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2017 Outstanding Ignatian Graduate Student - Jennifer M. Chamberlain, Counseling

Loyola announcement - May 11, 2017

Personal Statement

In high school, I was envious of my friends who attended Boston College High School. They would often declare that they were becoming men with and for others. At 16, this was a radical thought. Radical in the sense that service needed to incorporate a level of immersion in order to bring understanding, empathy, and solidarity. This revelation led me to Saint Joseph's University to pursue my undergraduate degree.

My time at Saint Joseph's showed me first hand the depth of a faith that does justice. Although initially interested in joining the medical field, my exposure as a student to systemic and social injustices led me to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) to further discern how I could become a woman with and for others. My time as a Jesuit Volunteer at Health Care for the Homeless gave me an appreciation for things both great and small. This time also showed me that in order for me to further advocate for my clients, I needed to address the issues furthering their plight. This disenfranchised community lacked access to virtually any mental health services despite the high prevalence of trauma, abuse, severe mental illness, and addiction. To address this marginalization, I decided to pursue a graduate degree at Loyola University New Orleans in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in hopes of becoming a practitioner focused on mental illness in homeless/low socioeconomic status clients.

My time at Loyola has been transformative on both a personal and professional level. I was fortunate to work at the Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) during the day and attend counseling classes at night for the past three years. The writings, discussions, and events that I engaged in at JSRI on race, poverty, and migration further informed the type of Loyola student and clinician I wanted to be. It led me to focus on my own privilege both as an individual and as a counselor which led me to advocate for my clients on a systemic level. Further, I was encouraged to think more critically about these issues and their effects from a mental health standpoint. This led me to introduce service opportunities, lead fundraising efforts for local nonprofits, and encourage dialogue on race and privilege within the Counseling Department.

Conversely, my role as a counseling student further informed the ideas I brought to JSRI. One way I did this was by bringing films about social justice issues to campus like Big Charity, The Return, and The Whole Gritty City. These events led to further campus-wide conversations about race, poverty, incarceration, and access to medical/mental health care. The dual roles I served in while at Loyola showed me that the pursuit of excellence does not have just one path. Rather, by gathering various perspectives, a deeper picture of social justice and subsequent avenues of addressing these issues can be formed, creating a community culture that is with and for.

As a soon-to-be alumnus, a soon-to-be practitioner, and a soon-to-be mother, my time at Loyola has shown me the magis; the more that is within me as a Jesuit-educated woman, the more that is within me as a social justice counselor, and when combined, the more that is within me to help raise the next generation to bring about greater change.