Counseling Program Graduates

Where are our students now?

Click on each person's name to learn more about them.

  • Samantha Martinez (2016, 2017), Ph.D. Student, Counseling Psychology, University of Oregon; Mental Health Crisis Specialist; Behavioral Health Aide
  • Monique McKenny (2016), Ph.D. Student, Counseling Psychology, University of Miami
  • Jeffrey Baker (2016), Graduate Student, Human Development & Psychology, Harvard GSE
  • Abraham Kou (2016), Psychologist B, Jefferson University Narcotic Addiction Rehabilitation
  • Jasmine Jenkins (2015), Ph.D. Student, Counseling Psychology, University of Georgia
  • Coco Shin (2015), Peace Corps Volunteer, Urban Youth Development in Macedonia
  • Erin O’Brien (2014), Mental Health Professional, Northwest Human Services
  • Xin ‘Stella’ Fan (2014), Outpatient Mental Health Therapist, Intercultural Family Services Inc.
  • Rebecca Semel (2014), Ph.D. Student, Counseling Psychology, Columbia University
  • Mark Yu (2013), Ph.D. Student, Educational Psychology, University of Virginia
  • Whitney Polk (2012), Ph.D. Student, Human Development, Learning and Teaching, Harvard GSE
View Counseling Program Alumni Careers

 

Samantha Martinez (2016, 2017)

Ph.D. Student, Counseling Psychology, University of Oregon; Mental Health Crisis Specialist; Behavioral Health Aide

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: I chose the Counseling Program at Penn GSE because of their commitment to excellence and social justice, their involvement with the surrounding community, and the excellent staff/faculty I had the pleasure of communicating with during the interview process.

Q: Why did you choose to complete both years of the Counseling Program to earn both the M.S.Ed. and the M.Phil.Ed.?
A: I chose to complete both years for a several reasons. First, I was invested in obtaining licensure, even if I elected to later pursue a Ph.D. Secondly, I found that I had ample opportunities to continue serving my community and learning from the excellent staff/faculty at Penn GSE with the secondary degree. Finally, I simply wasn’t ready to leave Philadelphia. The prospect of continuing my education, in a town I had grown to love, greatly appealed to me.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Counseling Program?
A: The most important thing I learned from the Counseling Program is twofold: the importance of introspection and self-care. I learned how to value and implement both at Penn GSE, thanks to excellent mentors, instructors, and colleagues.

Q: How did your experience in the Counseling Program inform your career path?
A:

Many of us self-select into the helping professions because we are already brimming with compassion for our communities and the people within them. The Counseling Program takes this passion for serving others and shapes it into something healthy and sustainable. While here, I learned to explore, understand, create, and rebuild; I was challenged to improve myself by a cohort of my peers of whom I am honored to have learned from and alongside. The program cemented my investment in counseling and mental health services. In learning to care for others, while not at the expense of myself, I have also learned to be a better clinician. The knowledge I have gained at Penn GSE has ensured that I will continually pursue excellence in all of its iterations, both personal and professional.

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Monique McKenny (2016)

Ph.D. Student, Counseling Psychology, University of Miami

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: There were several reasons, including the opportunity to work with esteemed faculty whose clinical practice and research I greatly admire, the program’s emphasis on culture in counseling, the flexibility of a one- or two-year option, and the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the first year of graduate school through a practicum.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A: The most important thing that I learned in the Counseling program was the importance of self-reflection. It is imperative that counselors strive toward continued self-awareness of how one’s own personal identity, social status, and prior life experiences influence the clinical relationship.

Q: How did your experience in the Counseling Program inform your career path?
A: My time in CMHS gave me more insight into the counseling field and helped me narrow my research interests. While a graduate student in CMHS, I was afforded the opportunity to work with faculty in GSE and other Schools within the University of Pennsylvania to hone my research and clinical skills. I learned valuable clinical tools in the classroom and at my practicum. These experiences made me a strong candidate for doctoral programs, and less than one year after graduating, I accepted a fully funded offer to the University of Miami’s Counseling Psychology doctoral program. The support and guidance I received from faculty, staff, and peers at Penn GSE were vital to my success.

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Jeffrey Baker (2016)

Graduate Student, Human Development & Psychology, Harvard GSE

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: I chose the CMHS/Professional Counseling program because I wanted to learn from the renowned faculty in the Applied Psychology & Human Development department at Penn GSE. In addition, the other schools within the university offer limitless opportunities for graduate students to pursue intellectual growth and professional development––from the frequent conferences and guest lectures on campus, to the plethora of libraries and research centers.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A: During the program, I interned in one of the most under-resourced public schools in North Philadelphia. The most important lesson that I learned from this experience was that my work at the micro-level is connected to larger social systems and structures. I graduated from the program extremely connected to the kids at my internship, and concerned for them as people, not just students on my caseload. As a result, I developed a deep interest in issues of equity and justice in education, such as restorative disciplinary practices in schools and the school-to-prison pipeline. Exploring these interests in addition to pursuing my professional development as a counselor helped me realize that the purpose of my work was deeper than just helping students on a personal level. Furthermore, connecting my work to social justice motivated me to advocate for my students beyond the scope of my role as their counselor, and now I do so as an activist and writer, in addition to my work as a direct service provider.

Q: How did your experience in the Counseling Program inform your career path?
A: I entered into the program with no interest in working with children. Yet, I branched out of my comfort zone after the first year, and decided to pursue the dual certification in school counseling. During the second year, I completed two internships in K-12 schools that transformed my understanding of social justice, and, since then, I have become committed to advocating for mental health programs and services in public schools. In particular, I am interested in classroom-level interventions and school-based support services that address childhood trauma. Schools serve as one of the only places where children in Philadelphia can access affordable mental health services, so I am very proud to be able to call myself a school counselor.

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Abraham Kou (2016)

Psychologist B, Thomas Jefferson University Narcotic Addiction Rehabilitation Program (NARP)

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: I chose Penn GSE because it offered hands-on direct practice immediately during the first year. This is really unheard of compared to other programs, where you often start direct practice during the second year. I really believe that you learn through doing in the community, not just within the classroom-setting. Penn has some of the most renowned faculty in the nation, and there is a lot of pride in representing this university within the immediate community.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A: The single most important thing I learned in the program is that we are all immensely human. Counseling is a fundamentally relational process, and authenticity is huge. We come into our sessions with the stuff that we have been exposed to in the past, and this often colors our present. The consistent lesson in every class was that “you’re going to mess up eventually, and that’s okay.” Our faculty taught us that it is okay to make mistakes, and “be human.”

Q: How did your experience in the Counseling Program inform your career path?
A: I never thought I would wind up in addictions counseling. You really have to be open-minded in this program, given that you never know what the universe will provide for you. I originally wanted to practice in a higher education-setting with college students, but I took a leap of faith and jumped on an opportunity at an inpatient residential rehabilitation during my first year. The faculty pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me explore career trajectories I never would have imagined. This guidance pointed me to addictions counseling, which has provided me with a highly marketable skillset that I can use in a wide-array of clinical settings. I never imagined that I would be so satisfied with this career path, and much of it is thanks to Penn GSE.

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Coco Shin (2015)

Peace Corps Volunteer, Urban Youth Development in Macedonia

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: Penn is a really great place to get a counseling education because of Philadelphia's diverse population and high level of need. I heard that if you can make a difference here, you can make a difference anywhere. Upon reflection, this was indeed one of the main elements that enriched my experience.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A: The best lessons I've gotten are lessons in self awareness. Be authentic. Listen to your gut. Be kind to yourself. It was a privilege to get to practice these skills with so much guidance and support from my professors and supervisors.

Q: How did your experience in the CMHS program inform your career path?
A: My experience in counseling and mentoring has both broadened and deepened. I have had the opportunity to work at a wide variety of sites in Philadelphia including a charter school, public school, mental health facility and public libraries, which has helped me choose a focus for my career as well as gain expertise in the field. Not only do my next steps feel much clearer, but I feel qualified to reach them.

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Jasmine Jenkins (2015)

Ph.D. Student, Counseling Psychology, University of Georgia

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: I wanted to have the opportunity to gain more knowledge in the counseling field, utilize that knowledge in a clinical setting, and further develop my research skills. I am sure that other programs may have also cultivated me in those areas; however, the prestige, diversity, city life, and the option to earn a Master’s after the first year made Penn GSE more appealing. I ended up completing both years of the program.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A: I entered the program believing that I wanted to counsel children ONLY. Therefore, I strongly avoided practicum and internship sites that had adult clients. During my second year of the program, I was able to learn the importance of working with family members of children as it aids the progress of a child in a way I had not seen before. Now, I enjoy working with children and their families.

Q: How did your experience in the CMHS program inform your career path?
A: My experience in the program confirmed that counseling psychology is the field that I am passionate about—specifically assisting children to avoid the school to prison pipeline and to advocate for youth already caught in the cycle. This program gave me the confidence to apply to Ph.D. programs and pursue my goals of becoming a psychologist, professor, and advocate. Fortunately, I was accepted into several Ph.D. programs, and I will be starting at the University of Georgia in a fully funded program. Without the support of the faculty and staff at Penn GSE this would not have been possible.

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Erin O’Brien (2014)

Mental Health Professional, Northwest Human Services

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: I chose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE because I was planning to start a new career path and I wanted to make sure that I received the best education and training to do that. I wanted to ensure that my degree would make me stand out from my job competition and I knew that a degree from a top-notch school like Penn would help get me there.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A:The single most important lesson I learned in the program was to listen to my clients and not assume that as a therapist I know what’s best for them. I had a lot of preconceived notions prior to my studies in the program, one of them being that as a therapist I would be helping people to solve their problems, when in reality some clients will seek counseling just to have someone listen and to feel heard. I now approach my sessions with a more open mind and a willingness to help the client figure out what it is they need from our work together.

Q: How did your experience in the Counseling Program inform your career path?
A: My experience in the program informed my career path by teaching me to seek opportunities that expand my knowledge outside of the classroom, such as trainings, lectures, and conferences. The program reignited in me a passion for leadership and a desire to foster mentorship among my cohort, which has consequently led me to seek further leadership opportunities within Philadelphia’s counseling associations.

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Xin ‘Stella’ Fan (2014)

Outpatient Mental Health Therapist, Intercultural Family Services Inc.

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in Human Development at Penn GSE?
A: Penn GSE’s counseling program stood out to me because of its emphasis on combining theory and practice. Also, I chose Penn because all the faculty have extensive experience in their fieldwork, which made me believe I would have the opportunity to learn hands-on knowledge from them.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the Counseling program?
A:The single most important lesson I learned from the counseling program is that we are never doing our work alone. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t hesitate to reach out. Because we will always be supported by people around us, whether they are your supervisors, professors, or cohorts.

Q: How did your experience in the Counseling Program inform your career path?
A: I am so grateful for my practicum and internship experience because I got to be surrounded by and shadow professionals dedicated to promoting mental health awareness among Asian communities, which is the area I am passionate about. They inspired me to match my bilingual and cultural competency with my career interests. I am delighted to have recently received my Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential, and as an LPC, I plan to continue helping the Asian population in Philadelphia.

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Rebecca Semel (2014)

Ph.D. Student, Counseling Psychology, Columbia University

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: Penn’s program appealed to me because of the one-year option. The ability to earn a Master’s in one year was nice because I knew that I wanted to continue on to a Ph.D. program. Another reason that I chose Penn was because the faculty seemed highly qualified and I liked the planned course of study.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A: I think the most important thing I learned was how to speak to clients.

Q: How did your experience in the CMHS program inform your career path?
A: I really liked the wellness model of counseling and therefore applied to a counseling psychology program instead of a clinical program.

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Mark Yu (2013)

Ph.D. Student, Educational Psychology, University of Virginia

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: I chose the CMHS program at Penn GSE for its prestige in the education field and its ever-present commitment to diversity!

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A: Self-care is paramount!

Q: How did your experience in the program inform your career path?
A: My experience in the Counseling and Mental Health Services program has complemented my personal, career, and research interests and goals. As a student from a multicultural island society I am interested in learning ways to engage and counsel youth from diverse social, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Thankfully, that’s exactly what I’ve gained, first hand, during my two years at Penn GSE! I am currently pursuing Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Applied Developmental Science at the University of Virginia to further these interests.

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Whitney Polk (2012)

Ph.D. Student, Human Development, Learning and Teaching, Harvard GSE

 
Q: Why did you choose to pursue a graduate degree in the Counseling Program at Penn GSE?
A: I am convinced that education is a child’s best chance for future stability and personal happiness—whatever that might be. Yet, my education and professional experiences have shown me that there are many factors that can hinder a student’s ability to achieve educational success, particularly in the urban school setting. I initially believed that I would be a teacher, as school has always been, for me, the one thing that made me feel like anything was possible. But as I worked as an educational assistant, especially with students in urban settings, I realized that sometimes students need something else—they need to feel like they are being heard. Most young people do not put their heads down in class or kick over desk simply through defiance. This realization propelled my desire to work with students on a more individualized level and lead me to pursue a graduate degree at Penn GSE.

Q: What was the single most important thing you learned in the program?
A: Penn GSE’s program taught me to ask the most important question I will ever ask: “What else could it be?” Having at least one person in your life who will really take the time to listen to you and help you unpack your narrative is invaluable. Relationships are important. Connecting with students beyond observable behaviors is paramount.

Q: How did your experience in the CMHS program inform your career path?
A: The counseling program provided me the opportunity to work with amazing academic scholars and researchers, who have continued to provide mentorship, encouragement, and guidance years after graduation. I gained fantastic exposure to research in action within the Philadelphia community. The Counseling Program allowed me to work with students who are striving in spite of social barriers. All of these experiences have contributed to my ability to pursue further graduate study in education.

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