This is part of a monthly “Why I Chose Education” series in which NC State College of Education alumni, students, faculty and staff share why they chose education.
Growing up in a single parent household, Sabrina Spencer ’22MED witnessed her mother work a full time job and a part time job, while pursuing a bachelor’s degree to become a middle school teacher and caring for Spencer and her brother. That experience inspired her.
“My mother is one of the most generous, kind-hearted and intelligent teachers that I know. I saw her live out her values of equity, honesty and fairness during my childhood and that inspired me to want to help others in some fashion, too,” Spencer said.
When Spencer arrived at NC State in 2015, she started out in exploratory studies because she had no idea what she wanted to do. And that continued for the majority of her college career, switching majors three different times before earning her bachelor’s degree in interpersonal, organizational, and rhetorical communication in 2019. By talking to professionals within the NC State community, Spencer gained some clarity regarding her career aspirations.
Upon graduation, she landed a job working at a small high school in rural North Carolina as a college advisor with the NC State College Advising Corps. In that role, Spencer says she worked to reduce the distress and discomfort her seniors experienced in pursuing their own postsecondary plans. Through that experience, she was able to discover more about her personal values and professional interests by witnessing their own growth that year.
Now, Spencer is enrolled in the NC State College of Education’s College Counseling and Student Development Program, where she is pursuing a Master of Education.
“Through my own campus involvement, I saw and still see that I simply really love helping people. It makes me feel good,” she said. “I hope to apply the knowledge that I am learning to help young adults with their career exploration and goals.”
The Charlotte, North Carolina, native works in Talley Student Union as a graduate assistant for student success within the NC State Student Centers. She also serves as a graduate intern for the Academic, Career, and Student Services Center in the Wilson College of Textiles.
When Spencer isn’t studying for her degree or working, she enjoys writing creative short stories and poetry, reading, watercolor painting, tasting breakfast foods and walking along the shores of the Outer Banks. She also loves dogs and volunteers with local dog rescue organizations.
Spencer shares why she chose the NC State College of Education, what she enjoys most about the college, how education has shaped her, an experience within the College of Education that impacted her life and how the college is preparing her for future career goals.
Why I Chose the NC State College of Education: As an undergraduate at NC State, I had a lot of positive interactions with graduate students in the Higher Education Association and with alumni of the College of Education. As I conducted informational interviews with different professionals and faculty at NC State about their life experiences and roles, I realized that there was so much left for me to learn here. Considering my deep affection for NC State, along with the excellence of the College of Education’s degree programs and faculty, I knew that this was the best educational opportunity for me.
What I Enjoy Most About Being a Part of the NC State College of Education: I enjoy spending time with the people here in both a professional and a more casual sense. I have mostly talked to faculty and students in the counselor education and higher education administration communities. I am in awe of how the insight that both fields provide supports everyone’s sense of purpose in the work that they do with people. Also, I get a little thrill out of being silly with my cohort from time to time by sharing my whimsical thoughts with everyone. I take it upon myself to add a little razzle dazzle to our Zoom meetings!
How Education Has Shaped Me: I do not identify as a first-generation student; however, I was the first one in my family to have the traditional college student experience. I lived in a single parent and single, low-income household as a child. My mother worked a full-time job and a part-time job in addition to caring for my brother and me, while she pursued a bachelor’s degree to work as a middle school teacher. She worked and worked, and I wondered if she found any joy in that. Eventually, she became a licensed teacher in the state. While providing for two children on a public school teacher’s salary is difficult, to say the least, I will say that my mother’s college journey taught me about the financial ramifications of earning a degree.
Whenever I encountered challenges during my own college education, I was reminded of my mother and felt inspired by her tenacity and grit in pursuing her goals.
I feel like education has always had a very important presence in my life. My NC State education has helped me strengthen my introspective critical thinking skills, connect with other passionate professionals and enabled me with specialized knowledge and opportunity to create and pursue my own goals, too.
An Experience in the College of Education That Has Changed Me: Given that I began my graduate studies during the pandemic, I have had limited encounters at Poe Hall. I do, however, have many cherished memories filled with significant people in my life who were students and alumni of the higher education administration and college counseling programs.
As an undergraduate student, I was exposed to many different student affairs professionals and administrators through my on-campus involvement with NC State Student Centers, New Student Programs and the Joyner Visitor Center. While I felt pretty confident and secure in myself in these roles, I was simultaneously experiencing some tumultuous strife in my personal life during my junior year as well. Eventually, that chaos started to affect my mental and physical health which became increasingly clear to the current graduate assistants and supervisors at work. Even now, nearly four years later, what I most remember about that year is all of the support and guidance that I received from these people. Not to get too sentimental, but it also taught me a little bit about empathy and kindness as well. I learned that active listening is an expression of love. By asking my simple questions and by providing considerate feedback, I felt supported in persisting through my own career exploration and academic pursuits. These encounters inspired me to return to NC State and actively contribute to the communities of support that helped me persist and thrive during my undergraduate career.
I believe that compassionate communication is essential in all of my interpersonal relationships and I aspire to engage with people in a genuine and gracious way in my personal and professional roles. I will admit that I am still learning how to do this effectively in my own bumbling and endearing way as a graduate student.
How the College of Education Has Prepared Me for My Future Goals: Although I am in the Counselor Education program, I seek to apply counseling theories and techniques to non-clinical roles in the context of a human resources or student affairs environment. I love that the college counseling and student development curriculum focuses on social justice in mental wellness and maintains a strong undercurrent in student development theories. It has given me a renewed perspective on establishing helping relationships in a variety of environments. The college counseling track is so flexible and I found the possibility of becoming a licensed mental health counselor, a student affairs professional or a professional working in another industry so appealing.
I am not enrolled in the Higher Education Administration program here, however, my graduate assistantship with NC State Student Centers provides me with many opportunities to engage with current students and alumni of the program. I see how exemplary organizational leadership can create positive change directly in the lives of students. I always feel so grateful and delighted to discuss the guiding theories, research, practices and anecdotal experiences that influence my colleagues and fellow graduate students’ decisions in our impactful student employment program.
Through my graduate internship in the Wilson College of Textiles, I have been exposed to graduates of the college counseling program. It has been so refreshing and inspiring to see how mental health counseling skills can be applied in advising and career-focused meetings with students. There are alumni that I know who are employed in corporate settings that apply the same student development theories and counseling strategies that I am learning about in really intentional and unique ways. I love that I am able to connect with and learn from people who are passionate about helping others succeed in their personal and professional endeavors during all stages of their college and early career experiences.
I have learned that graduate school, by design, pushes students to get real specific. I aspire to take the knowledge I have gained and integrate it into the career opportunities I have now and in the future. I hope to gain expertise in supporting people through periods of transition in new organizational settings by being involved with different departments at NC State during my graduate studies.