Veronica Torres is a first year M.S. in Counseling, specialization in College Counseling and Student Services (CCSS) Program candidate. Veronica learned about the program while she was an undergraduate at CSUN working as a Peer Educator in the Career Center through graduate student assistants that were currently in the CCSS program. Veronica got more involved on campus through different Student Services departments and appreciated the kind of influence that counselors have
on students, especially when it came to diverse students, “Anywhere I can use my privilege to uplift other marginalized communities I’m here for it.” She stayed at CSUN for the CCSS program because of her positive experience as an undergraduate and appreciated the campuses authenticity when it comes to progressive and social justice issues.
Veronica is grateful for the valuable material she has learned in CCSS, but what stands out the most for her is multicultural counseling. “The theme behind multicultural counseling is the importance of knowing your worldview. It’s the idea of seeing someone holistically, to take into consideration their background and their experiences and recognizing how your influence will have an impact on their worldview.” Veronica explains that she applies this worldview concept not only for college counseling but in her daily interactions.
College counseling is much more than helping students pick out their courses, it’s also student development, seeing students through obstacles and successes outside the classroom. “College is more than just getting a degree, college is students discovering themselves and growing through programs and activities that are led by CCSS professionals. College is not a college without CCSS and CCSS is what makes universities operate.” Veronica is leaving the door open to the student demographic she wants to serve upon completing her M.S. in Counseling degree, but she is sure of one thing, “I see myself having a seat at the table to advocate for students. I want to have enough power to change policies that will better serve students, but also stay in a position where I can have a direct connection with students to have an impact on them as individuals.”
Elizabeth Galadjian is a first year M.S. in Counseling, specialization in College Counseling and Student Services Program candidate. She decided to pursue this program because of the positive experience she had with her own academic advisor at CSUN. Elizabeth visited her academic advisor to learn more about law programs, she had many lawyers in the family and if she became a lawyer, she would have instant connections. However, her advisor saw that she wasn’t passionate about law and motivated
her to get involved with other programs on campus. “She never explicitly told me law wasn’t right for me but she pointed me to mentoring leadership programs such as the AME (Advising and Mentoring Educational Program) and CAPS (Community for Achievement in Psychological Sciences) programs at CSUN where I was able to advise and mentor students.” As Elizabeth was spending more time mentoring college students and learning more about her academic advisor's journey into the profession, she changed her trajectory from law school to College Counseling and Student Services.
Elizabeth enjoys working with this group because of their autonomy and she likes the idea of playing a part in their journey of growth, “College is the place where students find and deepen their identity; it’s where they grow and develop their racial, cultural, gender, sexual and religious identity. We need to be well versed in all these topics because it’s so important to give these students validation in how they identify.” Elizabeth expresses that college counseling and student services require understanding human communication and empathy, “Counseling is the bridge between being clinical but also warm and empathetic. We also need to understand student life and pair it with academic life, student and academic affairs need to be co-curricular.”
Elizabeth is looking forward to the day she can work full time at a college or university and can put into practice everything she has learned. She hopes to address some of the holes in higher education and create a program that helps students that are falling through the cracks. She is hoping to earn her license to be a professional clinical counselor and maybe one day consider a Ph.D. in education. There is one thing for sure that Elizabeth hopes, no matter how far she moves up as a higher education professional, she will always strive to have interaction with students and not lose that connection.
Nicole Tran reflected that her undergraduate experience at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) sparked her interest and decision to pursue a career in College Counseling and Student Services (CCSS). As a first-generation, low-income college student she struggled with navigating higher education on her own and encountered imposter syndrome her freshman year. “I constantly felt incompetent and inadequate as a student because I was doing poorly in most of my classes.” What helped decrease these feelings of marginality was the support Nicole received from campus resources like the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). There she met counselors and peers who understood her. This encouraged her to give back to other students that shared similar experiences through cultural awareness and sensitivity, mentorship, and community building. By her senior year, Nicole became a cultural mentor for EOP’s Asian Resource Center. Her supervisor encouraged Nicole to look into CCSS as a career and specifically recommended CSUN’s program. After taking some time to research the program herself, it was clear that this was the right path for Nicole.
One of the most valuable lessons that stands out for Nicole while in CCSS is the importance of advocacy. “As a counselor, not only am I there to affirm students’ experiences and feelings but also help create change that alleviates their challenges. This requires a great deal of compassion and courage to uplift students, so they have a positive collegial experience and environment. It allows them to see they have an ally that sees and values them.” Nicole also explained that the program has taught her the importance of self-care and how practicing self-care will help her better advocate for students.
Nicole looks forward to serving students in person and stresses the emphasis for students to seek counseling if they need to talk to someone. “Since the pandemic, institutions have highly advertised the utilization of campus foodbanks which is essential. I think counseling services should be given the same amount of promotion because counseling is a basic need students should have access to.” Her long-term professional goal is to initiate and lead a learning community program for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) students at a community college. “Research has shown that there is a lack of institutional support for AAPI students. They are often overlooked and under-resourced in higher education despite some ethnic minorities demonstrating low college attendance and graduation rates which challenges the model minority myth. In order for institutions to truly strive for excellence in student equity and inclusion, they must also acknowledge the struggles AAPI students face and create changes that effectively and sensitively support their unique needs.”