To describe Professor Chryse “Sissy” Hatzichristou’s years earning her doctorate at Berkeley as formative doesn’t do her experience justice.
A dedication in her latest book illustrates the point.
“It’s not typical to have two dedications but I wanted a second one to Nadine,” Hatzichristou said, referring to the late Professor Nadine Lambert, founder of the GSE’s School Psychology program.
The dedication reads in part: “A mentor who led my way of thinking in practicing school psychology while studying at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School Psychology program and then while developing a model of science and practice of school psychology in the Greek educational system, a dear friend whose consultative support throughout the years changed the trajectory of my life for the better.”
Hatzichristou came to the United States (first Harvard, then Berkeley) with every intention of returning to her home country, Greece, where at the time there were no graduate programs in school psychology and scant school psychologists in K-12 schools.
It was the 1980s, and at the time it was uncommon for girls in Greek families to pursue graduate studies, let alone study abroad. “But my family was very supportive, especially my father,” she said.
“He used to tell me and my brother that a diploma from a high quality university is like a passport to succeed in life, as it provides opportunities to find decent jobs even in difficult and challenging times, like war times,” Hatzichristou said, noting that her father lived through challenging times during World War II and was able to attend college, eventually becoming a doctor and faculty member at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki’s School of Medicine.
While at Berkeley, Lambert and other faculty showed a genuine interest in her perspective as a foreign student. “The distinctive characteristics of the program had a strong emphasis on prevention and consultation while taking into consideration community needs, local and state priorities and policies,” she said.
That framework has been the basis of Hatzichristou’s efforts, from her post-doctoral work at the Max-Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin, Germany, to her clinical work at a mental health center in Greece, to her current faculty position at NKUA.
Most recently, researchers at her NKUA Laboratory of School Psychology have developed 14 documents for teachers/schools, families, and adolescents that offer ways to promote resilience and positive school climate during the pandemic, some of which were distributed to every school in Greece by the Greek Ministry of Education.
“The broader experience at Berkeley was critical for me and still influences my work today. It infused in my thinking a worldview, an openness and acceptance to diverse perspectives and needs, the diversity regarding individual and family characteristics,” Hatzichristou said.
But even before she was accepted to Berkeley, she met with Lambert and afterward dreamed of the possibilities.
“I remember that day, after leaving Nadine’s office I had a walk in the beautiful campus,” she said. “It felt like a whole new world was opening up to me, a world full of unique experiences. And that’s how it turned out to be.”