Five Questions for Jaime Castillo G’16

Jaime Castillo is a 2016 graduate of the School of Education’s Counseling and Counselor Education doctoral program. He also holds a B.S. in Psychology from Penn State University and an M.S. in School Counseling from the University of Scranton. A Licensed Mental Health Counselor, he is currently Director of Counseling Services at SUNY-Geneseo.

Jamie Castillo headshotCastillo describes himself as a first-generation American whose parents immigrated from Colombia and Cuba. “It was difficult growing up in rural Pennsylvania as one of only two non-white kids in my grade,” he writes. “They were formative years that taught me compassion for others and how to just do exactly what I love.”

Describe your current roles and its responsibilities.

In my role of Director of Counseling Services at SUNY Geneseo, I have the absolute privilege of leading an incredible team of clinicians as we collectively support the evolving mental health needs of our college campus.

How did the School of Education prepare you for this role?

I completed my doctorate in Counseling and Counselor Education at SOE. Being able to develop and grow as a counselor, supervisor, researcher, and leader alongside my peers in other SOE programs reinforced the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration.

I was immersed in courses with other incredible doctoral students across the School, and it expanded my creativity and made me a better, well-rounded colleague and practitioner. The high standards put forth by the faculty, combined with the supportive environment of my peers, created a space for me to take chances and thrive.

Prospective doctoral students: SOE is a small community within a world-renowned University. You will have every opportunity to do exactly what you want (and more) if you have the energy and commitment to do so.

What current trends do you see in your specialty and how are you addressing them?

As a practitioner and leader addressing mental health in a higher education setting, the trends we experience first-hand are not a secret. Rates of anxiety and depression continue to increase, and the need for campus-wide public mental health programming is needed.

We are fortunate that our society is comfortable talking about mental health; however, our work now centers on doing something to address it. In higher education, that includes faculty reflecting on their own pedagogies to ensure they are cultivating wellness and inclusive environments, rather than perpetuating and normalizing unhealthy academic expectations.

It is hard to break routine, and as licensed practitioners, educators, and researchers, we are helping to shift this culture through training and discussion that offers compassion, creativity, and vulnerability to do something different.

As a practitioner and leader on a college campus, it’s my role to ensure everyone feels confident to provide empathy to any person in our community, regardless of role. This can go a long way in changing culture toward a community that is inclusive of evolving mental health needs.

What academic program stood out for you most as a student at SOE?

This is a hard question to answer, but I have narrowed it down to two. First of all, every single one of my research courses with Professor Qiu Wang were without a doubt the most significant for me.

I came to my doctoral work hesitant with my research skill set, specifically to quantitative methodologies. Throughout my time, Professor Wang created such a supportive learning community that every student knew he wanted them to succeed and that we could!

There was no specific project that stands out, rather just him always sharing his belief in us took the pressure off us thinking about our grade so we could just focus on learning.

My second experience was Professor Emeritus Nick Smith’s dissertation and survey courses. Both experiences grew my confidence in being my own researcher, and to this day I still hear Professor Smith’s voice in my head when I’m developing surveys.

Make a pitch for SOE—why should a prospective student choose the School of Education?

Prospective doctoral students: SOE is a small community within a world-renowned University. You will have every opportunity to do exactly what you want (and more) if you have the energy and commitment to do so. You will have amazing peers doing incredible things in other departments. You will be able to connect and collaborate, which will expand your understanding of your own discipline.

Also, you will learn how to be flexible and manage your own expectations as you prepare for two or 24 inches of snow on any given day in winter!