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Nancy Chae

Assistant Professor, Counseling

Posted in: Spotlights

What brought you to MSU?

When I found out that MSU’s Counseling Department was seeking an Assistant Professor of Urban School Counseling, I was incredibly excited about the potential to integrate my own professional experiences in urban school counseling as well as be a part of training the next generation of school counselors to be prepared to work in urban school settings. I also hope to collaborate and partner with local school districts and learn about the wonderful things they are doing with their students and communities as well as how Montclair State University can support them too.

What are you most excited about for this academic year?

I am most excited to meet the students in the counseling program at MSU! I am looking forward to the experiences that they bring to the classroom and the eagerness that they exude in becoming professional counselors. Educating and training future counselors to be advocates and leaders for the profession is a rewarding experience.

What was your college experience like?

Overall, I am grateful for my college experiences. It was a place where I felt academically challenged, grew to become more independent, and built lasting connections and friendships that I maintain unto this day. As a first-generation college student, I remember having many questions and wondering why I did not know the answers to things that others seemed to already know or knew how to access. With this realization, I learned to push myself academically, socially, and emotionally to be a risk-taker in classes and social settings, ask questions and remain curious, and connect with faculty and graduate students who were willing to mentor me.

Did you go to college with the intention of being a professor? If not, how did your path bring you here?

I never considered becoming a professor. I had always known that I loved helping others and working with children. As an undergraduate, I happened to take courses in the psychology and studies in women and gender programs, and it was here when I realized my inherent desire to learn and inquire in these classes. As I prepared to graduate, I still wasn’t sure what to do next, and I came across information about a master’s program in school counseling. I realized that I could combine my passions for supporting children and social justice-focused advocacy for students and families. I’ve also continued to maintain close friendships with those in my cohort and meaningful mentorships from the program. My first job offer happened to be in Baltimore City Public Schools, where I remained as a school counselor for six years across the P-12 levels. I loved my career as a school counselor and never had a desire to return to school, though my former professors said that I should one day consider a doctoral program (though I never envisioned this for myself!). Then, in my sixth year as a school counselor, I seemed to have these inquiries that I felt couldn’t be answered in my practice, and when I talked to my professors, they encouraged me to apply to doctoral programs. Even after acceptance to programs, I did not want to leave my job because I loved the students, families, colleagues, and community so much. After much prayer and guidance from mentors, I decided to move forward with the open door, begin and later finish a doctoral program in counselor education, and be where I am today.

What is one thing you wish you had known in your undergraduate/graduate career? Why?

One thing that I wish I had known in my undergraduate and graduate career is to practice some self-compassion. This is a term that I learned about recently in my doctoral program, and it really spoke to me. We tend to be hard on ourselves or set high expectations for ourselves in unforgiving ways, and sometimes, we keep running without taking breaks for ourselves. It is important to be mindful of our strengths, be present in the moment, be ok with our vulnerabilities, and just be more kind and forgiving to ourselves. This is an ongoing practice for myself too.

What are a few of your recent accomplishments?

The biggest and most recent accomplishment was successfully defending my dissertation in March and graduating in May! I am the first in my family to have completed college, graduate school, and now a doctoral program, so this was a big moment that I couldn’t have achieved without the support of my family, friends, and mentors across my lifetime.

What advice would you give to incoming students in order for them to succeed?

Find a mentor or multiple mentors! I would not be where I am today without the formal and informal mentorships that I’ve been able to access across my lifetime. Whether a fellow graduate student, a doctoral student, a faculty member, or someone in the community, try introducing yourself and connecting with individuals that share your interests. As you build a relationship, ask how to access opportunities and see who else they can connect you to! Networking can feel awkward and intimidating, and these feelings are normal. It is truly a blessing to have had mentors who saw my potential and a future that I often couldn’t envision for myself. I am very grateful.