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Psychology Scholar Discovers Passion for Mental Health Research — 10,000 Miles From Home

Class of 2024 Grad Joshua Bhasera Receives Alumni Association's Outstanding Senior Award
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For psychology grad Joshua Bhasera, his academic quest began in Kadoma, a gold mining town in Zimbabwe where he grew up. His parents later sent him to South Africa for better educational opportunities.

As a young adult, the Cal State Fullerton honors student came to the U.S. to attend college.

Bhasera — 10,000 miles from home — is on his way to earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He is looking forward to his graduation day in May, with his parents, traveling from Zimbabwe, watching him walk across the stage and be honored for his academic excellence.

For his scholarly work and service to the campus and community, Bhasera is this year’s recipient of the Alumni Association’s Outstanding Senior Award.

“I am humbled to receive this recognition from the Alumni Association,” Bhasera said. “I can’t help but take it as a moment to acknowledge my parents, who have both made sacrifices that I can never fully repay.”

At an early age, Bhasera’s parents instilled a sense of service and passion for people. Together, they volunteered to serve those in need, including at nearby orphanages and a school for blind children. 

“My choice to pursue psychology wasn’t inspired by a single, defining moment. It was the byproduct of the many moments my siblings and I spent with parents serving the community, my interest in mental illness, and the intersection of human behavior and biology,” he said.

Bhasera, who plans to become a clinical psychologist, aspires to one day work for a nonprofit organization to ensure equal access to high-quality mental health care and democratize the cost of mental health care.

After graduation, he is returning home to Zimbabwe to spend several months with his family. He plans to apply to graduate school and return to Orange County later in the year to work at a substance abuse rehabilitation program for children and teens.

Psychology Grad’s Journey: From Zimbabwe to CSUF

Psychology grad Joshua Bhasera
Class of 2024 psychology grad Joshua Bhasera

Bhasera came to the U.S. in 2019 to pursue his academic interests and begin his college path at Fresno City College. In spring 2022, he transferred to CSUF because of the university’s strong academic reputation and diverse campus.

“I’ve done my best to prioritize my academics and ensure I’m making the most of the opportunities I’ve been presented with,” said Bhasera, graduating with a 3.7 GPA.

One of those opportunities is the Titan Scholars Program, which prepares underrepresented community college transfer students for graduate school.

“I’ve benefited immensely from the program. It’s one of the many initiatives at CSUF geared toward students’ long-term success,” he said.

As a research assistant under Lisa Mori, professor of psychology, he has been involved with several projects, including a study that examines mental illness and mental attitudes among ethnic and marginalized college students. 

“These findings could help to inform culturally appropriate treatments and cultural sensitivity on college campuses serving ethnically diverse students,” he said. 

Psychology grad Joshua Bhasera and Jessie Peissig, chair and professor of psychology
Joshua Bhasera with Jessie Peissig, chair and professor of psychology

Bhasera is also working with Mori and psychology graduate student Sherry Guler to address how adverse childhood experiences can negatively affect college students’ mental health. He is co-presenting the research at the Western Psychological Association’s annual convention in San Francisco later this month. 

“Dr. Mori has made an indelible print on my time in college. She has truly taken me under her guidance and consistently demands my best,” he said. 

Despite his challenging academic and research schedule, Bhasera has worked multiple jobs, obtained internships and volunteered at community organizations.

He is an ambassador at the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services Wellness Room, the Psychology Department Student Association secretary and an undergraduate course assistant.

During college, Bhasera worked as a substance abuse coach for teens, volunteered at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and interned at the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Last summer, he completed an internship at a global fashion company specializing in active wear that broadened his understanding of industrial and organizational psychology. 

“The university will always hold deep significance in my life, and I’m incredibly thankful for the privilege I’ve had to be part of the Titan family,” he said.

Debra Cano Ramos