Passion leads counseling student through life changes

Stacey Olden has always had a sympathetic ear for family and friends with troubles – even when she thought she wanted to be a Wall Street financier. But after a few semesters as a business major she realized her strength and passion was helping people. A change of major to sociology confirmed that she was on the right path.

After completing her master’s in rehabilitation counseling and becoming licensed in 2000, Olden put her knowledge to use as a clinician in private practice. She then transitioned to teaching at a university where she realized that she really enjoyed helping others to become counselors and went on to become a licensed counselor supervisor. “I’ve always been able to connect to people and have a genuine passion for it and get satisfaction in helping someone else,” she said.

And now she is working towards completing her doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision, which will enable her to transition fully into an educator for future counselors.

As a student who had many years in the field before returning to obtain her Ph.D., Olden came into the program wanting to study full time, focus on her coursework and look for ways to go beyond the curriculum.

After seeing ads for a fellowship opportunity posted around the College of Education, she decided to apply for the National Board for Certified Counselors Minority Fellowship Program. Olden is one of only 22 other doctoral counseling students nationally who was selected to receive the $22,000 award. “This fellowship really helps me to be able to focus on school and I am thankful for it.”

Olden advises anyone who has a passion for underserved populations to apply for the fellowship. “I thought it was absolutely perfect for me because it fit my mission,” she said. Her passion is to help marginalized populations. Her fall 2014 internship was with the University of South Carolina’s TRIO programs where she worked with freshmen in career exploration. “A lot of students come into college and don’t know what they want to do in the future, which is especially true for these students,” she said.

She hopes to continue working with these students, as well as working on programs for LGBTQ students that focus on wellness. It’s particularly difficult for these freshmen because they come to college needing to make a lot of transitions and they don’t often have the resources they need to be successful.

With an expected graduation date of May 2017, Olden enjoys the opportunity to do research and scholarly writing that gives a voice to the things she is passionate about as she thinks about her next transition, hopefully to a full-time tenure track position in a counseling program, she says. “I feel like I am doing my part to define my own success and positively impacting the lives of other people.”

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