Alumna Uses Spanish Degree as a School Psychologist

As a School Psychologist for the Jackson County Intermediate School District, MSU alumna Katy Friend is the person other school psychologists rely on when there is a case involving a Spanish-speaking student because of the Spanish education she received from Michigan State University.  

“I typically work in one district but can be pulled to work in another if they need help with a bilingual case,” said Friend, who graduated from MSU in 2004 with a BA in Spanish and who also has a master’s degree in School Psychology, with an emphasis in Bilingual School Psychology, from the University of Arizona. “Having this background of language education from MSU has helped me a lot here at Jackson. One way it has helped is by allowing me to work with teams and educate them on the language so they can help in any way they can. I wouldn’t be able to do that without MSU.”

When Hurricane Marie hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the Jackson County Intermediate School District took in many children who came from Puerto Rico with Individual Education Plans (IEP). When this happened, the district had to determine whether they could match the type of support each student needed. 

portrait of a woman with long blonde hair in a red sweater
Katy Friend


“One of the things I did was translate the documents on these students,” Friend said. “I wasn’t the only person who could do that, but because I had the knowledge of the special education lingo and knew Spanish, they asked me to do it.” 

Besides translating the documents, Friend helped with testing students who didn’t know English and helped them understand the questions being asked. She also communicated to the parents of these students. 

“Having that background in Spanish puts me in a unique position to help some of those cases,” Friend said. “That has made me able to do what others aren’t able to do in my line of work.”

Part of Friend’s main responsibilities as a School Psychologist is to work on evaluations for eligibility for special education services. In these evaluations, she checks students who have learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, emotional issues, etc., to make sure they are getting the help they need.

Having this background of language education from MSU has helped me a lot here at Jackson. One way it has helped is by allowing me to work with teams and educate them on the language so they can help in any way they can. I wouldn’t be able to do that without MSU.

Along with the evaluations, Friend also connects parents with resources and meets with teams to discuss specific issues within the schools. 

Friend has worked for the Jackson County Intermediate School District since 2009. Prior to that, she worked for Milwaukee Public Schools for one year. 

During her time at MSU, she did a study abroad to Spain, which helped her understand a different cultural point of view. 

“To be able to see the world through different cultural lenses is very eye opening and has been very helpful in knowing how to work with other people,” Friend said. “I can’t say enough good things about doing a study abroad, especially if you haven’t had that experience of going to another country. It is life changing.”