MEET THE TEAM
THE EXECUTIVE BOARD
Cecilia McGough is a mental health advocate, activist, writer, media consultant, and radio astronomer located in the United States. Cecilia also happens to have schizophrenia but does not let it define her. Cecilia is the founder and president/executive director of the nonprofit Students With Schizophrenia. Cecilia is the blogger/vlogger for the I Am Not A Monster: Schizophrenia project, a TED speaker with over 3 million views on YouTube and
a Special Books By Special Kids interviewee with over 12 million views on Facebook. In addition, Cecilia is an UNLEASH talent who traveled to Denmark in August of 2017 to be an active voice towards attaining the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Cecilia has been selected to as the keynote speaker for the Schizophrenia International Research Society 2020 Conference to take place in Florence, Italy
Cecilia was the founder and president of the Penn State Pulsar Search Collaboratory. She had participated in pulsar research continuously since December of 2009 until December 2017 while co-discovering pulsar J1930-1852 at the age of 17 with the widest orbit ever observed around another neutron star. A pulsar is a super dense neutron star which emits dipole electromagnetic radiation. Cecilia was a Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholar through the NASA Langley Research Center and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. She competed in the International Space Olympics held in Russia and was named “Miss Space Olympics 2012.” Cecilia is listed as a co-author for her pulsar research through the Pulsar Search Collaboratory in the Astrophysics Journal: arXiv:1503.06276v1. It is Cecilia McGough’s personal mission to help ensure a day where no one worldwide is afraid to say the words “I have schizophrenia.” Together, we can change the face of schizophrenia, and Students With Schizophrenia is apart of that solution.
As a person with schizophrenia, Markus Petzsch is a software developer based in Brunswick, Germany. Markus completed his bachelor of science in business information systems (BIS) in August 2017 at the university of applied sciences and arts in Hannover and is currently involved in the development of advanced Internet of Things (IoT) applications for a leading rail way systems provider. Markus also went through vocational training at an international telco company.
During his last semester, he co-authored a paper in Service Computation 2017 (IARIA, Athens, Greece). Markus is one of the founding members and Vice President/Secretary of Students With Schizophrenia’s Executive Board.
Alejandro Fernandez is a mental health advocate and writer who was indirectly affected by schizophrenia.; his older brother has schizophrenia. Alejandro decided to become an ally and supporter of those with psychosis after the many trials and tribulations his brother and he went through. Alejandro has a business degree from a Cal State University that he occasionally puts into good use—he’s a writer and creator at heart.
He grew up in Southern California amongst working class people and immigrants, and he is well-versed on the matters of stigma against mental illness and minorities
Most of Alejandro’s knowledge comes from real-life experiences that include volunteering for organizations such as NAMI and MHA, as well as various clubhouses and wellness centers. To help his brother, and later his friends with psychosis, Alejandro researched the ins and outs of the mental health care system; he studied modern therapies. Alejandro joined Students with Schizophrenia because it’s the organization that’s finally changing things. He knows SWS will alter the way society treats mental illness and is happy to see it first come through the education system. The biggest thing Alejandro learned alongside his brother is that everyone with schizophrenia needs someone else to journey with them through their darkest times and to be unafraid to step into their world. Alejandro is currently Students With Schizophrenia’s Executive Board Treasurer.
Nathan Shuherk graduated from Taylor University in 2015. During college, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia which led him to start a Student’s with Disabilities club. He studied history and philosophy and was part of a national championship ethics bowl team. After college, he moved to Indianapolis to take a job in adult education at the Indianapolis Public Library system. Nathan has been connected with several NAMI
groups during his moves, and he has been given a chance to be a guest speaker for NAMI events in three cities in Indiana. He started with Students With Schizophrenia in the summer of 2018 and is now Students With Schizophrenia’s Intern Coordinator with seats on both the Executive Board and Advocacy Board for the nonprofit. He is incredibly excited to be able to work with a group of people that share his vision of trying to build a future without the stigma surrounding mental illness.
Winnie is a mental health advocate who is currently completing her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in Schools and Communities at Penn State. Her primary emphasis area is adventure and wilderness therapy, and she believes that nature fosters connection, which eliminates isolation and helps nurture mental health. Before the program, Winnie served as a guidance teacher (aka a school
counselor in the US education system) in a rural school in Taiwan, where she established a guidance program into the school system and promoted mental health advocacy among the school community. In her daily life, she actively engages in mental health voluntary work and initiates discussions that focus on reducing the stigma of mental health issues, as well as raising the awareness of mental health. In Fall 2018, Winnie came across Students With Schizophrenia and was moved by the efforts that they are putting into it. The biggest thing that she learned from SWS is that “all they needed is a friend.” She decided to come alongside as an ally to show practical support to the world-changing work, and befriend the individuals with schizophrenia and the mental illness community. Winnie is both the Outreach Chair on the SWS Executive Board and also an ally on the SWS Advocacy Board.
Katlyn Berry is a Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling student at Penn State. Her purpose for pursuing this master’s degree is to educate herself on how to eliminate the stigma associated with the diagnosis of mental illness. Katlyn decided to become an advocate for those with a mental illness due to witnessing her mother lose meaningful opportunities as a result of disclosing her mental health diagnosis.
Katlyn became involved with SWS to eliminate the stigma surrounding schizophrenia, and to serve as an advocate for those who may feel as though they do not have a voice during their time at college. One important thing that Katlyn has taken away from the mental health community, is to not let the opinions or perceptions of others darken your light. Katlyn is currently Students with Schizophrenia’s Fundraising Chair and has been involved with the Penn State SWS club chapter since the fall of 2018.
THE ADVISORY BOARD
Michael is a licensed psychoanalyst and clinical social worker in private practice with offices in New York City and Millerton, New York. His training and education is diverse, receiving his master’s from New York University and certification from the Training & Research Institute for Self-Psychology. He has two decades worth of experience working with families, couples and adults who have gone, and are going through, emotional, psychological,
and social difficulties in their personal, educational and professional lives. Michael also serves as a consultant to the New York Foundling Hospital. Some of Michael’s greatest moments arrived from working with patients living with schizophrenia. Prior to his practice, Michael has trained in working with people who have schizophrenia at hospitals and mental health centers. As he helps patients who have schizophrenia overcome mental struggles, he learns something profound each time. For Michael, it’s most rewarding to see patients go on to accomplish their biggest goals and come back to talk about their lives with more confidence and cheerfulness. And so it was truly an easy decision for Michael to join Students With Schizophrenia’s Advisory Council.
Dr. Pia Smal is currently a faculty instructor at The Pennsylvania State University’s Rehabilitation and Human Services Department. Dr. Pia is also the faculty advisory for the Penn State Students With Schizophrenia university club chapter. Dr. Smal has a Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision from The Pennsylvania State University. She also has a M.S. in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University and a Women’s Studies Majors in English
Literature from the University of Rochester. Dr. Pia has extensive counseling and teaching experience. To name a few, she was a Primary Therapist at Pyramid Healthcare, State College, PA; a Career Counselor (Practicum) at Bank of America Career Services Center; a Clinical Supervisor (Practicum and Internship) for The Cedar Clinic at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. As an a current instructor for The Pennsylvania State University, specializes on the following topic matter: Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Rehabilitation and Human Services. Her individual difference focuses are: Emotion, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Stress/Coping. We are honored to have Dr. Pia as apart of our Advisory Board.