Candice Jackson, a graduate student in the Counseling and Educational Development department in the UNCG School of Education, discusses what influenced her to study Counseling and Higher Education, as well as her intentions to pursue a doctorate degree.
1). This August, you will be graduating with a Specialist in Education and a Master of Science in Counseling Degree from UNCG, and will be starting in the doctorate program soon. What influenced you to pursue a doctorate degree in the counseling field?
To begin, I chose to pursue a graduate degree in the counseling field as a result of several personal experiences. As a college student, I was active on campus with organizations and within the community. Because of these experiences, I fell in love with the college environment and the potential for holistic student development, as a result of programmatic efforts, student support services, and interactions with faculty and staff. As a high school teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed teaching, AND I felt even more fulfilled when I worked with students outside of the teaching realm, connecting one-on-one with them. Also, I am a helper at heart, and in my personal life I have been a vessel for others’ feelings, a sounding board, and a mirror when necessary. Due to these experiences, I was at a crossroads several years ago when I was considering career advancement and graduate school. Initially, I thought I would pursue a program focusing solely on student development in higher education, but I stumbled across the counseling AND student development program in higher education program here at UNCG, and I realized it provided more of the focus I was hoping to gain. For as far back as I can remember, I anticipated going as far as I could with my education. Although I realize I can easily practice as a counseling and student affairs professional with my MS/EdS degree, I want more. I want more training, more experiences, more knowledge, and more time to develop and hone my skills as a counselor, as well as time to delve into research. Ultimately, I have aspirations of joining the professoriate, working as a clinician, and being an administrator in higher education. These are each avenues I envision myself taking at some point and the PhD is one step of many.
2). What do you enjoy most about your studies in the Counseling and Educational Development department in the School of Education?
My studies in the CED department have been driven by intentionality, tons of practical experiences, and many opportunities to engage with my peers, professors, and supervisors. I value this personal approach to teaching and development, as well as being able to receive feedback from multiple sources, while also maintaining my autonomy. With regards to the personal approach to teaching, I truly believe that the faculty have viewed me as a person first, meaning they respect my personal obligations and the role that my personal life plays in my academic endeavors. I truly value their support, comfort, and encouragement throughout the program, and particularly when I experienced health complications and underwent heart surgery several months ago. This personalized approach is what I have enjoyed most.
3). What area of interest do you intend to focus your research on during your doctoral work?
During my doctoral work, I will dive into researching issues I am passionate about professionally and personally. Although I am unsure of the pathway I will take and potential opportunities, my counseling interests are the transition from high school to college, African American males (particularly) but in general, students of color and their college experience at Predominately White Institutions and substance (ab)use issues. Also, I am interested in programs tailored to students who are first generation and/or low income, such as the Gates Millennium Scholarship program and TRIO programs. Lately, I have been finding myself interested in research pertaining to African American women and minority faculty members and their pathway to becoming tenured professors, as well as senior level college and university administrators.
4). Are there any specific professors that have inspired you in the CED department?
Where do I start?!? There are many professors who have inspired me in the CED department, both personally and professionally. Dr. Gonzalez, even before I began the program, comforted me when I realized I was taking 21 rather than 18 hours. She continued to be this constant and available source of unbelievable comfort. She understood and related to my struggles as a mother, student, and wife with aspirations to pursue a PhD and she provided a peaceful presence during my health scare. Dr. Mobley has exuded balance with professional and personal life while being so successful and has helped me to develop throughout my counseling internship and practice putting myself first. One stressful day, I walked into Dr. Tammy Cashwell’s office and she related to me unbelievably well, allowing me to release the pressure on my emotional bottle with only a few words. She continued to be supportive of me during my recovery period. Dr. Craig Cashwell, to no surprise, took what I believe to be the most personal approach of any Admissions Director when he spoke candidly and empathically with me about my options to pursue the doctoral program even though I was unsure of my health condition. I would be remiss to not give credit to all of the faculty who either worked with me during my transitioning points in my last semester and while I was on leave, dealt with administrative issues on my behalf, consulted with one another unbeknownst to me, sent me encouraging words, checked in on me, thought of me, and prayed for me. I have been inspired most by this personalized approach to working with me and I will carry this forward with me in my work with students, clients, and colleagues alike throughout my career.
5). What personal skills and strengths should a person possess in order to become a successful college counselor?
There are many personal skills and strengths a person should possess in order to become a successful college counselor, but to name what I consider to be the most important ones are: self-awareness, willingness to learn, adaptability, balance, empathy, a genuine concern for clients, and an interest in social justice and multiculturalism. Also, I would have to stress being passionate about this work, as well as, being willing to be a trailblazer.