Jessica Cerniak

Jessica Cerniak

Department Faculty
  • Associate Professor

  • The Chicago School Online
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (Online)
Office Location
Office Phone
On-campus Ext.

Dr. Jessica Cerniak’s training as a clinical psychologist has led her to study and work in various parts of the country. She first earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Communication Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Dr. Cerniak then relocated to California and earned a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy, at Pepperdine University. As part of that program, her clinical training experiences focused on Narrative therapy and work with culturally diverse children, adolescents, and families in school settings. Dr. Cerniak then transferred to the University of Denver where she completed a doctoral degree in clinical psychology with concentrations in psychological assessment and child and adolescent treatment. While there, she trained in diverse settings including college counseling and employee assistance programs; hospital-based inpatient, day treatment and eating disorder programs; community mental health centers and private practices. She then returned to Chicago to complete her predoctoral internship training at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

To date, her professional experience includes working as a clinical training director and teaching at the master’s and doctoral levels. Dr. Cerniak has co-presented at the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology and is an active member of the CPA/SVPA Grassroots Stakeholder Team. Dr. Cerniak is an Early Career Scholarship winner and Registrant with National Register of Health Service Psychologists, and is a licensed clinical psychologist.

  • Psy.D., Clinical Psychology, University of Denver
  • M.A., Clinical Psychology, University of Denver
  • M.A., Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage & Family Therapy, Pepperdine University
  • B.A., Psychology & Communication Studies, University of Michigan
  • Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Illinois
Areas Of Expertise

Professional Memberships

  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • California Psychological Association (CPA)
  • National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology

Community Involvement

  • CPA Grassroots Stakeholder Team
  • Leadership & Advocacy Conference and Lobby Day, annual March meetings and direct lobbying efforts in Sacramento, CA
  • Annual outreach presentations to local high school's healthcare careers club
  • Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health County Advisory Board Member

Select Presentations

  • Newhouse, N., & Cerniak, J. (August, 2014). Student success factors in graduate psychology programs. 30th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, Madison, WI.

  • Cerniak, J. (October, 2013). The 21st century classroom: Using social media. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, Culver City, CA. >

  • Cerniak, J., & Farmer, T. (2011). Training to train: Learning the role and responsibilities of an academic director of training. Poster presented at the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology (NCSPP) Midwinter Conference, Puerto Rico.

  • Farmer, T., & Cerniak, J. (2011). Putting the puzzle together: The path to a successful internship match. Poster presented at the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology (NCSPP), Midwinter Conference, Puerto Rico.


Q: Please describe your teaching philosophy.

A. I believe online learning best occurs in an accessible environment that: encourages professionalism, collaboration, students’ ownership of their learning process, and life-long learning; celebrates diversity; and fosters critical and creative thinking. I strive to develop this virtual environment in multiple ways, including clearly communicating when I am on- and off-line, hosting weekly virtual office hours and synchronous meetings, and using video-messaging and other technologies to appeal to different learning styles.

Learning involves more than the completion of readings, discussions, and papers, however, and students’ learning is aided when instructors model behavior they seek to promote in students. In addition to modeling respectful and professional communication, I invite contributions from all students and encourage their interactions with each other. I also provide students with formative and summative feedback that is positive and constructive, with the goals of highlighting strengths as well as pointing out directions for future growth and development. Similarly, I seek feedback about my instructional style, existing course content, and ways to improve courses in the future. As much as students learn from their peers and from me, I, too, learn much and improve as a result of the feedback they provide.

Online adult learners at TCSPP bring a wealth of personal and professional experience into my virtual classrooms, thus creating a learning environment filled with diverse perspectives. Taking a cue from a former professor who encouraged me to “embrace my not-knowing,” I encourage students to identify what they know and what they want to know. Then, I guide them in leveraging the former to address the latter. In addition to providing a foundation of theory and multicultural practice, I encourage ownership and active learning by inviting students to focus course papers and projects on issues with which they currently grapple. For example, a past student was to start a new job as a counselor in an international school that had no existing counseling program.  As someone parenting children in multiple countries and cultures at different points in time, this student had significant personal experience on which to draw. As a result, this student chose to focus the applied research project on the development of a supportive program for students who frequently transition in and out of multiple international schools during the elementary and high school years.

By applying their course-based learning to personal experiences and real-world situations, students’ self-reflective skills develop and the salience, meaning, and mastery of course competencies increases. In addition to drawing upon required readings and other course material, assignments and discussions in my courses aim to be practical and relevant, and they often relate to “hot topics” in modern social discourse or historical debates of the profession.

Lastly, I believe it important to mentor students inside and outside of class. I welcome opportunities to serve as a mentor to students, particularly in terms of helping them develop educational and career goals and define the path by which these may be achieved.