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USD student awarded American Psychological Association Fellowship

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VERMILLION, S.D - University of South Dakota graduate student Ms. Denise Casillas was recently awarded a Mental Health Services Fellowship from the American Psychological Association-Minority Fellowship Program (APA-MFP). This prestigious fellowship is supported by a training grant from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and is awarded to graduate students of color enrolled in APA-accredited doctoral programs in psychology who have demonstrated a commitment to improving the quality of mental health services delivered to ethnic minority populations.

Casillas, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from USD in 1997 and her Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (with emphasis on counseling, psychology, and alcohol and drug abuse studies) from USD in 2001. Casillas began her doctoral studies in the USD Clinical Psychology Training Program in fall 2001.

Currently she is a clinical psychology trainee in the South Dakota Leadership Education Excellence in Caring for Children with Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities Program (SD LEND Program), through the USD School of Medicine Center for Disabilities. The MFP fellowship provides an annual stipend, renewable for up to three years, which helps to offset educational expenses during graduate school. In addition, MFP fellowship recipients also are provided opportunities to network with former MFP recipients and other prominent psychologists, to attend professional meetings across the United States, and to access career development information.

According to Dr. Barbara Yutrzenka, professor and director of the University of South Dakota's Clinical Psychology Training Program, "The APA-MFP fellowship is one of the most prestigious graduate fellowships awarded by the American Psychological Association. It recognizes and honors Denise's personal academic and professional achievements and goals. Indirectly, it also honors our program, the Psychology Department and the University."

Last summer, Casillas was the coordinator of two USD School of Medicine-sponsored summer programs, the Research Apprentice Program (RAP) and the Explore component of the Science and Technology Enhancement Program (STEP). These programs are designed to provide American Indian high school students with opportunities to explore and participate in research and health career opportunities.