When seeking out a graduate degree in counseling, students usually look for a number of items: CACREP accreditation, class scheduling that works in conjunction with work and family responsibilities, and ample opportunities to pursue professional goals. For student Hayden Belisle, UM’s Counseling program offered all of those features and more.
Presently serving as a school counselor at Oak Mountain Elementary School, Hayden completed her M.Ed. in Counseling at UM in 2005, but the experiences she had leading up to the completion of her degree were as vast as they were varied. During her undergraduate work, Hayden was drawn to participating with faculty as a research assistant and volunteering for local agencies that provided mentoring and counseling services. Thus, her early involvement found her transitioning between the roles of advocate for rape victims, a voice in studies on child abuse and neglect, and a mentor for at-risk children.
Not surprisingly, by the time she reached UM, Hayden was eager to pursue a similar role, and she was pleased with the opportunities she found: Not only did UM make “connections with the local community and surrounding communities that afforded graduate students incredible practicum and internship placements, but these selections were also “specific to students’ interests and professional goals.” As a result, Hayden quickly became involved in many invaluable formative experiences. Among them, she was able to offer crisis services to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina through a center in Dieberville, MS.
The commitment of UM’s Counseling faculty in bridging students’ work into real life situations was not all that impressed Hayden though. She admired the active role of her professors, individuals who were virtually “immersed in the disciplines that they taught” and who were contributing practitioners in their field. More than instructors, the professors Hayden had during her time at UM served as “professional mentors” who were willing to offer guidance to students throughout their graduate careers.
As a practicing school counselor with several years of successful service behind her, Hayden also looks back on the provision that was offered by her professors, even post-graduation: “It has been their priority to ensure that we have the tools and support necessary to navigate through the process of licensure and seeking employment.” Upon being hired, Hayden was capable of making a smooth transition in her new role thanks to her previous experiences in the field.
By collaborating with teachers, parents, administrators, and other mental health providers, Hayden now assists elementary age children with their academic, personal, and social needs in the school setting.