After taking what could be considered an unusual path into the mental health counseling field (majoring in theater with a concentration in performance), mental health counseling master’s student Jamez Amour Anderson has been awarded a fellowship in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)-funded pre-doctoral Minority Fellowship Program (MFP). According to Eric Chen, Ph.D., Anderson is just the fourth Psychological and Educational Services (PES) student who has secured this honor, and he is “proud of Jamez’s achievement.” Approximately two-dozen of these fellowships are awarded annually nationwide.
Hints of Anderson’s future path were revealed by her two undergraduate minors (psychology and women’s and gender studies) and her co-op experiences at Northeastern University, in addition to her regular volunteer work at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center during three of her five undergraduate years. Following her own personal experiences supporting students during her time at the center, Anderson noted that she learned getting help “can be liberating and change perspective.” Most influential of all in her thinking, though, were the many students she encountered without access to mental health services; Anderson discovered that there was a huge gap between the number of available mental health care providers and the number of students who needed their services.
Enter Fordham Graduate School of Education’s mental health counseling program. Anderson shared she had always wanted to go to graduate school and to live in New York City, and she found the GSE program’s focus on mental health was particularly appealing versus a broader focus on wellness that she encountered at some other schools. She believes, too, that access to mental health counseling is critically important as part of the emphasis Fordham and the GSE place on social justice.
During her studies at GSE, Professor Chen shared the fellowship opportunity with all of his students via email. When Anderson reached out to learn more, she reports that he really encouraged her to apply – and supported her application by writing a recommendation letter. Merle Keitel, Ph.D., submitted a letter of recommendation on Anderson’s behalf, as well. Anderson notes that this support is just one example of the many ways Chen, Keitel, and other GSE faculty members mentor and encourage their students.
Each applicant for the fellowship submits a proposal for that individual’s training, which for Anderson means taking an online course at an addiction school in New York that is part of a two-year certificate program in addiction counseling. The fellowship program also gives participants additional training opportunities and enrichment experiences. Professor Chen will serve as Anderson’s fellowship supervisor by directing and helping her with these different opportunities. The one-year fellowship experience itself is generally designed for students in clinical, counseling and school psychology and includes addiction training as a major component. Fellows work with a cohort of previous fellows and minority leaders in the APA; the fellowship officially begins with an opportunity to attend the APA annual meeting.
Anderson also applied for an internship at Grace Abounds Counseling and Psychological Consulting in New Jersey, which she’ll simultaneously complete during her fellowship. The internship is an opportunity to work directly with people who need help, particularly families involved with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. She emphasized, “My experiences leading to this point revealed that I am passionate about providing hands-on guidance and talking to people about issues they might not normally think of sharing.” Anderson added, “I am thrilled to be able to pursue an extremely valuable fellowship experience while I’m doing this internship work, as well.”
Anderson reflected, “I feel really fortunate to be at Fordham – each member of the faculty has a very unique background and research interests – and I have always been encouraged to find my passion and strengths.” She added that she sincerely believes that Fordham GSE graduates are uniquely positioned to “do a lot of different things with our degrees.” Most of all, Anderson is “thankful that Dr. Chen was open in sharing this opportunity.” She concluded, “Students don’t always know about the opportunities available; Fordham does a great job of presenting opportunities and sharing them with all students.”