The Forest Alumni Spotlight Is On - Dr. Debra Nofziger

Dr. Debra Nofziger has an impressive list of accomplishments in the field of psychology. She is a military clinical psychologist and spends her time working with military personnel and their families. She travels around the country as an Army representative training others to work with military personnel and families in relation to deployment.   Her experiences are without question first rate, and there is much one can learn from her.

Current student, Jamie Bell had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Dr. Debra Nofziger about her accomplishments, her experience at Forest, and her advice for current students.


JB : Thank you for meeting with me today on behalf of the students at Forest Institute.   When did you receive your PsyD. from Forest?


Dr. Nofziger : Yes, I got my degree from Forest.   Hmmm, let me think, when did I get my degree?   Let’s see, I did my internship in 2001, so my degree date conferred would be in 2002.


JB : Where did you do your internship?   Does it directly coordinate with your place of work/ job title now?


Dr. Nofziger : I did my internship at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas which is where I am currently employed.   I am contracted to Brooke Army Medical Center by the Center for Deployment Psychology which is based in Maryland.   I don’t know what my actual title is offhand; I will have to look it up what they actually call us. (She pulled out her laptop to look it up).   Okay, they call me a Deployment Behavior Health Psychologist.   Well, that’s good to know. (She laughed).


JB : How were you enriched by your time at Forest? How did Forest prepare you to enrich the field of psychology?


Dr. Nofziger : While I was at Forest, there was so much still evolving.   My class was the first class that was big enough to split. The professors were really great about not only allowing opportunity to be creative, but actually encouraging us to think of ways to do things better.   Another great thing was how they brought a realistic dimension to the atmosphere.   They had to teach class and see patients on the side.   This was a great way for us, as students, to see how reality operated.  


JB :   Bridging the gap?


Dr. Nofziger : Yes, that is perfect.   That’s what was so different about Forest.   They taught us how to apply what we learned to the real world.   For example, we had to have our dissertation defended before we left for internship.   At the time, I hated it.   Having to apply for internship, do comps and have my dissertation finished and defended BEFORE I left?   But, when I got to internship, I was kissing the ground they walked on for having us do that.   They knew that during internship, I would not have enough time to do anything else. I watched as other interns tried to manage their time between internship and dissertation. It was incredibly hard on them. So, I was thankful.


JB : Why did you choose Forest?


Dr. Nofziger : Diversity.   The different tracks they had.   It was very open.


JB :   What is your favorite thing about Forest?


Dr. Nofziger :   My favorite thing had to be that they had 1st years running the clinic.   So, right from the start we learned how a clinic operated.   So, by the time we did practicum there, we had a good background of what was involved.


JB : What is a moment in your academic career of which you are proud?


Dr. Nofziger : Hmmm, most proud…


JB : Graduation?


Dr. Nofziger : Well, YEAH! (She laughed.). I would say there were a couple of times that I felt proud.   First, actually getting accepted to Forest was an accomplishment.   Second, I would say getting my internship. I got the exact internship at the exact place I wanted.   It was great! I was very proud that I got exactly what I wanted.


JB : What do you consider to be the best thing about the faculty and student interaction at Forest?


Dr. Nofziger :   The faculty was very professional, though still encouraged camaraderie. As a student, you could say anything you wanted.   They treated students more like beginning professionals than as students. Faculty could tell that we respected them, and they respected us in return.


JB : Why do you think a student should choose Forest?


Dr. Nofziger : There is a wide range of opportunity…several training opportunities.


JB :    How did your education at Forest contribute to your professional goals?


Dr. Nofziger : In my second year, I had a practicum in Shell Knob, Missouri. (Shell Knob, if you don’t know, is WAY out in the middle of nowhere.) My supervisor there was in the reserves.   I loved what I learned from her.   She tried to explain how the reserves worked.   She said that seeing people transform their lives for the good of the group rather than the good of the individual is an amazing process.


JB : What does that involve?


Dr. Nofziger : How one would rather die than see someone else die.  


JB : Powerful.


Dr. Nofziger : Absolutely! That’s what I love about it.


JB : What should a student know about the professional world when considering different graduate programs?


Dr. Nofziger : Don’t choose a program based on what you think your profession is going to be.  


JB :   Was the military not your first thought?


Dr. Nofziger :   No, I grew up in Oregon.   I knew nothing about the military.  I first wanted child psychology. I haven’t seen a child since internship.   I work with adolescents some, but not really children.


JB :   What are you really passionate about in your field?


Dr. Nofziger :   Working with soldiers.   I was active for five years, so I have been able to do a little of everything.   I have worked on a training post, aviation, schoolhouse, and was deployed with the Calvary for a year in Iraq.   There is a big difference between looking in a window and living in a house.  


JB :   What do you mean by that?


Dr. Nofziger :   Hearing about the military is different from experiences in the military. The military is a different culture, an entirely different culture.   I learned that the group was more important than the individual.  


JB :   On a lighter note, what is your favorite restaurant in Springfield?


Dr. Nofziger : Well, since I worked at the Olive Garden for three years, I would feel guilty if I did not pick that restaurant.   I am kind of partial to it (she smiled).


JB :   What is one thing everyone must do while in Springfield, and why?


Dr. Nofziger :   Go to Mansfield, the place where Laura Ingalls Wilder ended up.   Go see the caves, the covered wagons, etc.   Leave Springfield and see what else is out there.


JB :   What is the best thing to do on a cheap date in Springfield?


Dr. Nofziger :   Go to Martha’s Vineyard and see how secure your date is (She grins). It will let you know if you should go on a second date or not that’s for sure!


JB :   What is your favorite Forest myth or story?


Dr. Nofziger :   That I can tell?   Hahaha!   Umm, I would say it was when an individual came to the clinic with a rubber gun. We did not know at the time it was rubber.   Everyone was actively doing their part to assist with the situation. We were also attempting to evacuate the other clients at the same time.   However, no one knew how to operate the safety locks on the doors. So, they were all kind of stuck. (These locks were similar to the Club that one would place one their vehicle to prevent it being stolen).   So, needless to say, I am a stickler on performing safety drills in today’s practice.


JB :   What is your favorite memory or aspect of the time you spent at Forest?


Dr. Nofziger : I have great memories of Dr. Schlesing. She was a hoot!   She t-scored all of her tests. Her motto was if half the class doesn’t fail the test, she wasn’t distributing a good test.   But, since she t-scored them, we all ended up with better grades.   It was funny.


JB :   Is there anything else that you would want to tell a prospective student about Forest?


Dr. Nofziger : Keep an open mind about what you are going to do after you graduate from Forest.   Do a variety of practica.   You really don’t know where you will end up, and people change their minds throughout their career.   Enjoy the variety.


JB :   Thank you very much for your time today Dr. Nofziger. It was a pleasure meeting you and getting an opportunity to speak with you.


Dr. Nofziger :   You are very welcome.   Good luck to you here. Enjoy it and take advantage of all the opportunities you are given.