Meet Kara Ieva, PhD, NCC, NCSC, associate professor in Counseling in Educational Settings, within the Department of Educational Services and Leadership within the College of Education. Dr. Ieva also serves as the Director of Academic and Student Services for STEAM Academy.
What is your area of expertise?
I would say my passions are channeled through “navigating systems”. My goal as a former school counselor was to navigate systems to be able to advocate for students, specifically for marginalized populations or those whose voice has been marginalized. I now teach that same skillset to future school counselors, school psychologists, and higher education employees. Navigating systems inform how I navigate Rowan University to offer the pre-college programs for first generation college students, my teaching in group dynamics, or engaging in applied research. Working from a social justice framework, navigating systems on behalf of others and teaching others to navigate on behalf of others is central to my work. Once you can navigate, you can begin to examine and change systems.
Share an “a ha!” moment that you’ve had within your discipline that made you feel passionate about your field.
I have had two “a ha” moments that really stand out for me, and both directly tied to my teaching and research interests.The first “a ha” is regarding group counseling, which is my expertise. During a supervision session with my mentor we were discussing a session I led, which was part of an 8-week personal growth group for counselors-in-training. As I was discussing some content about group dynamics and those tied to identities, I realized my identity has always been tied to some sort of group. In our field we call this a parallel process when you realize something about yourself through interacting with clients. In fact, I was part of several groups my entire life, and I realized in that moment, that every activity and team I have ever played on, including Division I Softball, was all about the group experience and has taught me how to function in groups and how that is tied to my identity. I had a coach once tell me that I am great at interacting and leading group dynamics, but never really thought about it, until that very moment. Apparently, I really do LOVE groups, more specifically what group counseling can do for all ages.
Describe for us an experience you’ve had with a student that made you feel excited about educating the next generation in your field.
I always tell my students that I learn just as much from them, as they learn from me. This is just one specific example, of many, that made me elated at teaching the next generation of school counselors focused on academic inequities in schools. I recently had a student with an exceptional passion for helping others. Through the capstone project required in our internship class, this student was able to advocate for marginalized students who could be at risk for dropping out, give them interventions and tools for future use, educate teachers about the barriers they may place for students in their classrooms, and help to create systemic change in a building that has not seen any change in decades. I was so inspired I co-authored a manuscript with her that is in review in one of our school counseling journals so that more people could hear about her amazing efforts. She reminded me why we do this work, and although we might be one person in a school sometimes, we are truly able to make a difference for all of the stakeholders; the students, the faculty and staff, the parents, and the overall community. I am excited to see what this next generation of social justice advocates are capable of accomplishing.
What is one thing you wish people knew about your academic discipline or your research focus?
This is a tough question. I guess generally speaking in advocating for my profession, I want people to know that “guidance counselor” is an antiquated term. They are referred to as professional school counselors. The shift comes with the job responsibilities. School counselors are tasked with the academic, socio-emotional, and career development of all K-12 students through individual, small group, large class lessons, consultation, and collaboration. It is important for others to know, we need more school counselors. Today, we have an increase in a variety of conditions and trauma, mental health labels, and the need to focus on more interventions to support students in their academic and career development. We need more school counseling positions to reflect the need to intervene with all students, particularly elementary school as that is a crucial developmental time period for all students. If mental health is not addressed by 3rd grade, there are some long standing effects. School counselors are the heart of all schools and are sometimes the only one trained to assist students. It is an amazing profession that has the opportunity to help students in a variety of ways and I hope to see more of them in each school.
What’s your favorite thing about being on campus on a typical Tuesday?
If you asked me this question 5 years ago, I would have said my walk to the Owl’s Nest for Soup and Salad lunch with a mixed rotation of colleagues. Although this is still something I love, I don’t do it as often.
Tuesdays for me equate to “seeing everyone”. I start the day at 9am with two Research Team meetings, followed by a department meeting, and then a program meeting, and occasional student meetings or admission interviews. I also have the privilege to teach two courses from 5-10:15 at night (Practicum and Group Counseling). So, some see may see this is as a really long day, however I see it as opportunity to interact with as many students and colleagues as possible.
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Vanessa Vause, senior public relations, advertising, and theatre major