Dr. Stuart Chen-Hayes
Lehman College of the City University of New York, Bronx (NY)
How did you get into the counseling field?
My freshman year of college at Indiana University a student two doors down the hall committed suicide. I became a Resident Assistant because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of college students. I went on to do a master’s in counseling because I loved the peer counseling aspect of being an RA. Little did I know at the time I started my degree that I would come to have experience in addictions, college, mental health, couple and family, middle school, and sexuality counseling, earn a Ph.D. in counselor education, and gather, so far, 25 years of experience as a professor of Counselor Education focused on school, college, and sexuality counseling.
You are an outspoken LGBTQ activist. What inspired your start as an activist and what motivates you today?
I am an activist who is a gay man in a 23-year relationship with my husband and we are parents of a gay teen. As a dual-national, multi-lingual, mixed-race LGBTQ family, we are activists for LGBTIQ rights both in the USA and in Taiwan. We not only focus on LGBTIQ rights, but marriage equality, anti-war activism, anti-racism, immigration rights, climate justice, voting justice, anti-violence, labor and worker rights, and getting corporate money out of elections.
My inspiration was my parents. My dad was a high school sociology teacher who had grown up in a conservative Hoosier family, but rebelled in terms of anti-racism and unionism and always talked about current events. My mom, a former professor of botany at Indiana University and Franklin College who grew up in upstate New York, always challenged TV commercials and corporate advertising ploys with us present. My parents constantly developed critical thinking for me and my sister.
As I get older, I get bolder. Having tenure helps, but I was outspoken before that. Today my inspiration is running for public office for the first time as a Green here in Pennsylvania where I live. I am running for Judge of Elections, as I can’t stomach living in a state where there are almost no paper records for ballots and much of the election machinery is antiquated and easy to hack. Plus, as part of the 2016 presidential election recount here, it is next to impossible to fairly recount votes in PA and there is a lawsuit making its way through the courts to change that. I’m thrilled to be a small part of change for voter justice where I live.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing counselors today?
I see three equally important factors: Lack of recognition, precarious funding for our jobs in all but the wealthiest schools and communities, and the forces of privatization.
School and college access/admission counselors have only recently had national recognition due to the efforts of Michelle Obama and the White House School Counseling/College Access initiatives. But someone else occupies the White House now and is threatening major funding cuts to college students and the programs that support school and college access/admission counselors, including a full assault on public K-12 schools and public colleges and universities. The three are inextricably linked.
We know the difference quality school counseling and college access/affordability/admission counseling makes for all students. Yet 20 percent of students have no school counselor in the wealthiest country in the world. Unless school and college counselors have strong programs with evidence/data of success, we are often the first to be cut when budgets are trimmed. The more we share our successes with the data and evidence to back it up, the more likely we are to save our positions and even increase funding now and in the future.
How does NACAC play a role in your career?
I came to NACAC membership late in my career. Since 2002, I have taught the introduction to school counseling/ethics course and I have taught the NACAC, ACA, and ASCA codes of ethics side by side. We require all of our graduate school counselors to be ASCA members and encourage all to also join NACAC and ACA. But since our students are in the Bronx, most have little extra money. We encourage them to use the free NACAC resources, join NYSACAC and take full advantage of the online resources and college fairs. I have only grown more interested in college access, affordability, and admission over the years and NACAC is a key resource for me, my students, and my colleagues in closing opportunity and attainment gaps for all students.
Do you have any advice for professionals who are new to the field?
I think every bachelor’s level college admission/access/affordability professional needs a master’s level credential in either school counseling or college student affairs/higher education. It’s time to ensure that level of professionalism for all folks in the field. NACAC’s strength and greatest challenge is the diversity of professional identities comprising the membership. Moving toward a uniform expectation of a master’s in school counseling or student affairs is a step that the field is ready for.
At the same time, not all school counseling programs have college access/admission courses or experiences. That needs to change as well. I’ve worked with hundreds of school counselor educators to make that a reality, but it’s not universal by any means. Many college student affairs programs have focused away from counseling toward only administration. Both of these specialty areas need to look at how they can best integrate school counseling and college access/admission/affordability issues for all candidates.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Swimming, gardening, traveling in Taiwan, reading young adult and adult novels, and enjoying locally sourced, organic world cuisine -- including dessert!
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Earlier in my life it would have been Harry Potter, but since my Myers-Briggs type matches Dumbledore, I think it’s Hogwarts-in-the-Bronx for me. I love being a counselor educator and seeing the impact that hundreds of my alums and current students have all over the NYC metro, the USA, and abroad as they make data-informed and evidence-based change for tens of thousands of students and families annually as we collectively work to close opportunity and attainment gaps.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
My family and I are being filmed for a documentary about our life as a Taiwanese-American rainbow family that will hopefully be screened in 2018. We have just landed a book contract for our memoir with a publisher in Mandarin and are working on an English translation publisher as well. So that’s pretty amazing. I am also at work on a third book with my co-author, Dr. Melissa Ockerman, focused on fusing school counseling and college access work to help close opportunity and attainment gaps.
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