The NBCC Foundation has selected Shana J. Gelin, a doctoral student in the counseling and counselor education program in the School of Education, for the National Board for Certified Counselors Minority Fellowship Program.
Gelin will receive funding and training to support her education and facilitate her service to underserved minority populations.
The foundation will distribute $20,000 for Gelin and 200 other doctoral counseling students. She is a graduate of Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. She is an internship student at the University Counseling Center and a doctoral supervisor for students pursuing master’s degrees in counseling.
I understand your research is in understanding Afro-Caribbean college students and their self-identity development. What have you found so far?
Within my work in understanding the narratives of Afro-Caribbean students, there are many issues and reflections made by students about their experiences on campus. In conversation with other students, it is evident that ethnicity seems to be silenced at predominantly white institutions. Race seems to be the identity that is most salient to others on campus, forgetting that there are within-group differences in the Black community.
The understanding that different ethnic cultures causes differences in their upbringing and how they comprehend the world around them. Sometimes something as simple as what kind of food they eat, or the language commonly spoken at home in not taken into consideration because they are Black, therefore, being funneled into one narrative in understanding their own blackness.
Being that college is a time where students may explore who they are, issues of selective assimilation may increase to find a sense of belonging on campus and neglecting the cultivation of self-identity.
Thus far, that’s just one item that I’ve been exploring in my research. Self-identity is not being explored for many Afro-Caribbean college students.
You have an interest in improving the ways counseling is provided to underrepresented populations. How can we, as a society, do this better?
First, I believe that diverse representation of all different social locations on college campus is important in serving underrepresented students. Within counseling research, the importance of counselor self-reflection is a great way to understand your own biases to improve the therapeutic relationship.
What I’ve seen within the field is that many counselors do not do their own work in understanding who they are for themselves, which hinders the self-identity work that Afro-Caribbean students express within therapy sessions. If a certain area is a blind spot for the counselor, it may continue to be a blind spot for the student because it’s an area that is not explored within the counselor’s life.
Ethnicity is a big factor when talking about blind spots for many counselors because they don’t see the salience of this identity for themselves, and therefore may be neglected when counseling other students. I believe that counselors need to put this counseling literature into practice instead of talking about how this is important. I think we need to even take a step further and talk to colleagues about personal bias for accountability to self-refection.
As a society, I believe that we live in a world where social media and “alternative facts” are present. Speaking up when ignorance about stigmas against counseling and underrepresented populations are present needs to happen.
Sometimes not knowing all the facts about counseling, or complete understanding of all social locations is not needed to notice a stereotype or bias comments. Sometimes the cyber world aren’t the people that you have close access to inform, but it’s your friends, neighbors, parents and other people in your inner circle that you need to speak up to.
Tell us about your work at the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
At the Office of Multicultural Affairs, I am the graduate assistant for mentoring programs. Within my position, I help supervise the fullCIRCLE mentoring program, which serves students of underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds. The program is multi-layered, as it assists students with the challenges of transitioning into college life.
I love my position because it is a space for students to express their voice and know that there are other students who understand what they are going through, being a minoritized group on campus. To see the laughter and joy on my students’ faces whenever they come to a fullCIRCLE reminds me that my work is important; not only for myself, but the students I serve.
When do you expect to complete your degree?
May 2020 is my expected graduation date. I am praying and believing that this will happen!
Once your complete your doctorate, where do you see yourself working?
I want to remain in the college setting after I complete my degree. I am exploring the options of remaining in student affairs and continuing to work within cultural centers at a university level, or becoming a faculty member at an institution. Whatever happens, I believe I will always serve and highlight the underrepresented narratives on a college campus.