JOHNSON CITY – While Gabriel Simerly was anxiously crossing off the days until graduation, he wondered what was next. About two weeks prior to completing the requirements of his degree in psychology, his path became much clearer.
This summer, Simerly represented East Tennessee State University as one of only 25 college students and recent graduates across the country selected to participate in the Washington Center Veterans Employment Trajectory (VET) initiative, an immersive internship program to help veterans translate skills developed in the military and the college classroom into a successful career. Simerly spent ten weeks living and working in Washington, D.C. He interned for a biometric lobbying group and participated in the Washington Center curriculum concentrating on workforce preparedness, career enrichment and mentoring.
“It’s been a bit of a learning curve,” Simerly said about a month into his experience. “Until this I’ve only ever worked in a blue collar or academic setting. It’s a chance to do some good work and gain access to new resources.”
Simerly was assigned to develop legislation to reform health care administration in Tennessee through the use of biometric security. He said using biometric technology to accurately and securely identify patients has the potential to tremendously cut health care costs. Through the internship experience, Simerly was able to meet with lawmakers and present the new legislation.
In between administrative tasks and meetings he found time to explore his surroundings and make the most of living in the nation’s capital. On Independence Day, Simerly joined fellow interns for a seven-mile freedom run around the National Mall at 4 a.m. He has also been rock climbing and went kayaking on the Potomac River.
Simerly grew up in Unicoi and said he was looking for “a new direction in life” when transitioning from high school to adulthood and decided to join the military. He spent several years in the Army National Guard and enrolled at ETSU to study psychology and sociology.
“I have been fascinated with the human mind for as long as I can remember,” he said. “It only made sense to go into a field that allowed me to study the human brain, mind and our behaviors in a scientific and meaningful way.”
Now that his resume includes both a bachelor’s degree and a unique internship experience, Simerly is not wondering what his next step will be, only where. He intends to apply to Ph.D. programs in clinical neuropsychology and will focus his clinical practice in neuropsychiatric diagnoses in adult patients.