Our Voices: Dr. Erin Mason

This summer, Dr. Erin Mason returned to Georgia State University where she received her Master’s, Ed.S. and Ph.D. She’s originally from Georgia and practiced here for 13 years before working towards her Ph.D. After that, she spent 9 years as a faculty member of DePaul University in Chicago. She’s passionate about counseling (middle school in particular), technology, and advocacy. Although she hasn’t been here long, she’s already had quite an impact on her students. When asked to describe Dr. Mason, her students threw around words like, “passionate,” “intense,” “caring,” “my favorite professor,” and “challenging but fun at the same time.”

Q: As a school counselor, what kept you going for 13 years? Could you give us an example?

The students. One of the first students I counseled was Meghan (name changed) who came from a chaotic, large family that perpetrated cycles of abuse. Still, she had a dynamic personality and was always surrounded by friends. She was extremely smart and did well in school. With her case, I made my first DFACS call and going through the reporting process was one of the most challenging experiences of my early career. What stood out most to me was her incredible resilience. Students like Meghan illustrate the importance of our profession, of being there for someone when they need it most and staying alongside them through the whole thing.

Conversely, students have a powerful, unforgettable impact on you as a school counselor. I cannot overstate that they influence you as much if not more than you influence them. Getting to know someone in an emotionally intimate way as a counselor, expands your worldview in necessary and unexpected ways.

Q: What are you most proud of?

My advocacy. I’ve led lobbying efforts at the state level in Illinois and Georgia that have moved the profession forward, and I’ve included my students along the way. Years ago, I served for six years (on and off) as the government relations chair (now called the advocacy chair) for the Georgia School Counselor Association. I had never considered myself “political” so to speak but being a counselor helped me understand policy from a social justice perspective. I also had a great partner in the process, Gail Smith, who is still the director of school counseling in Cobb County. Our work sowed the seeds for the bill that would eventually lower the student to counselor ratio in Georgia.

Q: What brings you joy?

Ice cream on hot summer days, a really good donut, and really food in general. Now that I’m back in Atlanta, my two favorite places to get ice cream are Jeni’s and a great place on Buford Highway that has Thai rolled ice cream. I’m intrigued by the process of cooking and also the social aspect of it. There are many things that bring me joy but that’s what comes to mind first!

Q: When do you feel most present?

When I’m with someone in need; it’s the counselor in me. It can be a student, friend, or family member. Being a person who has hearing loss has worked in my favor because I have to really pay attention, particularly if they’re emotional. I rely on my observation skills and sense of intuition greatly in these times. I go into a zone, block everything else out, and nothing but that person matters. There’s something about being really present and mindful in that moment with someone that is very special.

Q: What are your favorite books?

A lot of my time with books is around teaching or research. I tend to go back to books and read them more than once. I’ve probably read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning 50 times. I have recently read Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong, and a family drama, The Glass Castle.

Q: What’s something that students would be surprised to know about you?

I’m learning to tap dance! I started while I lived in Chicago and I found a place here with classes so I plan on start up again in the spring.

Q: Why are you passionate about using technology to further the field?

I had a minor in Visual Arts and though I don’t draw like I used to, I think technology appeals to my need for creation, the way that creating art does. I see technology as a medium for expression. At this point, school counselors are mostly using technology for its ability to help them with efficiency and organization in their work, and I’ve done research in this area. However, I ultimately believe technology can enhance the clinical aspects of school counseling. In the near future, I’m hoping to research the impact of school counseling interventions augmented by technology. School-aged students are embedded in technology, and expect it to be part of their educational experience; school counselors must know how to use technology in positive ways to impact their students.

Q: What are your favorite podcasts?

I’m a big fan of all things NPR so pretty much anything they do. I also really got into Serial and Undisclosed for a while. Last spring I listened to S-Town, which seemed fitting in my anticipation of moving back South. Ear Hustle and Criminal have shorter episodes and interesting stories that I enjoy. Did you know there’s a school counseling podcast?! Hatching Results by original ASCA Model co-author, Trish Hatch, is good for those in the field. I was even featured in an episode about Chicago Public Schools and the policy changes some of us lobbied for over a number of years. I explore school counselor blogs frequently but there aren’t too many blogs that I follow on a regular basis.

Q: What’s your favorite quote?

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” e.e. cummings