PhD student in human development and family sciences works to improve students’ mental health

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Slade Thackeray

PhD student in human development and family sciences works to improve students’ mental health

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Meet Health Hero Slade Thackeray

Slade Thackeray, from Dallas, Ore., was selected because of his commitment to youth mental health and his campus and community service. The “poster child for career indecision,” Slade has taught for 15 years and is a KidSpirit alum and father of four, who operates his own counseling practice.

What inspired you to choose your degree?

I was inspired to pursue the field of human development and family sciences research because of my experiences as a teacher. I’ve been teaching for more than 15 years, six of those at OSU.

I am inspired by young people who are socially accepted and those who are not.

I am inspired by young people who know what they are doing and those who feel lost.

I am inspired by those who have strong social-emotional skills and those who do not.

I hope my mental health research will add to their stories and develop interventions and infrastructure that will allow all people to thrive.

Tell us about your time at Oregon State. Is there someone or something who/that has helped you succeed? 

I started at OSU as a program assistant to Karen Swanger at KidSpirit. She believed I could do anything, and in many ways expected me to rise to that challenge. I am always grateful for her mentorship and confidence in me.

Shortly after coming to OSU, I began serving as a teaching faculty in kinesiology. I feel honored to have served so many students and for the opportunity to hear their stories – those students helped me to find my way to where I am now.

I am particularly grateful to the faculty who have spent countless hours guiding and mentoring me as faculty and now as a grad student. I am also grateful for our amazing administrative and support staff, who have moved mountains on my behalf.

Something I love and appreciate is our community at OSU. It is that community that has helped me the most to feel accepted, seen and supported.

What challenges have you overcome along your academic journey?

I am the poster child for career indecision. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that teaching and building youth self-concept were the two central threads in my journey.

I started in music and performance art, then moved to literature and writing, and then moved into mental health counseling, and now research.

I want to do it all, and apparently, I’m going to try and get that done with the 100 years I have on this planet.

Another significant challenge is finding balance. My wife and I have been married for almost the entirety of my academic career.

During that time, we’ve moved seven times, had four children, started and closed a non-profit, started a counseling practice, and attended countless sporting events and arts concerts as adoring parents.

Being an excellent dad and husband is my main objective; being an excellent student/employee is important as well.

Finding the right groove comes with hard conversations, tears, bending to the point of breaking, and then realizing that sometimes when we break it was important to move us to where are today.

Do you participate in any campus or community clubs or organizations?

Through my private counseling practice, I am engaged with the local juvenile department and middle-high school. I work to provide parenting classes, workshops and processing groups.

We are a highly under-resourced community, so holding these events provides outlets that our community members would have to travel to find.

Please tell us about your mental health research.

I am extremely grateful to be working under the brilliant minds of Shauna Tominey and John Geldhof as we develop my research path.

My research centers broadly on social cohesion and self-concept in middle adolescents. Specifically, I am currently researching the ‘bully’ in the middle adolescent context and how our understanding of the ‘bully’ is misconstrued or misguided by bias, cultural norms and social inequities.

What are your post-college dreams?

I want to develop a lab where future graduate students can get involved early in mental health treatment and program development.

I want my mental health research to grow in the field of participatory action research and to be led by my interests and the interests of the students who participate in our practical mental health lab.

What message do you have for your peers or future students?

From the hilarious movie ‘Dan in Real Life,’ “Love isn’t a feeling … it’s an ability.”