Among the many new faces of Shorter University this year, one of the most unique is Dr. Christine Szostak, who is blind. Szostak has joined the psychology department as assistant professor of psychology. She earned her undergraduate degrees from Malone University in Ohio, a Christian-based college, very similar to Shorter. There she earned a B.A. in psychology and a dual B.S. in elementary and special education.
Following these degrees, she pursued a master’s and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Alliant International University in Fresno, Calif. Finishing her educational background, Szostak earned her most recent degrees: a second master’s and doctorate in cognitive psychology from Ohio State University just this past May.
Dr. Barsha Pickell, the department chair of social sciences, said the faculty is thrilled to add such an experienced member to the Shorter body.
“We are excited to have Dr. Szostak at Shorter,” said Pickell. “She brings a wealth of knowledge in both cognitive psychology and counseling.”
Szostak was born with a rare eye condition and has had visual impairment since birth. Vision in her left eye has always been absent, but she had usable vision in the right eye allowing for reading, writing and travel without a dog. During her junior year of college, however, beginning on a Thursday, her vision declined rapidly. By that Saturday two-thirds of her remaining vision was gone. Over the following year and a half the last of her vision left.
During the process of going blind, Szostak turned to God for strength throughout her experiences. She considered herself a “lukewarm” Christian until she attended Malone University, which strengthened her relationship with God. Before she lost all vision, Szostak was able to go on mission trips, further solidifying her faith.
“I would say my faith stayed the same from that point,” said Szostak. “I found I wasn’t doing anything like blaming God; I used my vision loss to strengthen myself.”
During undergrad work at Malone, Szostak was blessed to have a “wonderful” academic advisor that pushed her to reach her goals. Her advisor was familiar with disabilities and understood the possible setbacks that can occur because of them. Therefore, Szostak was pushed to continue her education. Her vision loss further boosted her abilities and confidence.
Kelsey Wages, sophomore nursing major, stated that class with Szostak is enlightening.
“Dr. Szostak is very intelligent and has a great style of instructing,” said Wages.
Szostak has not allowed her vision loss to stop her in any way.
“I never let myself believe that there is anything that I cannot do,” said Szostak.
A special aid of Szostak’s that has helped her along her academic success is her guide dog Armand. Armand is a five-year-old yellow Labrador Retriever, trained at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in New York. Szostak and Armand have been partners for three years. Although he is her fourth guide dog, Armand is definitely a favorite. The two bonded quickly, with Szostak denoting their bond on his calm and ‘cuddly’ nature.
Being new to Shorter, Szostak adores how the university has a continued “Open Door Policy.”
“I love being able to interact with the students and staff, and a small professor to student ratio allows for that,” stated Szostak.
Adding to her praises of the open door policy, Szostak also appreciates how Shorter is a Christian school.
A few more personal things about Szostak include a passion for international travel, going to the beach and reading mysteries. Szostak would love to run a marathon one day and get into hiking with Armand.
“Even if things are challenging, there’s always a way to accomplish whatever it may be,” Szostak said.