Providing Opportunities Beyond Imagination
Graduate Profile: Aja Parker
I tell my students that GSU has provided opportunities for me as a first-gen college student that I didn't know were possible. For example, I never dreamed of studying abroad and GSU afforded that opportunity to me.
As a high school educator with a passion for college and career counseling, Aja Parker aspires to be the mentor she once needed for her students. Graduating this spring with her Masters of Arts in Counseling from Governors State University (GSU), Parker will use what she’s learned to help students achieve their goals, while supporting their mental health needs.
GSU Newsroom: What conversations did you start at GSU that will continue into your workplace?
Parker: Every professor that I have encountered in my studies has told me to make sure that I take care of myself. I will continue the conversation about self-care.
GSU Newsroom: What does being a Jaguar mean to you?
Parker: I advocate every day for GSU. I am an educator. I tell my students that GSU has provided opportunities for me as a first-gen college student that I didn't know were possible. For example, I never dreamed of studying abroad and GSU afforded that opportunity to me. Thailand was an incredible experience.
GSU Newsroom: What were your top two experiences (or professors) at GSU and why?
Parker: I have too many wonderful experiences to name. Studying abroad in Thailand in January 2020 was life-changing! Also, I've had so many wonderful professors. My top professors include, but are not limited to, Dr. Can, Dr. Wright, Dr. Bell, Dr. Ham, Dr. Lorelle, Dr. Robey, and Katie Paulson. They all 'spoke life into me' during the times of my greatest need.
GSU Newsroom: What are some challenges you faced at GSU and how did you overcome them?
Parker: Tuition was a challenge in the beginning. GSU helped me overcome tuition challenges by providing scholarship opportunities. GSU provided resources for my career search such as cover letter and resume review. The Gaining Enrichment through Educational Readiness (GEER) program provided financial assistance and a knowledgeable advisor. The library reviewed my papers within 24 hours. My classmates and my professors provided emotional and academic support.
GSU Newsroom: How did GSU prepare you for working in the post-COVID world?
Parker: One good thing that came from the pandemic is that more people are technologically savvy. Virtual classes, submitting assignments online, collaborating in groups, organizing virtual meetings, communicating through email and social media, are all positive changes that we will all take into the post-COVID world.
GSU Newsroom: What’s next after graduation?
Parker: My plans are to get a position as a professional school counselor in a high school. My passion is college and career counseling. I want to prepare the youth for their post-secondary plans. I want to be the person that I needed when I was a teen. In addition, GSU’s Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs gave me the opportunity to sit for the National Counselor Exam (NCE). I passed the exam in November 2021. Now that I have passed the NCE, I will be applying for my Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) license upon graduation. I plan to become a therapist for the youth. Mental health is extremely important.