Banishing prejudices through psychology and music
Jessikah Stahl knows there’s not one single way to inspire people. And her dreams are very different. One musical. One academic. Both meant to inspire.
“That’s my plan in life,” she said with conviction. “To inspire others and help people with disabilities.”
While very different, her two dreams are combining to help her reach that ultimate goal.
While moving to Clemson was originally solely an opportunity to follow her academic ambitions within the psychology field, it quickly evolved into a chance for Stahl to follow her dreams as a musician.
She began performing at open-mic nights. And though the classically trained pianist initially panicked and froze at the thought of singing in front of others, she persevered. Eventually, hours of practice and several open-mic nights later, she finally felt comfortable enough to return to her hometown of Nashville and find a producer.
Exploring this new realm of conveying human emotion was exciting, and she began writing her own lyrics based on personal life experiences in hopes that her audience might be inspired by and feel a connection to her.
Music, like her academic focus on psychology, is just another way Stahl hopes to move people and another level on which she can relate to others.
She faces her music with the same fervor and enthusiasm that she faces her academics, each influencing the other as she has grown as a Ph.D. student and country musician simultaneously.
On the side of academics, Stahl has spent the past several years focusing chiefly on pursuing her undergraduate and graduate degrees in industrial-organizational psychology, concentrating on helping the disabled in the workplace. She hopes that her studies and works in this field will help banish prejudices against disabled people.
Her inspiration? A brother with autism whom she has watched cope with social stigmas his entire life.
When it came time to apply to Ph.D. programs, Stahl couldn’t bring herself to apply to any programs other than Clemson’s. It was here that she met Professor Mary Anne Taylor who serves as her adviser and mentor. “Her dedication to the field of psychology and her passion for research has been such an inspiration to me,” says Stahl. The two are currently researching the effect of job skills training on employment success for the disabled and disadvantaged.
Her mother — whose community work and passion to help the disabled is instilled in Stahl — passed away a few years ago, and although her passing contributed to who Stahl is today, Stahl doesn’t consider it the only cornerstone to her determination. Additionally, she cites her humble upbringing, supportive friends and family, and of course her very own “spit-fire,” open-hearted personality.
And that fire within her drives her to never stop pursuing and achieving her passions.
“I can imagine how proud Jessikah’s mother would be to have a daughter who uses her academic training and knowledge to help others, and shows the blend of kindness and strength that she brings to all aspects of her life,” said Taylor, observing the progress Stahl has made both academically and musically.
Now, Stahl spends much of her free time traveling to and from Nashville and performing many weekends at benefit concerts and other gigs; she even began touring with her recently formed band this past summer.
As Stahl’s graduation approaches and her music career continues to grow, she is finally on her way to living out both parts of her dreams. She feels that all of her interests blend together seamlessly in simply continuing her single original dream to “touch people’s lives.”