Staci is a first-year Doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology Program and a graduate assistant for the Graduate School’s GSWI program.

Q: What’s your hometown? 

A: I’m from Randolph, New Jersey. 

Q: How did you find Ball State?

A: So, I am visually impaired. And I was a skier growing up. So, I skied very competitively for quite a while for the U.S. Paralympic Alpine team. Through those experiences, I got really interested in studying sports psychology, specifically. And so, Ball State actually has one of the best programs in the country for sports psychology. There are not many programs where you can study psychology and focus on athletes and focus on sports and mental performance. So that’s kind of how I ended up at Ball State. I was looking to do a Ph.D. in counseling, and we have a good program for it where you can focus on sports and focus on athletes.

Q: How does the psychology aspect play into sports then? 

A: So, there’s a lot of like mental parts of sport. We think of sports as being very physical, but there’s quite a lot of mental skills that go into helping elite athletes perform at their best. And so, sports psychologists’ job is to help people develop those skills and allow them to be successful and to perform well in their sports and also to think about them holistically. So, for me, it’s really important when working with athletes to think about their mental health broadly as well. So, it’s not always just about their performance, but about how we can like think about them as people too.

Q: Is there a specific career after your doctorate that you’re interested in pursuing?

A: So, I am not 100% sure. I do a lot of research too. So, I could see myself doing some research. I could see myself doing a lot of clinical work, or working with athletes, or working with people in general on mental health concerns, or mental health and wellness.

Q: What is your research? 

A: My research looks at the intersections of experiences of impairments and athlete mental health for athletes with disabilities. So, kind of what it’s like to be an athlete with a disability. And how does that impact people’s mental health? 

Q: What are your primary responsibilities as a GSWI GA? 

A: Our role is to facilitate programs for our graduate students. So, we’re thinking about graduate student wellness. We planned a lot of really fun programs for the year. We’ve got some social ones planned, like pub nights and a get-together to read in a coffee shop, visiting the planetarium, the art museum, and then we’ve got some more educational ones.  I’ve got a colleague of mine who’s going to do a sex education workshop for graduate students. I’ve got another colleague that’s going to do one about, about meal prepping and how to like, prioritize what you’re eating, even when you’re a busy grad student, we’ve got some connections with the Counseling Center. So, covering things like imposter syndrome for our graduate students, and these kinds of programming for them to help sort of balance wellness and their studies.

Staci Mannella poses with her two dogs on a rock. One dog appears to be a golden lab, and the other appears to be a black lab. Behind them is a large body of water.

Staci Mannella

Q: How do you manage the balance between your academic commitments and your personal life? 

A: I do that in a lot of different ways. I always get frustrated when people are like, ‘oh, you should really just take an hour every day.’ I find that in my clinical work, too. It frustrates me. Sometimes that’s not an option. Sometimes I work 13 hours a day and it’s just not an option. So, I try to do little things like meal prep on Sundays so that I know that I have good and nutritious food that will make me feel good.  I just moved to a new place and the walk is a little bit longer, but I’m kind of excited about that. Because it means I get to start and end my day by walking half an hour each way. And I think that it’s important for me to keep moving. I used to be an athlete and I learned a lot that my physical activity is very tied to my mental health and so I like prioritizing movement every day. Even if it’s just a little bit.  

Q: Is there anything related to your assistantship that you’re looking forward to this coming year? 

A: I’m looking forward to putting together some of these events and creating a little bit more of a community with grad students. I know this is kind of the first time in a while that we’re going to be able to do a lot of things in person and so I think it’ll be fun to get people together, have these different events, see what people like, and see what people don’t like. We also have our Wellness Communities Program, which I’m overseeing as well. We have different affinity groups, o, it’s for students with different salient identities.  

There’s a group for students with disabilities, a group for international students, one for group for like LGBTQ plus students, Students of Color, and students with dependents. So, we’re creating these little communities within our grad school to just support students and have people build this sense of belonging in a way that you don’t always get in grad school. So, I think that’s what I’m excited about. 

Q: What are some hobbies that you like to take part in?  

A: I used to be a skier. So, I love skiing, but we’re not really too close to the mountain. So now I kind of settle for any outdoor activity. I love to hang out in my hammock. I have a service dog. His name is Billy. So, we spend some time together. But yeah, spending time outside hiking I really love and the type of walks and what else do I like? I do CrossFit. And yeah, I read a lot. 

Q: What advice would you give to students considering pursuing a graduate degree in your field? 

A: I would say to have an outlet outside of school, and to build relationships with your classmates, but also with people that are outside of the grad student bubble. I don’t have a lot of friends outside like most of my friends are from school, but we are very deliberate about sometimes we talk about school and sometimes we don’t. And I think it’s really important to have some separation between work and your personal life. Branch out and make sure that you’re cultivating relationships both within your work and outside of work.