First Students to Graduate from Becker College with a Master's Degree

Published on Thursday, May 18th, 2017

View photos of the Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling Recognition Ceremony, below.

In 2014, Rachael Bottone, Shianna Maria Cruz, Theresa Caney, and Michael Peters started something that had never been done before at Becker College. After obtaining their bachelor degrees at Becker, they each enrolled in the College’s first graduate degree program. Their journey included rigorous hours of scholastic, research, and clinical experience. On May 6, 2017, they had the singular distinction of being the first students to earn a master of arts in mental health counseling from Becker College.

Only a few months into the program, Bottone published an article in Bay State Parent Magazine addressing parents’ concerns about school safety. A Certified Academic Coach, she worked as a graduate teaching assistant and taught three semesters of Introduction to Psychology. She interned at the Family Health Center of Worcester where she worked in an integrated behavioral health care program, counseling adult immigrants, transgender clients, and other adults who faced tremendous hardships and trauma. Her master’s thesis, Social Experiences and Perceptions of Gender Among Non-Binary Individuals, further built on her interests regarding the LGBTQ population. Bottone recently accepted a position on the Adult Crisis Team at Community Healthlink.

Caney graduated from Becker in 2013. Once enrolled in the new master’s program, she worked as a graduate teaching assistant, teaching 2 semesters of Introduction to Psychology. She authored an article addressing strategies to prepare children for psychological and neuropsychological assessments. For her master’s thesis, she pursued her commitment to social justice issues and studied the topic of food insecurity among college students. At a thesis colloquium, she facilitated an informative and engaging discussion about the research and findings. Caney completed her internship at Family Continuity Programs in Whitinsville and Worcester, providing outpatient counseling services to children, teens, and adults. Some of her training has focused on trauma-focused treatments, as well as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). She accepted a staff counselor position at Family Continuity, where she hopes to obtain additional training and experience using these approaches to treatment. She will also be teaching Developmental Psychology at Becker in fall 2017.

During the first year of the master’s program, Cruzworked full-time as a behavioral learning assistant at an elementary school in Grafton. In the last year, she took a part-time position with an early childhood research team at UMass Medical School, conducting classroom-based assessments of preschool children. She has consistently demonstrated a strong interest in working with children and authored an article focused on bullying and peer rejection. Her internship was at Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, where she worked with some adult clients and also continued to gain experience providing mental health counseling and supportive services to children in a school setting. Her master’s thesis explored the challenges faced by college students with serious mental health concerns, as well as faculty perceptions of those students.

Peters is a Certified Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor and currently works as a program manager and supervisor at Crozier House, a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility in Worcester, where he maintained full-time employment throughout the master’s program. From the first days of his enrollment in graduate school, he cultivated plans to continue working in areas related to the treatment of addictions. His article about vaping in the March 2016 issue of Bay State Parent Magazine reflected this continuing area of interest for him. He interned across two placements: the PASSages program at Community Healthlink, and at AdCare Hospital. His interest in social and emotional skill development led him to conduct research for his master’s thesis exploring the social support networks of men in early recovery. having discovered a passion for teaching, Peter’s obtained certification from the National Tutoring Association as an academic coach, and he taught Introduction to Psychology as a graduate teaching assistant. In spring 2017, he taught an undergraduate Addictions Counseling course and also created an original curriculum for an upper-level psychology course based on the popular series, “The Wire,” which will be offered as a Contemporary Topics course in fall 2017.