Mia Ihm: A swift transition from SIS to the real world


On the bold, white steps of SIS’s main building, 19-year-old Mia Ihm stands in her dark graduation robe, proudly clasping her diploma, expectant of her new start as a freshman in college. 17 years later, Mia returns with a new and worthy title of Dr. Ihm, her own family, and the same vitality she left SIS with as a vivacious high school senior.

Since her official farewell to SIS in 2001, Mia entered Smith College, brimming with ideas and embracing an extensive vision of majoring in finance, law, psychology, or other subjects that were of appeal. Lost and naive, but all the same excited, Mia attempted to discover interests, but there was only one way to assess the direction of her career: to try a little of everything. Thus, she worked in public relations in Korea, studied LSATs, prepared for law school, and interned at a law firm.

“After going through the whole process,” said Mia, “I came to the conclusion that law was not the right fit for me. Then I realized that I really enjoyed the psychology courses that I took at Smith’s. I decided maybe I should try a masters degree and see if it is a career that I want to pursue.”

It did not take long for Mia to commit herself to her newfound interest by completing the psychology masters program at Columbia University, working in a research lab, and applying for her Ph.D. During her hands-on experience conducting research on the resilience in adolescents, Mia also received the opportunity to work in emergency rooms, where she thoroughly enjoyed the intensity of the atmosphere. Seeking for more, she continued to intern at a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital, along with a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Columbia counseling center as a veteran specialist. Finally, Mia arrived at her final destination in 2012 as a suicide prevention coordinator at the VA, where she was tasked with supervising internships and postdoctoral at large training programs.

As the first student to attend SIS for 14 years, Mia believes that SIS had not only prepared her well for her academic and social status at Smiths but was also an influential part of her life in shaping her identity. She was both an active high school student and athlete of four varsity sports, and the people and events she encountered during her time at SIS paved her way into building a stable and gratifying career of a psychologist.

Just like any long and entangling relationship, however, SIS became a hurdle when it came to Mia leaving her comfort zone and into exploring new boundaries. According to Mia, she grew up in a “bubble,” and felt sheltered in the homogenous demographic of SIS. As a result, going to college was a jarring experience, especially because Mia believed that Smith had more liberal and academically intense qualities.

“When I think of SIS, I get very nostalgic,” said Mia. “I wish I relaxed a little more and enjoyed the process that SIS offered me back then. By the time everything is over, you realize that all went by so quickly.”