First-year Morgridge College of Education Counseling Psychology MA students, Helen Chao and Courtney Hadjeasgari, were selected as 2017-2018 STAY Fellows, and will receive up to $6000 each to support their training as mental health professionals and practitioners. The fellowship also provides a one-year membership to APA and the opportunity to participate in specialized training at next year’s Psychology Summer Institute in Washington D.C. in July 2018.
The APA STAY (Services for Transition Age Youth) Fellowship is an award program funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and offered through the Minority Fellowship Program to only the most deserving students in terminal master’s programs in psychology whose training prepares them to provide mental health services to transition age (16-25) youth.
Chao and Hadjeasgari are recognized as exceptional students who have strong interests in social justice and helping others through direct service.
At a young age, Chao witnessed firsthand how mental illness affected people’s lives, and decided that she needed to equip herself with skills and knowledge to help those around her who were suffering. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 2015, which furthered her interest in the field.
Hadjeasgari found her passion for counseling psychology during her two years of service as a Teach for America corps member. Teaching third grade in rural North Carolina, Hadjeasgari was able to understand the systemic problems that needed solving in the education system, while making a profound and immediate impact on the lives of students, families, and communities. “I witnessed the high need for clinicians in behavioral health and discovered my true passion for working with the ethnic minority youth population here. I knew that going into counseling psychology is where I needed to be,” Hadjeasgari said.
Chao was first attracted to the University of Denver and MCE when she moved to Denver to provide direct service as a Young
Adult Volunteer where she worked with a refugee resettlement agency, and at a day shelter for seniors without homes. That
experience solidified her commitment to social justice, and she found that MCE and DU provided her the best opportunity to continue to work toward social justice, and that the university’s creed of Inclusive Excellence rang true. During her initial admission interview Hadjeasgari appreciated how welcomed she felt by the Counseling Psychology faculty, and her research interests strongly aligned with many of those faculty members.
Both students have already contributed greatly to the program and department. Chao has been integral in the creation of the Counseling Psychology Social Justice Committee (more information on their contributions here), and co-leads Campus Conversations, which provides students and community members across disciplines a chance to interact and discuss issues of social justice and inequity. Hadjeasgari has been an active member of Dr. Pat Garriott’s research team, and has made many valuable contributions to the team’s research.
When asked if they have any advice for prospective students seeking a graduate program in Counseling Psychology, Chao says that it’s important to find a program that “walks the walk” when it comes to social justice and diversity.
“It’s important to find a program that nurtures and welcomes students and encourages student engagement,” Hadjeasgari. “Prospective students should go with a program that they feel a strong connection to, and that feels right. Speaking in-depth with as many professors as you can is important, since these are the educators you’re going to be learning from, and they will be leading you through your graduate work . . . The people you meet in graduate school are the ones who help you achieve your goals, present you with opportunity, and guide you along the way.”
The Counseling Psychology program, Morgridge College of Education, and the University of Denver congratulates Chao and Hadjeasgari for their dedication to social justice and mental health as recognized by this prestigious award.