The Journey to a Ph.D. with Dr. McAdams

Joseph Garcia, Editorial Editor-In-Chief

Dr. McAdams is the new 9th-grade Assistant Principal of Anaheim High School for the class of 2025. However, before reaching her position at Anaheim, she went through an arduous educational journey to help her community prosper and grow. 

Dr. McAdams earned her associate’s degree in psychology at Orange Coast College, her bachelor’s and master’s at Cal State Long Beach, and her Doctorate in school psychology at Chapman University. Her motivation to accomplish such a strenuous path stems from her high school years. She recalls, “I had an epiphany at a young age that to do that [helping others] and also make a living for myself and have a career…required me to go into college.” The specialization required to do a psychologist’s job effectively. This is one of the crucial reasons she pursued her Doctorate.

Dr. McAdams is posing in her office, located at the college and career center at Anaheim High. (Joseph Garcia)

Her goal of helping others led her to become a behavior interventionist for kids with special needs. She worked with kids with disabilities while studying in college, using her specialization in psychology to help her students adapt to their surroundings. Dr. McAdams has also worked as a school psychologist for the last eight years before earning her administration credentials at UCI to become an Assistant Principal for Anaheim High. During her eight years as a school psychologist, she also worked as a university instructor for school psychology and school counseling for about three and a half years at National University and one semester at the University of La Verne. 

During the beginning of her journey, Dr. McAdams recognized the importance of helping others from a young age. The support from her family, especially her grandmother, became a “pillar and example” as they encouraged her throughout her path. Her dedication to earning her Doctorate began at Handel Stadium, but her goal of giving back to her community and helping others had been with her long before then. 

Dr. McAdams attributes her decision to earn a Ph.D. in educational psychology to her school counselors, the ROP program, and the support from her family. She began her “10-year plan” at Handel Stadium amid her graduation. She recalls, “I remember being at Handel Stadium, during my graduation, thinking like okay, this is what I’m going to do, I’m going to earn my Doctorate and go into schooling. I know I have a 10-year plan set in front of me.” She began her schooling with undergraduate courses at cypress college while still in high school. Her credits were transferred once she graduated. 

While in college, Dr. McAdams gained a broader perspective of the world, which helped her better understand how to help her community. She took the time to learn more about the world through a Chapman study abroad program in Madrid, Spain. “That was a wonderful experience to get to have a more worldly perspective about education, disability and its perception from an international perspective.” In her travels, she learned the varieties in education across different countries, which helped her gain a better idea of the path she’d like to follow for her Doctorate; educational psychology.

Dr. McAdams is standing in front of the sign of her Alma Mater, Cal State Long Beach. (Joseph Garcia)

At the end of her journey, Dr. McAdams selected to earn her Doctorate in school psychology with her dissertation titled, The Experiences of Siblings of Individuals with Disabilities: A Holistic View, which focused on the relationship between children who grew up with siblings with a disability and how it affected their development. Her experience as a behavior interventionist working with children with autism and similar disabilities allowed her to see the siblings of her students “go off to the side, or do something else with the family….” She focused on their perspective to see another picture of what it is like to interact with disabilities. Her fascination for the results motivated her to complete her dissertation despite the hours of interviews, data analysis, and transcription required to present her thesis to earn her degree. 

Dr. McAdam’s story of earning her Ph.D. had another challenge within itself. According to a study by the National Science Foundation, Dr. McAdams is part of the 6.5% of African-Americans academics to earn a Ph.D. in the United States. A number that has slowly been increasing over the last decade. Dr. McAdams feels that pursuing such a degree requires one to “Give yourself permission to do it… It requires you to have self-worth and self-respect to know that his path is one you want to follow to accomplish your purpose.” Dr. McAdam’s epiphany for helping others led her down the path of earning a Ph.D. in school psychology so that she may help other marginalized students pursue their paths. She believes her Doctorate has inspired others to follow their dreams, but she also recognizes that her path didn’t begin or end with her alone. Dr. McAdams credits the multiple programs, seminars, and guidance from her counselors for her success in her field of study. Her advice for other students is, “Go ahead and start, alongside giving yourself permission to do so…it begins with a start.”