© Roanoke College

In an interview with a student assistant, recent graduate Cody Dillon-Owens ’19 describes life after graduation, recalls on his favorite memories from Roanoke College, and shares about being Valedictorian for the class of 2019.

To start off, can you tell me a little about yourself? 

Well, I am of course a graduate of Roanoke College and this past August I started the first year of my PhD at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for Health Psychology with a Clinical Concentration. I was born and raised in Roanoke, VA so this is my first time permanently leaving the area. I have a love for mountains and the outdoors and enjoy playing bass and guitar in my spare time. 

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Congratulations on being a Valedictorian! What was it like when you found this out?

This was actually interestingso, Ellen and a few professors, along with the registrar during my Senior check-out in the Fall, told and reminded me that I was in the running. I knew I had a 4.0, but I guess the question was: how many other people did, and could we all keep it up? When it was official, knowing I had achieved it was cool (I had certainly worked for it), but I think my main feelings centered around the privilege of addressing our graduating class. There are a lot of fiercely intelligent, insightful, caring, and hard-working people I had the honor of attending Roanoke with and, in some ways, I feel like the cards just lined up for me to keep that magic number. A lot of people had very transformative journeys through college, but just the lack of one A puts them out of the running. I wanted my speech to focus on the triumphs we achieved as people, not students. 


© Cody Dillon-Owens

What was graduating like? 

For me, it was kind of weird to suddenly just be done. Four years of the same people, working towards the same goal, and now you’ve done it. I felt proud for doing it, happy I’d have a break from homework, but mostly curious about the future. I made a lot of great friendships, including with my professors. It was sad to have to leave and watch everyone start doing their own thing. But it was also a joyous occasion having my whole family there and seeing all the people who supported me to get me to this point. 

How did it feel to finally step on the seal? 

Don’t tell Maxey, but I had probably accidentally stepped on it long ago haha. It does remind me of some of the fun and quirky traditions we had at ‘Noke. I am glad I got to attend a college with some character and live out some of its traditions. 

© Cody Dillon-Owens

What do you miss about Roanoke College? What is your favorite thing about having graduated? 

I definitely miss the people. Ellen and all the psych faculty are the bee’s knees. And having all my friends in the same place. All you can eat chicken tender and mac day is kind of noteworthy as well. My favorite thing about having graduated is that I’ve completed another milestone in life that’s gotten me closer to where I want to be. I get to take specialized courses in what I want to be doing and pursuing ideas that are uniquely mine. This is also the first time for me being totally on my own which I’ve enjoyed. 

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Photo of the UNCC Campus © Cody Dillon-Owens

What are you doing now after graduating? 

Currently, I am attending UNCC getting my PhD. Technically, the PhD is in health psychology which is a very interdisciplinary field. It looks at health as a unitary concept involving both brain and body, which are deeply interconnected. We apply psychological models, like the biopsychosocial model and the ecological model, to examine health (prevention, maintenance, outcomes) – it’s very broad. My concentration is in clinical psychology, although being APA accredited, I’m also technically getting the same required training as any accredited clinical degree. So, within that realm I’m also learning the components of assessment and treatment. I think the two fields complement one another very well. 

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Cody Dillon-Owens office setup for his first intellectual assessment

What does a typical day consist of in Graduate school? 

Haha, usually quite a bit depending on the day. Currently, I am in course overload, so I never run out of things to do. I have classes at 8am most days, and after class there will be a mixture of activities. I read many articles and chapters of textbooks for my classes basically every day. I may also have to work on writing 2-page application papers or contributing to a pre-class discussion board. I now have a couple of course papers I have somehow make time to start working on too. I also have two applied clinical courses, so I am conducting an interview or an intellectual assessment about once a week. I’m also a Research Assistant and Project Coordinator on a HRSA GPE grant so I have meetings and various tasks I carry out for that. And then I’ll be reading and generating research ideas for my own research projects as well. Of course, it’s some mixture of these each day, not all at once thankfully. It’s still quite busy though, so it’s essentially class and then work until the evening where I’ll leave myself about an hour and half or so for myself to do whatever. My cohort has also instituted tea-time on Thursdays where we’ll take a break from work, and every other week or so we’ll have a big outing like yoga at a brewery or bingo or hiking or something. It’s mostly work but not entirely ;). 

First program social

What has been your favorite part of graduate school so far? How about least favorite? 

The learning environment is so enriching. Getting to discuss concepts with students and professors of various backgrounds has really broadened my perspectives. I’ve learned so much in such a short time. It’s also really cool to start being trained with skills for the clinical profession. My least favorite part is 1000% the lack of time haha. 

Where do you hope this opportunity takes you in the future? 

That’s a good question. I’ve tried giving some more thought to it, but it may take me a few more classes and clinical experiences to know for sure. I’ve considered a professorship at a small college, or at least teaching some health psych courses. My main career path I’ve told people is working as a clinician in a healthcare center but doing a mix between practice, intervention research, and maybe program eval. Recently after working on this grant, it also popped in my mind to pursue a position as a director of integrated care and push and work for developing true integrated behavioral health care and a patient-centered approach. 

Is there anything else you would like to tell us? 

This app/site called Trello saved my life for that extra level of self-management I needed, especially when working with other people so check that out if you’re interested. My new email is, if anyone has more questions or would like student-level advice about graduate school or what the transition is like or anything, feel free to contact me! And remember that self-care is important, and no goal is worth sacrificing your happiness and well-being. 

Congratulations on all of your accomplishments Cody! We will be continuing to cheer you on from Roanoke College!




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