Whether training, advocating or interviewing, Rachel (Fondren) Happel commits her life to helping children and other victims of crime receive justice and support. Happel received both her Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2004) and Master of Science in Clinical Psychology (2006) from Missouri State University. For the past four years, she has worked at the Child Advocacy Center in Springfield, Mo., as a forensic interviewer and internship coordinator.
As a forensic interviewer, Happel is trained to interview children, ages 3-17, who are alleged victims of abuse in a non-leading, objective manner. She also volunteers as a victim advocate for The Victim Center, an organization in Springfield that provides counseling and crisis intervention services to victims of crime.
“The department of psychology provided me with information about child abuse, mental health, diagnoses and research, and I use all of these things frequently in my career,” said Happel. “Specifically, my thesis on forensic interviews, supervised by Dr. Matthew Fanetti, opened my eyes to the research in the field of child abuse, and I have loved research and understood its importance since I began the graduate program at MSU.”
While her education prepared her for a career protecting children, Happel and others saw a need for additional training and education in the field of child abuse. This need for training was translated into a forensic child psychology certificate program through the work of Happel and others, including Dr. Matthew Fanetti of Missouri State.
“We decided that adding courses for students would be a good opportunity to provide students with information relevant to child abuse and keep it current by utilizing current employees in the field as instructors,” said Happel.
Happel now teaches courses in the forensic child psychology certificate program offered at the University. By educating future professionals about the malleability of child memory and providing the tools for proper interviewing, Happel is helping protect the integrity of a children’s testimony, so they may receive justice for the abuse they suffered or witnessed.
“I get to work with a group of amazing people who dedicate their lives to protecting children,” said Happel. “I am inspired every day by the people I work with and the children I work for. I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life.”