Graduate Faces of Valparaiso University

The Graduate School selected their top Graduate Students for 2019! Meet a few of the upcoming stars at Valparaiso University. Thanks Valparaiso University for giving us the opportunity to meet Jess and Faith!

Jess Del Re

What is your name, program and focus of study? Jess Del Re. I am a second year in the clinical mental health counseling program with a focus on inpatient severe mental health. 

Why did you select this program? What will you do with it?I selected this program for a number of reasons, but the primary being to educate about mental illness and decrease the associated stigma while spreading awareness of how mental illness impacts more than just the client. I am planning to continue my education in a Ph.D program starting in the fall. I want to contribute to this field through research surrounding inpatient hospital stays and connecting those clients and their families to beneficial outpatient services. Additionally, I want to continue to advocate for mental health treatment in communities and in schools while educating the population to what mental health can look like and how it does not have to stigmatized. 

Do you know anyone in this group? Do you have groups that overlap with the same volunteer minded people? What service groups are you in?
I am in the same cohort as Faith and know Monica and Trisha from other areas. Within the CMHC program we have two strong service groups that do overlap with the membership. Currently, I serve as the chapter president for Chi Sigma Iota, which is an honor society for counselors that focus on community outreach and other service related experiences. 

Outside of academic life what do you enjoy doing?My main hobby is spending time with my two adorable dogs. Additionally,  my wonderfully supportive boyfriend and I love to play racquetball and watch any type of movie-even though I usually fall asleep about ten minutes in. 

What type of community service or good works do you do?Most of my service is focused on assisting those with mental health diagnoses. This is typically done through community mental health agencies by assisting with their programs or partnering with them through the CSI group. 

Can you tell us about a specifically kind moment you shared here at Valparaiso University? (you could be the person doing good or receiving) One of my favorite memories was this past Christmas season. The CSI officers were lucky enough to be connected with Mental Health America of Porter County to assist with their giftLift exchange program. It was a night right before break and the three officers were taken into a large room filled with donated gifts for those in the community. There were stacks sorted for different families as well as mental health agencies. Being able to see the community come together with one mission was such a memorable feeling and the reason I love to the counseling field so much. 

What do you wish you’d known before starting your program or what should people know that you learned here? I want to emphasize that the CMHC program is exhausting both emotionally and mentally. I was not prepared for how much personal growth I was going to experience during these two years. There are some tough times that you might feel overwhelmed and like a small fish in an ocean, but if you continue to trust the process and the professors and remember why you wanted to be in this program you will get through everything and come out a completely different person, for the better. 

Would you like to add anything else?Valpo has been able to provide amazing opportunities during my two years here. I will be sad to leave my program, faculty, and cohort, but I am so thankful for all the memories I was able to gain. 

What is your motivation to do good (motto of website)?When things get tough, I always try to remember that I might be the advocate that someone else needs to better their life. Mental health treatment is a community effort and I aways want to make sure I can step up and help for my contribution. 

Faith Briggs

What is your name, program and focus of study? 

My name is Faith Briggs. I am in my second and final year of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master’s Program at Valparaiso University. 

Why did you select this program? What will you do with it?

During undergrad, I had a hard time envisioning both meaningful and challenging work in my field. As graduation loomed in the distance, I began considering a career in mental health and learning what steps would need to be taken in order to pursue my new career goals. My researching led me to Valparaiso University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Master’s program. I selected the Valpo CMHC program primarily due to the warmth and educational attitude of the faculty, which I was able to experience during the interview process. Additionally, I preferred staying in the region for my graduate studies, which Valpo’s program allowed. From an academic perspective, this program allows me to serve as a mental health therapist upon completion of my degree and offers training that prepares graduates for state licensure. It also readies me for a doctoral program, which is something I am currently planning to pursue. I want to obtain a Ph.D. in Counselor Education, as my career aspiration is to be both a professor of counseling and a practicing clinician. Once I receive my Ph.D., I will be able to teach as a faculty member at a university, supervise counseling students and therapists, and counsel individuals in various settings. If I did not pursue a doctorate degree (which most of my classmates opted for), my plan after graduation would be to get hired on as a full-time mental health counselor.

Do you know anyone in this group? Do you have groups that overlap with the same volunteer minded people? What service groups are you in?

As far as I am aware, I have not had the privilege of meeting anyone in this group. It is most likely because most of my time over the last two years has been spent with individuals within the graduate school and, more specifically, in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. As an undergrad at Valpo, I was a fellow for the Institute of Leadership and Service, which connected me with many other students and faculty that were service or volunteer oriented. As part of this institute, I was matched with a community service organization for a summer internship. Additionally, I have taken part in Valpo’s Spring Break service trips, where I have met so many wonderful people both in the Valpo community and within the communities where we served.

Outside of academic life what do you enjoy doing?

While my academic responsibilities take up a lot of time, I try to be intentional about self-care and finding time for the important relationships in my life. My daily schedule includes time allotment for prayer and meditation, as well as for chatting with friends, co-workers, or my family. I have been blessed to know and thus journey alongside so many incredible individuals who, at times, inspire, encourage, and guide me. When I have free time, I like to devote it to productivity (boring, I know) or adventure. In the summer, adventure often looks like camping, hiking, hanging out (literally!) in my hammock, or cruising on Lake Michigan with my family. In the winter months, I find myself journaling, reading, catching up on television series, or, if at all possible, escaping to somewhere warmer for a few days!

What type of community service or good works do you do?

Currently, I am the president of the Counselors for Social Justice chapter at the university. I co-founded this social advocacy group last year alongside a few of my classmates (and true friends) after many discussions that took place in our Community Counseling class. Our collective hearts yearned for a space to continue these discussions, foster open dialogue, and provide an active way to expand awareness at Valparaiso University and the greater Valpo community, specifically regarding issues related to social justice and advocacy. In addition to creating a platform for conversation, CSJ’s mission is to educate, empower, and unite individuals by identifying social issues locally and nationally. At our core, we want to give a voice to the voiceless and bring about unity and restoration in our community.

During my undergraduate students at VU, I co-founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that served young adults in Northwest Indiana. It was a parachurch, which is an organization that works independent of church oversight but does ministry both outside of and across denominations. During development of this organization, I was part of deciding what the mission and goals would be. We focused all activity on one of three things: service, community, and spiritual growth. My area of focus was service, where I had the privilege of connecting with many community service workers in the area and planning service events for the young adults in our community. While many events were hosted during my time at this organization, one sticks out as particularly impactful. I developed a program called Chicago Give Back, which consisted of an annual food (and other goods) drive, a packing night, and a trip to downtown Chicago. Through our network with churches and community service organizations, we collected winter wear (hats, gloves, socks, etc), food, and monetary donations. Shortly before the scheduled journey to the city, we would gather to fill care packages for homeless people in Chicago. The bags consisted of two meals and other goodies, which we offered to individuals that we encountered on the streets of Chicago. We provided warm winter wear to these folks, as well as offering bibles if they were interested. Each year, this was a profoundly moving experience for the volunteers and hopefully for the individuals that we had the gift of meeting. There are hardly words to convey the overwhelming experience of connecting to someone, hearing their story, and sharing the space together.

Additionally, I have volunteered at many different churches and inter-church ministries in the area. I participate yearly in 500 Turkeys, which is a ministry that helps families in the community by providing a thanksgiving dinner (and clothing, etc). Also, I was part of a group that developed and renovated the café area in Life Bridge Christian Church. While I could share more about the specific ways that I have been involved in “service” activities, I want to expand the definition to be more tangible and practical in a day-to-day sense. I see “service” as part of my purpose in this life and hope that my daily choices serve those around me in a positive way.

Can you tell us about a specifically kind moment you shared here at Valparaiso University? (you could be the person doing good or receiving) 

While I have encountered countless moments of kindness at Valpo, one person stands out. When I was still in high school and undecided about my collegiate aspirations, I reached out to Holly Simpson, who was a counselor in Valparaiso University’s Career Center at the time. While she had no obligation to assist me, as I had not accepted the offer from Valparaiso University yet, she spent time discussing the different options and offering guidance to me. In my mind, I can imagine the scared, timid high-schooler that I was going into her office for the first time and how her kindness and genuine care for me allowed the next chapter of my life to begin with peace and a newfound sense of confidence.

What do you wish you’d known before starting your program or what should people know that you learned here? 

I wish I had known the amount of personal growth that was going to take place during the course of my graduate program. I would like those who are interested in the program to know that, if attending, you are going to learn so much about yourself and grow profoundly if you are open to it. Also, look around because these people just might be lifelong friends.

Would you like to add anything else?

During the course of my master’s program, thus far, I have developed the richest relationships, gained precious insight into myself, and found work that I adore. In developing my skills as a therapist and watching client’s grow, I have become more confident that this is the field to which I want to devote my career. In reading countless journal articles and brainstorming with professors about potential academic research, I have awoken a part of myself that I didn’t know existed, where my affinity for deep thinking and hunger for exploration and understanding have found a purpose.While I struggled to find meaning and my place in undergrad, I have found so much more than I anticipated while studying to become a counselor. I want to continue to be a part of students’ journeys and to teach and encourage them in the way that I have been taught and encouraged. It is my greatest desire to be of service to many throughout my career, as a teacher, counselor, and supervisor.

What is your motivation to do good (motto of website)?

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”-1 Peter 4:8

Thank you Jess and Faith! ~The VV team!