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Frankie Houser '21 with his wife Ashley '20 and their two kids

Frankie Houser ‘21 brought a unique perspective to the classroom as a psychology major, student veteran, and father of two at Saint Rose. He served six years in the United States Marine Corps before transitioning to civilian life (and college life), which for a lot of veterans comes with its own set of challenges. But Houser had help from professors and the veteran community overcoming these challenges. And, as a result of his service and life experience, he thrived in his psychology courses and ascended to the top of his class, graduating summa cum laude this May. Houser received so much more than good grades while at Saint Rose. He started a family with his wife Ashley Houser ’20 and gained the support of other student veterans and former military members at the College’s Veteran Center.

Houser is considering a return to Saint Rose for a graduate degree in either school psychology or mental health counseling. For now, however, Houser has his priorities in line: spending quality time with his family and remaining present for whatever life has in store for him.

We recently caught up with Houser to ask about his Saint Rose experience and his future plans. Here’s what he had to say:

What did you like best about your program?
The availability of my professors and the tools given to me to be able to analyze research and conduct basic research. And, providing classes that offer alternative approaches to mental health such as art therapy. Coupling the analytic courses with the more art-based courses, I was able to find a perspective that I consider priceless. 

List any clubs/organizations you joined while at Saint Rose.
Student Veterans of America 

How did the Veterans Center support you throughout your time at Saint Rose?
Initially, the Veterans Center was (and still would be, if not for COVID-19) a place to unwind and connect with other veterans as I navigated some of the big emotions associated with transitioning out of the military. Those connections evolved into more intellectually stimulating encounters. That Veterans Center is a resource run by veterans for veterans and is an environment I am familiar with. As the years went on, I had two kids and the Veterans Center became a place for my wife and I (who was also a returning student) to logistically navigate student life. 

What is your favorite memory of Saint Rose?
Explaining my understanding of love to my friend Steve and seeing his face when I knew he got what I was trying to explain to him. 

What have you learned through the pandemic?
During the pandemic, I am learning the value of intimacy. I have also internalized the notion that shame inhibits intimacy. I have learned that freedom does not come from a governing force, but rather from inside of myself. 

What was the best class you took at Saint Rose, and why?
Picking the best class for me is impossible. Currently, I am in New Testament Studies and Christian Ethics, and these classes are what I needed right now (Spring 2021). In the past, I took Research Methods and Statistics, as well as Psychometrics, and these classes gave me invaluable tools to analyze the social world around me. I took one class with my wife that stands out among others, though: Environmental Science with Dr. Philip Crim, assistant professor of biology. To become acquainted with the natural world and understand its functions is to become acquainted with oneself. I draw on the course material I took from this class daily, and the personal lessons I learned during this class have shaped me. I don’t know if I would have been able to internalize the material as well as I did if it were not presented to me by Dr. Crim. Nature seeks balance. 

What are your future plans?
My academic future plans are still to be determined. Having kids and trying to finish my undergraduate degree is hard. Add remote learning to that and completing my degree sometimes feels unattainable. Once I can be back in the classroom, then I will make academic decisions. Staying present with my kids and wife is my future; the rest are just endeavors. My most current goal is to develop a Love146 team in the Albany, New York/ Capital Region. As spring approaches and the world continues to make me feel as though societies will be restructuring, I plan to make progress with my vegetable garden and chicken flock. 

Any career or grad school prospects?
I will likely pursue a graduate degree at Saint Rose. I move back and forth between a degree in school psychology or mental health counseling. School psychology is more versatile for me. I would like to reach veterans somehow, but not through traditional mental health routes. As I type this in March 2021, with my religious studies hat on, my desire is to achieve and sustain “Kenosis.” When I do this, the right doors seem to open. The norm for this question would be to talk all about what I am going to do, but my goals don’t fit in society’s norms. The things I want to pursue don’t really pay anything, but they fill me with joy and spirit. As I type this, I keep looking at Ilya Repin’s “The Volga Barge Haulers,” which is an image that speaks deeply to me. I desire freedom, but that doesn’t come from this material world; it comes from the space inside of myself. 

What did Saint Rose teach you?
Saint Rose taught me that I can belong to an institution and still think freely. That is, my identity does not need to come from the groups that I belong to. There are so many different disciplines of study, and even wider, there are so many different institutions that all say different things. Sometimes they agree, and other times they look down on each other. In a world currently marked by division and lacking intimacy, I would say the most important thing I have learned throughout my education is that we are all humans who desire love and belonging, and I guess sometimes, a hug. 

Who was your best professor, and why?
Dr. Nancy Dorr, professor of psychology, is the best professor I have had. Dr. Dorr has supported me academically and personally as we studied some very intimate topics together, specifically love and vulnerability. I always left her classes feeling confident in what I was learning, and I always left her office feeling confident in her guidance or work we did (except for when we crashed SPSS trying to quantify dispositional love). The perception I have of her heart is one that desires an understanding and is willing to sit with a student even when that student might be causing conflict in her. Dr. Dorr has a dedication to students and science that is quite frankly hard for me to understand, but it is something I have personally benefited from and hope I can carry with me as my own. 

Advice for incoming students:
My best piece of advice for incoming students is to show up. Literally, showing up is half the battle and, in most instances, free points. It blew my mind seeing students late to and missing so many classes. I am not the most intelligent student — I have to work extra hard for my GPA — but showing up with completed assignments is at least going to get you to pass. In the words of a professor I learned so much from, “C’s get degrees.” Seriously, though, do not settle for a C. You are better than that, unless you really know you gave it your all. 

Look for more stories about our Class of 2021 and Class of 2020 grads in our upcoming Saint Rose Magazine.

By Caroline Murray

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