Macomb Professor Karen Wickline’s path to teaching is a textbook case of self-actualization. And the fact that she now spends much of her free time in prisons, should inspire her forensic psychology students not alarm them.
“I can actually say I’ve been to Rikers Island (New York’s infamous jail complex),” says Wickline, who trains facilitators for Correctional Counseling, a national organization that provides moral development counseling to convicted sex offenders. “I’ve been to every prison in Michigan and to those as far away as California.”
It’s a specialty that Wickline didn’t even knew existed when she majored in psychology at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where she grew up. In fact, she had intended to pursue a degree in sports medicine until a male professor steered her away from the field, advising her it was better suited for men. Although she still disagrees with his intent, she appreciates the door it opened to discover what it was that she really wanted to do.
“I had enjoyed my general psychology class and decided to get a job in the field,” relates Wickline. “I started working in direct psychiatric care with children and fell in love with the job. I really loved working with the kids. After I moved to Michigan, I worked for a few years at Children’s Village (a detention/shelter facility for youths) in Oakland County.”
Previous to her move to Michigan, Wickline earned a master’s degree in clinical and counseling psychology from Chestnut Hill College in Pennsylvania and worked in an independent living program for young adults with mental health and substance abuse issues. From there, she went to a hospital emergency room, where she did psychiatric evaluations on patients who had attempted suicide or overdosed.
“Working in that environment was eye-opening,” says Wickline, who recently collaborated with Nicole Castle Kelly, English faculty, on a suicide awareness campaign at South Campus during Suicide Prevention Week in September. “My uncle committed suicide, and I’ve had students telling me about friends who had committed suicide. It’s something nobody wants to talk about, but it’s so important that we do.”
Wickline, however, may never have been here for those potentially life-saving discussions if she hadn’t been asked to sub for a psychology class at Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania. That’s when she discovered her true calling and proceeded to earn a doctorate in education from Argosy University.
“I’ve been asked if I ever want to teach at a university and my answer is ‘no,’ I love teaching at a community college. You really get to know your students in this environment. I’ve had some who have taken every class I teach,” says Wickline, a licensed psychologist with her own forensics practice, as well as a contract to conduct psychological evaluations of juveniles sentenced to life in Michigan. “And I tell my students you can do what you think you want to do or you can end up being passionate about something else. Just be open to the possibilities.”