Every year students return to school with a set of high expectations and a will to conquer new challenges. There is an energized feeling among students and those who recently graduated to initiate a professional connection with the American Counseling Association. Recently, I had the opportunity to communicate with some of these individuals who will be carrying our profession into the middle of this century.

Given all the changes we are experiencing in social systems and society-at-large, I wanted to know how those coming after my generation would face up to the challenges with their clients, their students and their professional colleagues. In other words, are they excited, pragmatic, cautious, hesitant or looking forward to what they will experience?

What I found is that those with whom I spoke are definitely looking forward to being engaged and active in their profession. Here is what they shared.

Melissa Luke
While I am certain that I cannot yet fully appreciate how the related responsibilities of simultaneous dissertation study, transitioning into a new role at my university and job hunting will collectively consume the majority of my time and attention, it is also my hope to remain actively involved in professional service this year. I have already experienced the rewards of meaningful professional contributions through my involvement as a graduate student representative to various committees through ACA, ACES (the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision) and the International Interdisciplinary Conference on Clinical Supervision. I am looking forward to the multitude of learning experiences that are sure to come through future collaboration with experienced professionals.

Sarah Lanman
I have finished my first year of doctoral studies. I am very excited about the Professional Standards Committee work. I have spent much time during the past academic year discussing and analyzing the role of counselors within our troubled society. I volunteered to collate the committee’s comments on the CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling Related Educational Programs) standards so that I could really digest and organize everyone’s thoughts and ideas and also make my own suggestions. This work will also help fuel my work as a Chi Sigma Iota president. I am looking forward to getting busy with our chapter’s professional advocacy work!

Amie Manis
The phrase “back to school” has evoked butterflies, hopes, dreams and goals, and a sense of excitement for as long I can remember. The emotional collage the words elicit this year includes looking forward to approaching the fall semester as a returning student; excitement around clarifying my dissertation topic, as well as new teaching and clinical placements; appreciation for the opportunity to learn from and serve with members of ACA’s Governing Council; and renewed motivation for pursuing the hope of making a professional contribution to the promotion of social justice.

Valerie Sotardi
As a new school counseling graduate student, I am most excited about the course curriculum. For me, the most crucial academic component is developing a strong basis of current issues so that I can become an effective counselor.

Michael Brubaker
I am just learning the ropes in a new school setting. It has been exciting to me to join a counselor education department with such strong faculty members and a variety of research interests. It is my hope to learn as much as I can from them and continue to develop my research in the areas of homelessness and poverty.

I am very pleased to be a part of the Awards Committee this year, and in like fashion, I plan to learn as much as I can from the other members. The ACA Awards Committee has been granted the responsibility to honor the best of our profession for their achievements in the field. While some may think this recognition is primarily for the recipients, it is really for all of us. Together, we set the standards of excellence by choosing exceptional persons who are guiding our way in the counseling profession. In addition to learning from other members, my goal is to find ways to motivate others, particularly students, and to participate in the awards process and ACA overall.

Felicia Pressley
I am most excited about my new interest and involvement on the ACA-GSA (Graduate Student Association) Mentorship Committee. I plan to work really hard to promote the profession of counseling and the involvement of the committee to assist new students in navigating the process of becoming a professional.

Tequilla Thomas
When I think about going back to school, I am excited by the simple things. I look forward to meeting new students like myself who are interested in some of the same things and working toward some of the same goals. I am just starting a doctoral program and expect this school year to be full of challenges, and just thinking of that excites me!

Marja Humphrey
I am so excited about this upcoming semester! As a third-year doctoral student, I will be finishing all of my course work and advancing to candidacy. I will also launch full force into my dissertation proposal. I am also looking forward to the fall because I will be presenting at the SACES (Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision) conference in Orlando, Fla.! Having been a part of the ACA Blue Ribbon Panel for the annual convention, I can’t wait for Detroit!

Most of all, this semester seems to be the beginning of my transition from student to professional. I am thinking more and more every day about my future career as a counselor educator and looking for opportunities to strengthen my teaching, research and practice. What has been most exciting lately is getting involved with ACA and meeting others in the field. The wisdom gained from more experienced counselors has been invaluable to me as I continue to grow as a counselor. I look forward to all that is ahead!

Angela Shores
I graduated with my M.A. in community counseling in May 2006 and am starting my Ph.D. in counselor education in August 2006. I’m most excited about getting back to class because I love being able to apply what I have learned with what I’m doing professionally and the opportunities to be involved on the state and national level with ACA. Each is a steppingstone for greater participation. It’s a great combination, and I’m excited to get back into the full mix of things!

Amney Harper
As ACA-GSA president, I am very excited about our first year! It is amazing to meet and work with students and professionals from all over the country. I am particularly excited about setting a solid foundation for ACA-GSA that is representative of all students. We have an excellent group working already as ACA-GSA officers and committee members and co-chairs. Personally, I am hoping to graduate by the end of next summer. I am very excited about my last year and making the transition from student to professional.

Jennifer Dean
I am looking forward to developing my skills as a social advocate-counselor by serving on the Human Rights Committee before going out into the professional world. My experiences working as a counselor have opened my eyes to the injustices that people of color, those who are GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender), those who live in poverty and those living with disabilities experience in their daily life. This has motivated me to try and redefine my role as a counselor to include social advocacy. I look forward to all that I can contribute and learn from this group and so many social justice advocates within ACA.

Rachael Singer
Attending the American Psychological Association conference and activating my membership in ACA reinforced my sense that I am truly in the right field! As I progress with my graduate education, I look forward to making the transition from scholar to scientist-practitioner, both incorporating theory into my internship, working with children on the autistic spectrum and contributing to the vast array of research regarding counseling psychology.

Vincent Hinton
This year, as I go “back to school,” I look forward to a new season of having the opportunity to continue my work teaching at Auburn University, serving as a member of Chi Sigma Iota, president-elect of the Alabama Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development and co-chair of Graduate Students. I look forward to presenting at the Southern Association of Counselor Education and Supervision and now on the national level as a student representative for the Human Rights Committee. As I continue to transition from the student world of learning to the academic world as a professor, I look forward to critical thinking from my faculty and peers, the process called IRB, the laughs, the tears, the presentations, the research and the joy of growing as a professional in the world of counseling. More importantly, I think about the learning process as a student. This is my time to learn and grow, for in the next season, I will be doing the same for someone else. I will be the next mentor to pass the torch of learning, opening the world to a new life to an eager student, to a new season of “back to school.”

Anneliese Singh
I am excited about many things as I participate on the Diversity Committee of the Graduate Student Association. We believe that one of the best ways to increase our awareness of multicultural issues as students is to work directly with people. To push ourselves to move from multiculturalism to social justice advocates, we think it is critical that we strategically create ways that students can get out of the classrooms and practica sites and into the streets where real-life suffering happens. We also know that our best learning on multicultural issues comes from our relationships, so we are brainstorming ways that our committee can provide increased opportunities for students to examine diversity issues in our relationships with one another. We are looking forward to building a truly diverse GSA and welcome all to work with us in our efforts.

Amy Childers
This year, I’ve decided to live by the words of Socrates: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” So I’m excited to really stretch myself to a deeper level of self-awareness through learning, networking and experience. I’m excited to utilize this philosophy as I begin my internship, teaching assistantship and presidential involvement in BGSU’s (Bowling Green State University’s) Chi Sigma Iota. I’m especially excited to learn and practice more about my two passions – the person as a whole (spiritual, physical and emotional), and multicultural and diversity awareness.

Nurturing future leaders
As professional counselors, professors, mentors, co-workers and advocates, we have opportunities to safeguard the excitement these students feel as they step into their new roles. They have worked and studied hard to be the best that they can be. Their high level of energy and desire to be involved professionally speaks very well about the future of the profession.

For those of you who are in your mid and later career phases, I hope that you feel refreshed and energized when nurturing the future leaders of ACA and our profession. I encourage you to accept this challenge as part of our professional legacy. I remember those who helped to nurture me when I was starting out. If nothing else, I know that I owe it to those who helped me to help those who will follow.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you will feel free to communicate with me via e-mail at mawakefield@cox.net or by calling 800.347.6647 ext. 232.