on mutual respect, collaboration, and mentorship. The faculty members at CSU have been invaluable sources of knowledge and guidance, providing me with valuable insights and advice. Especially when exploring graduate school, Dr. Conor McLennan and PhD candidate Bethany Cox were extremely helpful in helping me navigate whether I wanted to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree. Whether through office hours or research collaborations, they have demonstrated a genuine interest in my success and have gone above and beyond to ensure that I have the resources and assistance needed to excel. Similarly, all my advisors and professors at CSU have played a crucial role in facilitating my educational experience. From administrative support to student services, they have been responsive, helpful, and dedicated to creating a supportive environment conducive to learning and growth.

CSU: How has Cleveland State inspired you for your future?

AS: ?Transferring to CSU was one of the best decisions that I have ever made for myself. I’ve never felt so involved in or empowered by a community. Seeing how the university and its students navigate challenges and support each other has inspired me to approach my own goals with determination and a willingness to collaborate. The diversity of perspectives, experiences, and curriculum at CSU has also encouraged me to seek out new opportunities for growth and learning. I remember learning about psychedelic therapy in one of my neuroscience classes taught by Dr. Kristi Ninnemann. I shared with her my interest in psychedelic therapy, and she helped me get in contact with her friend who runs the ketamine lab at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Now, everything has come full circle and I have been accepted into Naropa University for their Clinical Mental Health Counseling master’s program. If not for this experience and the many other meaningful connections I’ve made here at CSU, my future of pursuing higher education would have looked completely different and I might not have ever stumbled upon a graduate school that aligns so perfectly with my passions and values. I’m so grateful for my time here. Cleveland State really felt like home to me, and it's disheartening to know that my chapter here is coming to an end. However, thanks to CSU and all of the support they have provided me with, I am certain of my future success and I very much look forward to all that’s in store for me.

CSU: How do you think you have fulfilled the CSU mission (empowering others, creating knowledge, engaging our community and shaping our world)?

AS: ?I’ve fulfilled the CSU mission because I am committed to empowering others, creating knowledge, engaging our community, and shaping the world.

Empowering Others: I’ve empowered others by actively participating in discussions, sharing my knowledge and experiences, and providing support and encouragement to those around me. Whether it's offering guidance, lending a listening ear, or collaborating on projects, my actions have helped empower individuals to achieve their goals and aspirations. A major outlet of these interpersonal skills for me lies within the connections I’ve made through the LGBTQ+ center on campus. This inclusive, safe space allowed me to participate in important discussions around topics that relate to the queer experience, not only allowing me to empower others, but to empower myself as well.

Creating Knowledge: Through my engagement in academic pursuits, research endeavors, and creative endeavors, I’ve contributed to the creation of knowledge. My academic achievements, innovative ideas, and artistic endeavors added to the collective pool of knowledge and inspired others to explore new ideas and concepts. My time spent with the NSLS reflects this perfectly. NSLS often hosts events, workshops, and seminars featuring guest speakers who share their expertise, experiences, and insights on a wide range of topics. These events can expose members to new ideas, perspectives, and areas of interest, thus expanding their knowledge base. With this, members are encouraged to initiate and lead projects that address community needs and promote social change.

Engaging Our Community: One of my most fulfilling experiences at CSU was organizing the 2023 student drag show during my time as treasurer of the QSA. To raise more money for our organization, I suggested the idea of making programs where we could sell advertisements from local businesses. Through fostering these connections, we were able to not only promote our show to these businesses but give them an opportunity to expand upon their clientele through our programs. However, I am most proud of the sense of belonging and connection within the community that me and the other QSA officers were able to build through this drag show. By giving folks the opportunity to express themselves freely without judgment, we created an overall community experience that left folks radiating with joy and celebration of authenticity.

Shaping Our World: Through my actions, advocacy, and leadership, my efforts have contributed to positive change and have helped make the world a better place. As someone who revolves her life around mindfulness and the practice of knowing and loving yourself, I feel it is my duty to make the world a better place through being an agent of kindness and compassion. Practicing these values has truly saved my life, and I want to be able to help others do the same by pursuing a career in counseling. After all, I firmly believe that the good I put out into the world holds the power to create a domino effect, giving humanity the structure it needs to build upon justice and harmony.

Congratulations, Abbey!