University Park, IL ,
08:49 AM

Teri Thompson, a Grateful Graduate

Athough Teri Thompson’s higher education story has a happy ending, it certainly didn’t start out that way.

“During my first semester as an undergraduate at Governors State University, I had a house fire that destroyed pretty much all of my belongings, including my school books,” said Thompson, who received her Master’s degree in Addictions Studies from GSU in 2014. “Honestly, I was ready to postpone my coursework until I met with supportive services.

“They helped me pay for new books and supplies, but most importantly, they showed me that the university cared about me and my education. That made me care more too.”

After the rocky start, it was full-steam ahead for Thompson, a single mother who first graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Health Administration from GSU in 2008.

“I was an adult student by the time I came to GSU, working full-time as a nursing assistant and raising my daughter,” Thompson said. “I didn’t have a concrete plan. I just kept telling myself that if I completed one class, I’d take another and see how far I could go.”

And go far, she did. With a steadfast determination and the encouragement of her teachers, advisor, and peers, Thompson made the decision to be one of the first students in GSU’s Addictions Counseling Concentration, which began in 2012.

“With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, my colleagues and I saw a need for more substance abuse counselors in the field, and we wanted to prepare our students for that need,” said Dr. Serena Wadhwa Psy.D., LCPC, CADC, RYT, program coordinator and assistant professor in GSU’s Addictions Studies and Behavioral Health department. “Several faculty members within the department put together a new curriculum for students that enabled them to be more proficient in clinical counseling, while offering them even more professional opportunities.”

Although the curriculum added 30 hours to her mandatory credit list and already busy life, Thompson went forward in pursuit of the certification, largely due to the urging and support of Dr. Wadhwa.

“Dr. Wadhwa was instrumental in helping me understand not only how rewarding this career path could be, but also how marketable the certificate and license would make me,” said Thompson. “Her insight and real world experience helped me feel confident in making the decision to pursue the certification.”

According to Dr. Wadhwa, Thompson’s confidence came largely from within.

“The entire time Teri was a student here, I was impressed with her hunger to learn and her enthusiasm when applying her educational knowledge to the real work at hand,” said Dr. Wadhwa. “She decided to be one of the first students in the Addictions Counseling Concentration and she really went for it. It’s not always easy to be the first, but she exceled and paved the way for students today.”

Thompson is currently a licensed professional counselor (LPC) at Metropolitan Family Services and credits GSU with helping her realize and achieve her dreams.

“I’m so fortunate to do such fulfilling work every day,” Thompson said. “If it weren’t for the support and guidance of my teachers and advisor at GSU, I’m not sure I would have ever dreamed this big.”

For Dr. Wadhwa, that sort of encouragement is all in a day’s work.

“It’s an essential part of my role to encourage students to dream and to dream big,” Dr. Wadhwa said. “I tell them, ‘Dream big, and if you hold onto that vision throughout your time at GSU, your dream will come true.’ And it does.”