When Governors State University Professor Shawn Patrick first went to college, she didn't know what fueled her passion. After extensive searching, she discovered psychology and completed her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Philosophy.
Even then, she was unsure of her career path. A friend suggested counseling, and Patrick was intrigued. After the initial course, she was hooked.
Now a licensed clinical professional counselor specializing in couples and family, Patrick has been a GSU Psychology and Counseling professor since 2017 and is also the Counseling Program Coordinator. She has a deep affinity for social justice, which she defines as impact ng change in a system so that the system itself is reorganized or develops a new set of rules or norms by which it can actually create more of that equal justice society.
GSU Newsroom: How did you find your way to GSU in 2017?
Patrick: I was familiar with Governors State because of the time I spent in Chicago. I knew professors who taught here and so it was exciting to get a chance and be a part of this community and to join that legacy. And I also like the mission of Governors State. It aligns really well with a social justice orientation.
I’m originally from Illinois. St. Louis is where I grew up. I did my doctoral work here in Chicago, so Chicago has always been a place where I wanted to come back to. The life of a professor has changed from the time where someone can go and spend their whole career in one place. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. The positions that I’ve had have been quite different from each other. Some of my [moves] have been to try a different kind of work in different settings. But this most recent move was a chance to come back. It all lined up really well.
GSU Newsroom: How does the GSU mission align with your thoughts about higher education?
Patrick: A school like Governors State is here because it’s meant to try to reset the imbalance in education. There are many people out there, for whatever reason, or reasons outside of themselves, who are unable to access higher education. That’s the purpose of a school like this. That’s social justice in a nutshell. I have a lot of students who are well into adulthood and this is their first time going to college. This is the prime environment to do real education. There is all kinds of development going on here, while also recognizing that students going here are not blank slates. People do come with a wealth of experiences and knowledge and ability. Some of the traditional models of education forget about this. As an educator, that aligns with how I see myself and the kind of work I want to do as an educator. Education isn’t just about tests and grades. It really is about someone being able to become an active agent in their own life and becoming who they want to be in society and have the kind of impact they want. That’s what I want to be a part of. Schools like this are much better positioned to make that possible.
GSU Newsroom: What excites you most about what you do in your profession?
Patrick: Because I’m a professor, it’s the teaching. It’s specifically the students. That was actually the hook for me. When I was in my doctoral program, I never imaged I would become a professor. I just wanted to become better clinically. But in a doctoral program you learn how to supervise new counselors and that was the moment that I realized that’s what I love the most. It is working with someone else that is in the process of learning and trying to figure all this out and get better at it and that easily translated into being in a classroom with students and watching them learn and being a part of that. You go through a kind of therapy when you’re a student in a counseling program. There’s something really cool about being with a student and watching them on that journey where something is really happening for them in their life. They’re finding themselves reaching goals or achieving dreams or just becoming more of the person they want to be and getting to be a part of that is actually what I love the most about it.
GSU Newsroom: Is there a preference for you between teaching and clinical work?
Patrick: In this field, it’s best to have both going on. I would see clients at the universities I worked at and that allowed me to maintain my clinical experience and practice and also incorporate that into my teaching. Being fresh with my clinical work makes me a better teacher and because I’m bringing those experiences into the classroom with my students and things change over time. So I’m current, which means what I can provide to my students is current. There’s a big difference in what people read in a text book about counseling and what actually happens. I do think it’s valuable for professors in my field to have that when they go into the classroom and it keeps me fresh and it keeps me on my toes.