University Park, IL,
16:55 PM

First GSU Ph.D. graduate - first time mom

Yenitza and family

Yenitza Guzman’s path to commencement was one she’ll never forget. Not only was she preparing to become one of Governors State University’s (GSU) first Ph.D. graduates, but also because she was preparing for a life of motherhood, having had two children in the midst of her doctoral studies. 

How did she make it through? Overwhelming support from GSU’s faculty, said Guzman, who received her Masters of Arts in Counselor Education at GSU in 2015 and went on to receive her Ph.D. in Counseling Education and Supervision last month. She was one of seven graduating Ph.D. students, the first in GSU history.

After her children were born, she felt the urge to put a pause on her studies and focus on being a mom, noting “There were many times when I told myself, ‘I can’t take this class, I have a newborn. How can I worry about this assignment when I’m worrying about things like teething,'” Guzman said. “But I felt so encouraged by the faculty talking to me about the potential I had and making sure they understood that I had important things happening in my life while continuing to root for me. I know that there is no way that I would have been able to get through this program if it wasn’t for the faculty that encouraged me when I felt overwhelmed.”

Guzman, who has been a Chicago Public Schools high school counselor for six years, said the faculty also challenged her “to be a better counselor and counselor educator” in her studies. She wants to take what she’s learned at GSU to help school counselors-in-training by being a mentor and advocating for the profession. One specific area that she’d like to help address in the field is role ambiguity. 

“Some people don’t fully understand what the appropriate roles and responsibilities are for school counselors,” she said. “There’s a lot of literature out there about how school counselors are assigned to do things they shouldn’t be doing like creating a schedules or handing out locker assignments. We earn a master’s degree to be school counselors, not to be clerks, so there’s a lot of work that still needs to go into that and I’m passionate about that.”

That’s why she found GSU’s programs to be the perfect fit for her, with her professors instilling in her the knowledge she needs to “pass onto the next generation of counselors.” 

“I’m so grateful to the dissertation committee, the instructors who taught my classes, who were able to give me new information and perspectives on things that I wouldn’t have known otherwise,” she said. “I feel like they really helped me grow into a leader as a counselor in the counseling field.”

Guzman said her family was also very supportive of her pursuits, and that the love she has for her daughters inspired her to keep going as well. She plans on becoming a faculty member and helping counselors be the best they can be.

“I look forward to being able to be part of their journey and support them in the same way I have felt supported by the faculty in my programs,” she said. 

The other Ph.D. graduates included:

  • Tara Bryant-Edwards
  • Paulette R. Eason-Williams
  • Tracy Metcalf
  • Rossana Sierra-Swiech
  • Shoshanah Yehudah
  • Andrew Ansell 

Congratulations to all!