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Women Making History: Joselle Sunico

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. John's chapter.

Joselle Sunico recently graduated from Queens College with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in counseling. She is currently working as an applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapist. Her devotion to educating others on patience, love, humility and culture is a powerful message to share in healthcare spaces. 

J: Throughout your time at Queens College, you were involved with numerous organizations, including CUNY LGBTQI+ Advocacy Academia, Undergraduate Psychology Committee (UPC), Asian Students in Action (ASIA) and several others! How did you manage your academics and personal life? 

JS: I sought support from my mentors, peers and professors. I remember missing an important exam in one of my classes and I genuinely felt like my heart stopped. After apologizing and being on the verge of tears, my professor reminded me not to spread myself too thin. I expected shame and punishment from my professor, but received nothing but grace and understanding — two things I needed to give myself, too. I learned that I can only do so much for others if I’m not taking care of myself. By acknowledging my limitations and seeking support, I could better contribute to the causes I was passionate about and still excel academically.

J: You have extensive experience as an ABA therapist; what made you focus on working with children with autism? 

JS: I started working as a behavior technician in the summer of 2021 and it was my first ABA job. I loved that I was working 1:1 with my student because it allowed me to more intimately address her needs and make effective progress together. Over time, I saw how much she improved her communication, social skills, academics and much more.

J: Do you plan on pursuing a master’s or a doctoral degree? 

JS: Yes! Although, I’m still thinking about what degree I want specifically. Recently, I’ve been very interested in public health and healthcare administration!

J: Can you share any challenging moments from your academic career and how you overcame them? 

JS: After returning to in-person classes in 2022, I had to confront this sense of “disconnection.” I don’t think I would have gotten better had I not sought support — that’s why building community is so invaluable. By opening up about my struggles to mentors, friends and professors, I not only found solace in shared experiences but also gained valuable insights and encouragement.

J: A recent study showed that only 4.6% of ABA therapists are Asian. As a Filipino-American woman, how do you feel about this percentage? 

JS: I’m not surprised. There are historical and cultural barriers that often prevent our communities from pursuing careers in mental health fields. Showing up and being present in my role as an ABA therapist can still create change in the percentage and in how Asian psychologists are represented. I also engage with and amplify the voices of Asian-American mental health professionals on social media, like Dr. Kevin Nadal, Dr. Marinette Asuncion-Uy and Dr. Jennifer Mullan.

Julissa Osorno

St. John's '24

Julissa is a first-gen, Colombian master's student. She is currently a research assistant in CHIRP. Her research interests include addressing race/ethnicity in Latinx-American and immigrant populations. Aside from writing and reading peer reviews, she enjoys watching movies, listening to music, and eating sushi!