GSE’s Supportive, Collaborative Environment: a Q&A with Elizabeth Python ’14

Elizabeth Python graduated from GSE’s Mental Health Counseling program. She did her undergraduate work at Moravian College, where she majored in Psychology and Sociology, and was a member of the varsity softball team. 

Elizabeth recently discussed her experiences at Fordham and shares her future plans.

Congratulations, Elizabeth!

Can you talk about your academic experiences at GSE?

There were two courses that I loved the most. Human Development with Dr. Fran Blumberg was the first course for our cohort and, to this day, remains the most challenging course that we took. The whole cohort would say that same thing, I think. It taught discipline and how to work. It wasn’t undergrad anymore. It was “Welcome to Grad School” and it really shaped my experience.

Also, Group Counseling really sticks with me. Dr. Eric Chen has a great class and does a good job with the curriculum. Getting the clinical experience and throwing us into that particular experience was very helpful and rewarding. Even now, in my individual sessions, I promote group counseling; I feel there’s a lot of good work that can come of it.

Fordham’s, especially GSE’s, focus on social justice and multiculturalism is such a big component. It’s very alive in all of our courses, which is very helpful. Employers like to see that diversity is the norm.

What type of fieldwork have you done?

This past year, I externed in the Counseling Department at John Jay College: seeing individual clients and doing outreach and workshops. I was also a teacher’s assistant there.

At John Jay, my maximum caseload at one time was around 9 or 10 in the fall. This semester it was around 6 or 7 clients, which was great because I was able to really focus a lot of my time on those clients – a lot of whom I had seen all year.

Something that is unique about the college counseling environment is there’s a short-term feel to it. Even if a client wants to continue each semester, he or she has to terminate during the winter and summer breaks between semesters. But you can still see clients for the entire year so it does provide a really good opportunity to see growth. Plus, you’re guaranteed a caseload since it’s college and there are always kids coming in, intakes to do, and other ways to get involved.

I also did a couple different outreach things at John Jay. My fall supervisor was the Athletics Liaison so I was able to bring in some of my personal interests. I talked on a panel with other student-athletes who were interested in the human services field.

I spoke on another panel about attending graduate school. Many students at John Jay are first generation college students, so they don’t have the experiences of parents or siblings giving career advice. They are really eager to learn and hear the stories that the other externs had to share. Those are kids who are very motivated to succeed and it’s cool to hear their spark and excitement.

In addition, I gave a couple workshops on Stress Management and Public Speaking Anxiety.

The multicultural counseling theme at Fordham was really helpful because it is such a diverse population at John Jay. Having self-awareness about multicultural issues was very helpful. Externing at John Jay was a great opportunity.

Elizabeth Python with Dr. Fran Blumberg

Also, I was a teacher’s assistant for a Counseling class in the fall, which was a great experience. I was able to lecture two or three times during the semester: I have lectured on a multicultural course; I did a whole group counseling module; and I also did a lecture on counseling and technology.

This past summer, I attended the APA Conference in Hawaii and went to a couple lectures where they talked about counseling and technology so I was able to incorporate that into the classroom. For example, we talked about exposure based therapy where clients can practice being in situations that make them feel uncomfortable. If someone has a phobia of a train, they can use virtual reality to put themselves safely into that situation.

I did my own research on all the different technologies available in counseling. It’s interesting, especially for people who live in rural or remote areas where they either don’t have access to a counselor or are a bad fit for their counselor. Technology is providing people with more counseling options. There’s a lot of room for growth and where it’s going has definite potential.

If you could tell people one thing about Fordham GSE, what would it be?

I would definitely say the supportive, collaborative environment. It’s friendly competition – you want everyone to do well because you’re in this together. Plus, there is so much support from faculty and staff wanting to see you succeed.

My family was really affected by Hurricane Sandy in the fall of my first semester and Fran Blumberg went out of her way to make sure I had housing with me even asking. It’s just the most outrageous support, comfort, and family feel.

What advice do you have for future GSE students?

I would say to really get involved: take advantage of student associations, networking, getting to know faculty. A lot of people think that they can’t get to know faculty if they’re not into research and that’s not the case.

What you put into the program is what you take out of it. The more involved you get, the people you go to school with aren’t just your friends – they will be your colleagues. They will be people that you go to 20 years down the road with questions or for networking.

Involve yourself, put yourself into the mix and get to know students, faculty, staff, etc. Make yourself known.

What are your plans for after graduation?

Right now, I’m applying to higher education institutions on the East Coast – a lot of my work with Linda Horisk has pushed me in that direction. It’s a place I feel really confident.

Leadership has been a theme throughout my life. In high school, I was president of the student body and was very involved in promoting the school and being a leader in the school. The same thing carried through my undergrad at Moravian and at Fordham. It’s fun for me but it also can be work.

I’m looking into Development or Fundraising, Admissions, or Student Life but I’m also trying to keep my options open. Eventually it would be great to be a Dean somewhere and I would love to incorporate athletics into the mix. I think the MHC program helped me develop the interpersonal skills needed to connect with a range of different people and that will serve me well in any future endeavor.

I would also like to work toward my licensure and continue the mental health counseling education. Right now, personally, my main focus is to get a job and then pursue my licensure. I think, ideally, I’d like to do individual counseling part-time since there’s such a high burnout rate.

There’s so much strength to counseling and there are so many people who don’t take advantage of it that could see so much improvement and so much clarity and awareness if they did.

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