Joined USJ: 2014
Susan V. Lester, M’07, Ph.D., assistant professor of Counseling and Applied Behavioral Studies, always enjoyed helping people through conversation. As a friend and a church leader, she supported others through difficult times and in their personal growth, but wanted to go further, ultimately pursuing the Community Counseling program at then Saint Joseph College. While studying for her master’s degree, Lester also discovered a love of teaching counselor education. “Now I get to enjoy supporting students’ academic and personal growth as they move into their careers as professional counselors,” she said.
During her doctoral work, Lester got the chance to lend her counseling services outside the United States. Spending a semester in Bhutan, South Asia, she volunteered as a counselor in the Department of Psychiatry at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital in the capital city Thimphu. “I experienced firsthand the challenge of supporting mental health in a developing nation and in a culture with a very different concept of mental health from ours in the U.S.,” Lester explained. Now she maintains a relationship with counselors in Bhutan and hopes to contribute to the country’s growing counseling profession.
Lester’s professional experiences at home and abroad inform her curriculum, especially Multicultural Counseling. This course, which often has a lasting impact, focuses on cultural groups throughout the country. Lester challenges students to not only become cognizant of preconceptions and biases in themselves and society, but also to recognize and empathize with different value systems. Through this, they develop counseling skills and dispositions that help them support culturally diverse clients. “I believe that culture is a key element not only in supporting people’s mental health but also in undoing systems of discrimination and oppression,” she stated. “It is deeply rewarding to hear graduates tell me how they are able to meet the unique needs of clients who might otherwise continue to suffer without adequate care, making a real difference in the world.”
Ph.D., Old Dominion University
M.A., Saint Joseph College
B.A., Gordon College
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