Spotlight on new faculty — an interview with Katherine Shirley

Interview by Kaidi Ilves

Fairleigh Dickinson University welcomes Katherine Shirley as the new assistant professor of counseling for the Becton College of Arts & Sciences. Shirley is an expert in community counseling and crisis intervention, with a Ph.D. in counselor education from Old Dominion University.

katherine shirley

FDU: What made you choose Fairleigh Dickinson University?

Katherine Shirley: FDU has a top-notch counseling program. It’s CACREP-accredited, which in the counseling world means FDU meets some of the highest standards set forth for counseling and related educational programs. Moreover, there’s a very big focus on the students. They get lots of hands-on experience and individualized attention, which allows the teachers to really get to know them, guide them efficiently, and give them the proper tools to succeed in the field. I could rave about this program all day — it’s simply fantastic.

FDU: Tell us more about your position…

KS: I was brought on board as an assistant professor of psychology and counseling. The program is set up to offer a very narrow, specialized set of courses. My specialty happens to be multicultural counseling, which I taught last semester. I also teach appraisal and evaluation of individuals, diagnosis and treatment planning, and crisis intervention.

The last course, crisis intervention, is also offered to students aspiring to become teachers through the QUEST program, which means we get to touch upon topics of crises in the school system. It’s all about sending our students into the field prepared to handle these situations, should they ever arise.

FDU: How did you become interested in the field?

KS: I have always been interested in helping others, which originally led me to counseling. Having worked in the mental health field for quite a while, I realized I could make a bigger impact by teaching counselors. You can only get so much from a textbook, and entering the field is much easier when you’ve learned from someone with real-world experience. I’m still helping, just on a grander scale.

FDU: What is your research about?

KS: The bulk of my research has been on suicidality in children 10 and younger. I am still focusing on that, but I’m also trying to shift gears to focus on counselor preparedness and some multicultural issues, especially the use of the most inclusive language. There is no real database that concentrates this type of information. I am working on generating a website to serve as that resource.

FDU: What is something you would like to contribute to FDU?

KS: Everyone that comes to this program already has the spark in them to help others. I want to help cultivate them into strong, well-prepared counselors and give them the tools to tackle issues that they will face in the field.

I am also working on bringing Chi Sigma Iota, the national counseling honor society, to campus.

FDU: What is something you hope your students will take away from your classes?

KS: An understanding of multiculturality and inspiration to apply their knowledge toward a greater good.

FDU: What is one piece of advice you can give your new students?

KS: Becoming a counselor is both a personal and professional process. You need to take care of yourself first — if we have nothing of ourselves to give, we can’t be of any good to others.