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#WhyIChoseEducation: ‘Choosing Counselor Education Means That I’m Educating Those Future School Counselors Who are Going to be in the School System for the Next 50 Years,’ Says BJ Durham ‘22PHD

When BJ Durham ‘22PHD arrived at the NC State College of Education to pursue his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development in the counseling and counselor education program area of study,  he was struck by the sense of community he found within Poe Hall.

Now, as a graduate assistant in the Office of Graduate Student Success, Durham works hard to help that community thrive. In addition to developing a weekly newsletter for graduate students, he helps with recruitment and programming and often acts as a mentor to other students. 

“I love making sure that people are okay,” Durham said. “I’m a counselor at heart.”

Durham’s passion for counseling led him to counselor education, where he feels he can make the greatest impact.

“I realized I want to educate the next generation of counselors because they are going to be our future,” Durham said. “There are going to be future school counselors who have a lot of influence on the educational system.”

Until then, Durham is focused on completing his dissertation, which focuses on the identity transitions college athletes face when they retire, while also finding ways to make his impact felt on the Wolfpack community. 

In addition to his work as a graduate assistant, Durham is a member of the NC State Black Graduate Student Association, plays on the NC State Club Basketball team and serves on the NC State College of Education’s Graduate Student Advisory Board.

“I am part of a lot of things,” Durham said. “It’s one of my favorite things about the NC State College of Education.”

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why I Chose Education:

I wanted to give back to the next generation. It’s really as simple as that. For me, choosing counselor education means that I’m educating those future school counselors who are going to be in the school system for the next 50 years.

I also want to make sure those future counselors and educators understand that there’s a reason that they got into this profession. A lot of times, when you are in school for so long, and you’re getting such a degree that’s very rigorous, you can forget why you chose your specific field. 

I always want to remind each of my students, each of one my classmates, each one of my other counselors, that there’s a reason that we all chose education. There’s a reason why we chose this profession. And it’s because we want to make a change. We want to allow the world to be a better place than what it is now. 

I chose education, and specifically counselor education, so I can really see positive mental health change and reignite those passions that sometimes people forget they had.

How Education Has Shaped Me:

I actually enjoyed going to school, which I feel like a lot of kids don’t. But for me, I really enjoyed learning. I just enjoyed the challenge of discovering new things and then having to kind of spit back the knowledge to my teachers. Whether that be through a quiz, a test, a paper or a presentation, I just enjoyed that challenge of having to really learn and create my own knowledge. 

Growing up, education was also a big thing that my parents were really, really advocates for. So for me, education became just a way of life. It was one of the top things that I focused on. And also, I couldn’t play sports without good grades. So, as much as I loved basketball and football and lacrosse in high school, if my grades weren’t where they were supposed to be, then I wasn’t able to do any of those things. That also kind of instilled in me that education goes beyond just the classroom. It also affects other areas of life, and it gives you the lessons that you need to learn moving forward.

What I Enjoy Most About Being Part of the NC State College of Education:

To me, it’s the opportunities that the resources allow you to have. In the College of Education, the ability that we have to gain knowledge about technology, I think, is unmatched by any other college of education.The ability to utilize technology, utilize the resources that we have, the fact that we have our own library, the fact that we have everything we need within Poe Hall, I think just allows us to really focus more on the things that matter and focus more on the things that we really want to do well in the College of Education. Those resources allow us the opportunity to really do what we want to do and kind of make our own mark while we’re here at the university. 

Something else that makes the college so unique is that it has more graduate students than undergraduate students. I feel like a lot of times, graduate students can be forgotten and get left behind. But when you think of the College of Education, we have over 1,000 graduate students both on and off campus. 

A lot of things within the college are geared toward grad students, and that doesn’t happen in most colleges because it’s so undergraduate-focused. For me, specifically, that is just a big plus because there’s more opportunities to build community because of the number of students that we have. 

It’s just up to me, in my position, to do a better job of making sure that those grad students do feel like they’re a part of communities, no matter how big or how small they want their community to be.

What Others Should Know About the NC State College of Education:

With the resources, you’ll never have to worry about trying to get something, whether that be articles, books, technology, even new technology that you don’t even know yet how to use. The resources will always be there. You just need to know where to find it. And if you don’t, please come to the Office of Graduate Student Success because our job is to make sure that you all know where things are. 

Another thing I would tell people who are either thinking about coming to NC State or incoming students, especially graduate students, is don’t forget your why. Don’t forget why you chose education. There will be times where you really are not a fan of education, because of the amount of work that needs to be done, not just in the classroom, but the amount of work that needs to be done on a global scale, on a national scale. But as much as we really do have a long way to go, there’s hope. When you’re in your classes in the College of Education, and you hear the ideas that your classmates are saying, you realize there are good people out there that are going to go into this profession to change it for the better and be change agents in this profession. 

The Last Thing I Experienced That Inspired Me:

Everything inspires me — I’m one of those people. For example, the Graduate Student Success newsletter I work on, to have students say, “I really appreciate the newsletter,” or “The newsletter’s the reason I got my GA position,” or “The newsletter is the reason I found out about this new community and now I have new friends for life” — that’s been an inspiration.

Also, when I see somebody I talked to at Open House at orientation, that to me is as inspirational as it gets. It’s like, all right, I made a difference in somebody’s trajectory of life to convince them that NC State was the choice for them, and now they’re at NC State, and they’re going to do amazing things here. And to know they’ll have the ability to utilize NC State’s faculty, staff and resources and then use it for the greater good is just really, really cool.