Nancy Chae remembers the six years she served as a P-12 school counselor in Baltimore City Public Schools as some of the most rewarding years of her life. Even now as a doctoral student in counselor education, she still misses building relationships with the students and their families and collaborating with her colleagues.
But Chae wanted to do more for her students and their families, a feat that would take going beyond the walls of the school and district. She decided to start by returning to school, where as a doctoral student, she could train school counselors to be better supporters and advocates of more students and families.
Now, three years into her program, Chae received the 2019 Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) Outstanding Graduate Student Leadership Award on Oct. 12 at the annual ACES conference in Seattle. ACES is the leading professional organization for students, faculty members, counselors and supervisors who aim to improve the education and supervision of counselors. The organization promotes research about best practices to train and supervise counselors and sets the current competencies for supervision, counselor training, multicultural approaches, and advocacy in the profession.
As difficult as it was for Chae to leave her beloved career and relationships in Baltimore, the encouragement she received from mentors, colleagues, family, and friends propelled her to transition to her next calling—one where she could use her past experiences to contribute to research and training of new school counselors.
Since beginning her journey as a future school counselor educator and an academic in the field, she has been developing her research identity, which focuses on the role of school counselors in promoting access and equity to academic rigor, social justice-focused school counseling practices to advocate for underrepresented P-12 students, and school counseling supervision.
In their nomination letters for the award, her professors commended Chae not only for her scholarly contributions to the field, but also for her leadership in the classroom, her service to faculty-led projects, such as research on students, parents, and school counselors in Department of Defense Dependents Schools, and her strong commitment to teaching and supervision, where she has assisted faculty members in leading courses. But her leadership experiences are not confined within the walls of the classroom. She previously served as the doctoral liaison for the Omegu Mu chapter of Chi Sigma Iota at W&M, and she continues to serve as an editorial board member and reviewer for several academic journals. Currently, she is co-leading a graduate level course that trains local school counselors in the skills to be effective site supervisors for W&M school counseling program’s internship and practicum students. She has also worked with school counseling students in providing additional individual supervision and offering students with as much support as they need.
Chae recognizes the faculty members that aided in her award recognition, mentors who support, challenge, and contribute to her growth and development as a future counselor educator. It’s the mentorships that inspire her to one day become a mentor herself for practicing school counselors, school counselors-in-training, and doctoral students.
Between fulfilling her many roles as a student, mentor, intern and more, finding balance in her personal and professional life is still a work in progress, she says. Her community of support from her advisor, faculty members and peers encourages her to give her all to the many roles she serves, and she is not one to let down.
“To receive the award from ACES and be recognized by faculty members at W&M is incredibly meaningful,” Chae says. “I am truly moved and inspired. ACES, as a major professional organization for our profession, as well as the faculty members who have mentored me, support my current work and envision a future that I can one day contribute to as a future counselor educator, too.”