Chair, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
Learning from Strengths
Patrick Nickoletti is awed by the strengths and successes of youth, even under challenging circumstances. He ponders the psychological development of at-risk, abused and neglected teens. However, instead of the traditional preoccupation with the disorders and dysfunction of at-risk kids, he focuses on the concept of resiliency, delving into what can be learned from youth who appear to thrive despite substantial challenges and obstacles.
Nickoletti was attracted to USJ by the “service orientation” of the institution, and the high percentage of students who, like himself, are the first in their family to attend college. The opportunity to “work as a liaison to community programs in the region,” and to engage, educate and encourage students embarking on human services careers drew him to Connecticut from prior experience in Denver and his hometown of Chicago where he worked with at-risk youth, families and communities.
Leadership by Design
Nickoletti is also inspired by USJ students who he describes as “remarkably motivated and self-reliant.” He is committed to supporting their aspirations through a growing network of field experiences that immerse them in the “real world of human services.” He reports that participating organizations regard USJ students as “well-trained and passionate” – which is very much by design. Besides participation at a field site of their choosing, students are enrolled in a rigorous classroom component. In class, the focus is the organization itself – so students learn not only the frontline skills necessary to work effectively with people, but an understanding of the organization’s mission and operations. “It demands another dimension to their thinking and opens the possibility of not just employment as a frontline worker, but as a future leader.” The combination of academic and real-world training helps make graduates of the program (HDFS) desirable candidates for employment.
Preparation and Experience
As coordinator for field studies and internships, Nickoletti works closely with students during their two semester-long field experience/internships. After graduation, many stay in contact, often relating how they have found success using their academic and field preparation. He also helped launch a thriving after-school program in which USJ students serve as mentors to 5th graders who come to campus weekly from an urban elementary school in Hartford. The impact of the mentoring experience – on the children and on USJ students – can be transformational. Nickoletti is a consultant to numerous community programs which involve USJ students, and there are more opportunities ahead. A “Youth Services” minor was launched at USJ for students seeking a stronger focus on teenagers, and serving them in community programs. “There is considerable research into young children. However, adolescents present different needs to be addressed, if we hope to promote their resilience and success.” Nickoletti is determined – as a researcher, educator and practitioner – to do just that.
Ph.D., University of Chicago (Comparative Human Development)
M.A., University of Chicago (Psychology and Human Development)
B.A., Purdue University (Clinical Psychology)