School of Arts and Sciences

Psychology Doctoral Student Inspires Creative Activism as Founder of Free Imagination Leaders

Friday, September 01, 2017

Pictured is Psy.D. student Isaiah Noreiga, founder of Free Imagination Leaders. | Photo by Brandy Richey

Meet Isaiah Noreiga

Job titles and organizations: Founder and Executive Director, Free Imagination Leaders and Head Soccer Coach, Allegheny Force Football Club
Degree pursuing: Psy.D. in Clinical-Community Psychology 
Expected graduation: Spring 2021
Scholarship from Point ParkGraduate Assistantship
Hometown: Houston, Texas
High school: Kingwood Park High School
Now living in: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hobbies/interests: Playing sports, reading, writing, watching television shows and discussing ideas
LinkedIn: Isaiah Noreiga

"We are thrilled to have Isaiah as part of our inaugural cohort in the Psy.D. in clinical-community psychology. His passion and dedication to helping individuals and communities is impressive. I can't wait to see what he does during his tenure as a student in the Psy.D. program and beyond."

-- Jill Thomas, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology


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"There are so many amazing things about the Point Park University faculty. They do a great job of being accessible, valuing my opinions or concerns and teaching in a way that creates room for me to formulate my own ideas."

-- Isaiah Noreiga


Tell us about the work you do for the nonprofit organization you founded.

Free Imagination Leaders (FiL) is a Pittsburgh-based grassroots collective that creatively seeks to free our communities, support the imaginations of young people and dismantle the narratives and systems that one may find oppressive.

We organize workshops, panel discussions and events that empower people to explore new ways of thinking, challenge their assumptions and cultivate a community of radical love. Next year, we will be coming out with a YouTube channel called “The FiL Show.” My colleagues Summerly Kelly, Ventura Simmons and Maia Gilmour have been an integral part of FiL's growth.

Who and/or what inspired your passion for psychology?

I think I've always been a pretty introspective person. Still to this day, I tend to listen more than I speak. More specifically, relationships fascinate me. Not just the relationships with our friends and loved ones, but our relationship to power, to coercion, to nature, to ourselves and to ethics. With that being said, it wasn’t until my junior year of undergrad that I began to formulate a comprehensive passion for psychology.  

During an elective class I chose in my junior year called Psychology as a Human Science, my professor, Dr. Roger Brooke, stopped me after class one day and told me (paraphrasing) that, "I have a mind for psychology and if I’m not already a psychology major I should be and I would be a very good therapist."

Throughout the final year or so of my undergraduate program, Dr. Brooke mentored me to go on for my graduate studies. In a nutshell, my inspiration will always be my parents, my brothers, my partner and all the beautiful people I have met throughout my life. 

Why did you choose Point Park’s Psy.D. program in clinical-community psychology?

My psychology professor Dr. Brooke encouraged me to enroll in the Psy.D. in clinical-community psychology program and thought it would be a great fit for me. He was right and Point Park University is like home to me.

How has Point Park's psychology faculty impacted you?

There are so many amazing things about the Point Park University faculty. They do a great job of being accessible, valuing my opinions or concerns and teaching in a way that creates room for me to formulate my own ideas. A few professors in particular who do this are Dr. Jill Thomas, Dr. Robert McInerney, Dr. Sarah Schulz and Dr. Bill Purcell. They have truly helped me through my development and I continually look to them for guidance.

Tell us about the areas you plan to focus your research on in the Psy.D. program.

I am still working out the specifics of my dissertation topic, but I think that I would like to focus on exploring the interrelationship between trauma and early-to-high school education through the lens of disability and disability justice. 

What are your career goals?

I am hesitant to describe my future in terms of goals because I often find it constraining. However, upon the completion of my doctoral degree I envision myself involved in the following areas: a practicing licensed therapist, college professor, writer, public speaker, activist, coaching director for soccer and community organizer. These are not goals, but rather they are environments that if someone were looking for me, they might find me.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just an excerpt of a poem from Audre Lorde called A Litany for Survival. This is just the last two stanzas. 

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive


Thank you so much for allowing me to share my story.

Photo by Brandy Richey, junior multimedia major

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