by Claire Miller
Catharina Chang began her master’s degree with a clear goal: To become a counselor, where she could directly serve her clients’ health and wellness needs.
But after teaching a couple of undergraduate and graduate courses, she saw the benefits of becoming a counselor educator at the university level.
“I found that I really loved being in the classroom,” said Chang, associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Counseling and Psychological Services. “It was interesting because the goals are the same. As a practitioner, I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and help people work toward their personal health and wellness. As a teacher, I get to do the same thing.”
She earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro in 1995 and 1998, respectively, and worked at Clemson University for two years before accepting a job at Georgia State University.
As the program coordinator for the Counselor Education and Practice program, Chang teaches, supervises and advises graduate and doctoral students, putting an emphasis on multicultural competence and social justice issues.
“If I’m working with master’s students, it’s more geared toward direct service. How can they be more culturally competent as counselors? How can they have the skills and knowledge to work with a diverse population?” she explained. “With doctoral students–because the majority of them go on to become faculty members–it’s more about how to integrate that component into your research and teaching.”
Chang also served on the planning committee for Blurring Boundaries: An International Educational Development Conference, which the College of Education co-hosted with the United Nations Academic Impact, Seoul National University and the Committee on Teaching about the United Nations. The conference invited representatives from international organizations and universities from across the world to share their research and experiences on current educational issues.
This work prepared Chang for her newest role as the college’s director of international programs, which she began in August. In this position, Chang will provide support for faculty who are leading study abroad trips, hosting international scholars and conducting research in other countries.
She’s also established country-specific interest groups for faculty considering international work in Brazil, China, South Korea, South Africa and Turkey – five countries the university’s strategic plan identifies as emerging markets in which to develop study abroad programs, student and faculty exchanges and other initiatives.
“This semester, I’ve been meeting with a lot of faculty in the college and attending faculty meetings to let everyone know that our office is here to help with international collaborations,” she said. “The College of Education has a lot of faculty doing great work abroad–program evaluations, keynote speeches, study abroad programs and research exchanges–and we’re here to help them find resources and provide support for them.”
In addition to her international work and her teaching and supervisory roles, Chang has worked with others in the counseling profession this year to write a textbook designed to help faculty and students incorporate new changes and additions to the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs’ professional standards into their counseling programs.
“We discovered that since these were new standards, programs don’t know how to integrate them into their curriculum yet,” she said. “We wanted to come up with a textbook where master’s and doctoral programs would have concrete examples of the standards that our profession says are important, the things that faculty members and students need to know about them and activities they can do. It’s designed to be a very hands-on textbook.”
Chang’s work on this publication is a prime example of her dedication to ensuring students are properly prepared to work in the field.
This goal, coupled with her involvement in professional organizations and continuing her research on counseling and social justice, has made her work in the Department of Counseling and Psychological Services worthwhile.
“As a faculty member, I get to do a lot of different things–I get to be in the classroom and teach, supervise, write and research, and stay involved with professional organizations at the national level,” she said. “I’m very lucky.”
For more information about the college’s Counselor Education and Practice program, visit http://education.gsu.edu/CPS/4500.html.