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Dr. Lucille Andreozzi Stern and her son Lyle at commencement.

URI graduate gains new insights earning degree

Wakefield resident Lucille Andreozzi Stern learned some lifelong lessons while earning her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Rhode Island May. And not just while she was sitting in a classroom, but also while she was reflecting in a hospital bed. Furthermore, she combined her personal journey with her studies for her dissertation on victims of domestic violence.

She would like people who suffer domestic violence to shift from a victim perspective to a survival perspective. “Survival is not just about treading water,” she says, “but by surviving, people become stronger through the experience. And with that survival comes dignity.”

Andreozzi Stern knows a lot about surviving from personal experience. Born with a genetic eye disorder, she is blind in her right eye and is legally blind in her left. As a child and through her 20s and 30s, she underwent 30 or more eye surgeries.

She hadn’t planned on enduring more painful and disappointing eye surgeries when she embarked on her doctorate journey at URI in 1991. She didn’t think it would take long to earn another degree. She had earned a doctorate from UMass at Amherst in 1984, edited one book, wrote another, and was a family therapist. She also had worked at the Knight and Lincoln campuses of Community College of Rhode Island for 10 years and helped develop programs for families at risk for the Department of Education and Social Services.

But now just as she had been sailing along, surgeries and their long recovery periods slowed her academic progress to a crawl.

She underwent four cornea transplant operations. Each transplant required nine months to a year of medical aftercare. The first three transplants were not compatible. The fourth transplant, however, was. This transplant removed the cloud from her left eye and she was able once again to see her 16-year-old’s son face. “What a tremendous gift,” she says.

“I learned from the transplant experience,” she says. “I found I needed an inner map and some soul searching. Someone who died was living on through me. That touched me in a deep way, a spiritual way. It changed my perspective and connected me with community.”

Andreozzi Stern will begin a post-doctoral position at URI’s Counseling Center in August. She loves working with college students. “I can help turn adversity into courage,” she says with authority.

By Jan Wenzel

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