The Graduate School

Student Ambassadors: Taylah Simmons & Jonathan Packer


Taylah Simmons
Master in Psychology, Clinical / Counseling Track
Hometown:Fayetteville, NC
Area of Interest: Child Psychopathology



My passion is changing the stigma of mental illness and changing the portrayal of those who suffer from a mental illness. I desire to work with this population through treatment and advocacy on their behalf. Mental health is just as vital to a person’s wellbeing as physical health. Changing the stigma may allow more people to seek the services that are needed to improve their mental wellbeing.

How does this program help you in your pursuit of your passion?

Enrolling in this program has helped to give me the tools needed to provide effective treatment and research new interventions. In this program, I am being taught different theoretical orientations of therapy, guided on how to administer clinical assessments, and given appropriate feedback to help me develop into a competent therapist. I have gained knowledge on how to define and assess mental health that I can share with my community including resources available.

Why AU?

Augusta University offers many opportunities for professional growth including numerous internship sites and research labs. While applying, I spoke to previous students who all gave positive testimonies to the experience they received while attending this program. Many students felt supported and well prepared to transition to the work force as an Licensed Professional Counselor or attend a doctoral program.

Why did you choose the Clinical / Counseling track of the program?

I plan to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Attending a master’s program is a stepping stone to gain more experience and knowledge of the field. 

What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your mentor?

Dr. Widner has always provided me with guidance and sound advice regarding my academic career and future goals. She has helped me to find opportunities to develop professionally and academically, including numerous workshops. The greatest lesson that I have learned from my mentor is a reminder that I can not pour from an empty cup. Our field is centered around helping others and Dr. Widner has always stressed the need for self-care so that I may continue to give clients the best care they deserve.


For fun, I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family. My family has always valued seeing new sights and often takes family trips.  I have had the opportunity to visit many states and a few countries outside of the U.S., including Panama, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Jonathan Packer

Jonathan Packer
Degree: Master in Psychology, General Experimental Track
Hometown: Woodstock, GA
Area of Interest: Child Psychopathology



Area of Interest: 

I am interested in the etiology and treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I am also interested in secondary effects of TBI including secondary ADHD and the lasting inflammatory response to the injury. My thesis will be focusing on utilizing a novel agent in the treatment of TBI.

Why did you choose this subject for your project?

Part of the driving force for me wanting to pursue this type of research is knowing that there currently are not any specific medications developed for treating TBI. There are many off-label medications used but they do so ineffectively. 

Why did you choose the General Experimental track of the program ?

As my main interest in research related to traumatic brain injury and potential novel treatments for it, AU was perfect. The combination of the fantastic research facilities, the experienced faculty members, and the connections to the medical campus provides a wealth of research opportunities. My end goal is to do neuroscience research on TBI. I want to pursue a  PhD in Neuroscience. This program and track allows me to gain the lab experience needed to become a competitive applicant for a PhD program. 

What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your mentor?

The greatest lesson I have learned from my mentor is that  it doesn’t matter whether you are an undergraduate student or a world renowned researcher; anyone can add meaningful contributions to their field of research if they work hard and do their best.

While I have one mentor, all the professors here really do care about who you are as a person, your research goals, and how they can help you. You aren’t just a number here. They try their best to make sure you succeed in reaching your goals. Having the  ability to go to any professor’s office and have a meaningful conversation with them about your research, your life, or your day is a huge thing.  From hosting events at professors’ homes to providing doughnuts and other food to the grad room really shows that they care. The experience I have gained from this program and this lab has solidified that I chose the right school for me.

Favorite AU memory:

My favorite AU memory is getting together in study groups with my cohort to work together to prepare for exams. We would cram a ton of people together in a small apartment, order taco bell or pizza, and work on helping each-other understand the test material

Like Love Haha Wow Sad Angry