If you only knew Matt Roché as a doctor of clinical psychology and read about his impressive academic and research background, you’d probably determine that he had mapped out his career path during his teenage years.
However, it was a conversation with a County College of Morris (CCM) professor that helped set the Chatham native and New Providence resident on his current track.
“(CCM Psychology Professor) Janice Rafalowski asked me if I had ever thought about transferring to a place like Cornell,” says Roché, who graduated with an honors associate’s degree in liberal arts from CCM in 2003. Roché, who never had entertained the thought, says Rafalowski strongly believed he could.
“That was literally the moment when I said that’s where I was going if I was accepted,” recalls Roché.
Roché was accepted to Cornell and graduated in May of 2005 with a degree in human development and a GPA of 4.08. After graduation he became a research assistant at Princeton where he studied Asperger syndrome with the hopes of providing children with improved interventions. The experience led to his acceptance into the doctoral program at Binghamton University, where he spent time researching individuals at-risk for the development of schizophrenia.
Roché, who interned at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) – now Rutgers – while studying for his doctorate, is currently working in the Division of Schizophrenia Research at Rutgers as a postdoctoral fellow. The three-year program allows him to lecture at New Jersey City University while researching. He hopes that research can make a difference in the lives of those who suffer from schizophrenia and other mental disorders. One area in which he has particular interest is violence and mental illness.
“In many people’s minds, serious mental illness is associated with violence,” says Roché. “The truth is, people with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence than to be violent themselves. When they are violent, it is often in response to the aggressiveness of others.”
Roché believes his path would have been very different had he not decided to attend CCM after working in retail management for two years after high school.
“CCM was definitely a necessary stop along the way,” he says. “Without all of the people like (Professor Laura) Gabrielson and Professor Rafalowski, this would never have happened.”