Portrait of Ryan Tetreault

Students Who Soar: Psychology Graduate Finds Happiness in Real-World Applications of Workplace

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When Ryan Tetreault took Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology at Grand Island High School, he knew he had found his future career.

“People interest me,” said the Buffalo State College psychology major and May 2020 graduate, “their minds and behavior.”

However, it wasn’t until he immersed himself in Buffalo State classes that he realized the essence of psychology.

“I had a common misunderstanding that psychology is just figuring out what’s wrong with people,” Tetreault said. “That’s not it at all. Psychology is everywhere. If there are people, there is psychology.”

The everyday aspect of the discipline drew him to industrial organizational—or workplace—psychology. He first discovered it in Occupational Health Psychology with Robert Delprino, professor of psychology and assistant dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences, who also became Tetreault’s mentor.

“The workplace is a huge part of someone’s life,” Tetreault said. “An industrial organizational psychologist can come in and say, ‘There’s a better way to do this to fit your individual needs and the organization’s needs.’ That aspect really interested me and helped me realize that I don’t need to go into clinical psychology or counseling psychology. There’s a way to do this in the workplace that is more applied and fits with who I am.”

After graduating in just three years, Tetreault is now working in sales for an energy company and preparing to apply to master of business administration (M.B.A.) programs. He’s also spending time pursuing another passion—music. He writes, records, and posts original songs on Ryan Tate Music on YouTube and has performed in local restaurants.

He said the rigor of his Buffalo State classes and the campus atmosphere helped him evolve into a different kind of student than he was when he started.

“I’ve always been conscientious and done the work,” he said, “but when it came to going to the next level and speaking up, I was reluctant.”

When Tetreault began to contribute to class discussions, his obvious facility with the material resulted in Delprino’s tapping him to participate in an undergraduate research project on what makes people happy at work. The project developed into an honor’s thesis, and Tetreault presented his findings at the college’s annual Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference and the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association.

“Ryan is very talented academically,” Delprino said. “Sometimes, as a mentor, it requires gently pushing to assist students in getting beyond their doubts and taking advantage of the opportunities that exist and could contribute to their growth, as it did in Ryan’s case.”

Outside of class, Tetreault served as a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and as treasurer and vice president of Psi Chi, the Buffalo State chapter of the international honor society for psychology.

“Through it, I was able to help other students in psychology branch out alongside me,” he said. “We held fundraisers, participated in a plethora of volunteer opportunities, and overall, helped improve the social aspects of Buffalo State. As an introvert by nature, I was grateful that there was some way to connect with students that was comfortable to me.”

Stephani Foraker, associate professor of psychology and Psi Chi faculty adviser, noted that Tetreault matured greatly during his time at Buffalo State.

“Becoming involved with this group was a big part of that and perhaps a critical catalyst,” Foraker said.

Tetreault also joined the Psi Chi research team with Foraker and three other students. They designed and executed a study examining the relationship between social media screen time and mental well-being.

“I think the hands-on guidance of this experience was important for increasing his scholarly confidence, but also his social and professional development,” Foraker said. “Working with similarly high-achieving fellow students on a team challenged him to contribute consistently at a high level.”

During his senior year, Tetreault landed a volunteer position with Mental Health Advocates of Western New York, where he worked with the director on a project looking at stress resilience in the workplace.

“The cool thing was taking what I had learned in the classroom and applying it,” he said. 

That and his research project he conducted with Delprino, in which he surveyed roughly 200 college students about the elements that affect their satisfaction with work, became Tetreault’s proudest accomplishments.

However, he noted that the college experience isn’t just about achieving academic prowess.

“It’s also about improving as a person, and Buffalo State is here to help you do that,” he said. “Over the past three years, I’ve grown to be the person who says, ‘Yes, I can do that,’ and then new doors open. It’s just a matter of walking through them and taking the next step.”