If you would like to get to know the astounding life and story of a “meandering” person that we, as students and faculty, pass by every day, then I would recommend getting to know Dr. Cassandra Perryman. It is known that the California Northstate College of Health Sciences campus is brimming with brilliant minds and incredible people, but as we delve into the lives of one of our most passionate professors who has many stories to tell, we learn that Dr. Perryman’s life has carried much wisdom with her many experiences. As she puts it in her words, Dr. Perryman expresses her path as “living life backwards” where she began with a great career, having children, and then deciding to go back to school.
At the age of 14, Dr. Perryman began gaining experience in the workforce while taking a role in her family’s business in mechanical contracting. She made her way up in this business by working in stock/inventory and human resources. She also worked as a driver, an accounts receivable payable clerk, and anything else that her father would allow her to do. Can you believe all of this was achieved just in high school? Then, as life continued, Dr. Perryman worked in a costume shop in addition to continuing in her families’ business, where she received advice from her father to find a job that he believed would fulfill the capabilities that he knew his daughter had. Just as any supportive parent wants the best for their child, Dr. Perryman’s father knew the capabilities of his daughter and also knew that she had a lot of potential that could benefit others. This led to Dr. Perryman’s next adventure that introduced her to a new career path which seemed to astound her. In her new apartment, Dr. Perryman noticed a business across the street and decided to give them a call. After giving her job experience over the phone, the director of that business offered a job on the spot of being a “job coach.” Not knowing what that job entailed, Dr. Perryman hung up the phone and after doing some research, she found out that a job coach is someone that helps individuals, with mental illnesses, integrate into mainstream work positions. Dr. Perryman explained one of the reasons behind these individuals finding jobs is because everything associated with being mentally ill is heavily stigmatized. As a job coach, Dr. Perryman would go to a job with an individual and be trained along with the individual by the boss, and then ensure that the individual is trained for their job. This is not a one-day experience; Dr. Perryman stayed with one individual for almost three weeks, and even as that person was still continuing that job. After only three weeks on the job, Dr. Perryman was promoted to associate director of the program.
After having two beautiful children, Dr. Perryman decided that she wanted to get back into the field of mental health, which now required a degree. As the “shoot for the stars” woman that she is, Dr. Perryman decided that she would not stop at a bachelor’s degree but would get a PhD. After applying for PhD programs, Dr. Perryman took her studies abroad and continued her education at University of Queensland in Australia, where she began teaching statistics and doing research in the mental health field. When coming back to America, Dr. Perryman faced the problem of having to choose between teaching and research because in Australia, this concept of a “clinical crossover” worked, but it did not in America. Now, Dr. Perryman leans more on the research aspect due to her fascination with longitudinal research.
One of the many projects that Dr. Perryman has been contributing towards consists of working with the Sacramento homeless population, where she is doing research with Family Promise of Sacramento. This homeless program is a reintegration program where the goal is to get families back into a steady pace of life. Phone interviews are taken of select families in order to later evaluate whether they meet the requirements set to be a part of the program. The people that are taken into the program are interviewed, tracked, and evaluated for almost a year to see progress and any changes. Here at CHS, there is a research team that Dr. Perryman has put forth to read the intakes of families. One of the observations that she has noted is that the families do not look the way they expected them to look. The reasoning behind this is that we assume the homeless population is surrounded with drugs, has no jobs, and has mental health issues, but this is not true. There are many homeless families around Sacramento that we do not recognize, because they do not fit into the “image” that is created along with the term ‘homeless.’ Dr. Perryman expresses that this issue is underfunded and under researched, which should change.
Dr. Perryman is working on her research to help such programs get grants for funding that is other than private funding. What will start as a longitudinal study that contains observations of about 36 families for about three years, will move into a cross-sectional study, where commonalities are observed between families. The ultimate goal is preventing those families from becoming homeless again.
Not only is Dr. Perryman working on this project with Family Promise Sacramento, but also has many more research specialties that include post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse. These are her other specific interests in the mental health field. She says that this work causes a definite sense of humility. Her intention is to create and maintain support for those that may not have it, like how she has gotten her support.
Some more interesting facts about Dr. Perryman include that she loves to hike, travel, dance, quilt, read, and spend time with family.
It is incredible to see that a faculty member at California Northstate University, whom we pass by in the hallways almost every day, has had such a fascinating life. It was refreshing to learn that someone has accomplished so much and is still making a path that is not only for themselves, but also for those who need support.