Alumni Spotlight: Dave and Catie Dalton
November 14, 2010
As the only child of two parents in the military who have seen the world, I was exposed to new and exciting places around the globe in my developmental years. I had the good fortune of graduating high school in Germany and going to college in Switzerland before moving to Portland in 2002 to get my BS in Graphic Design.
From 2004 until early 2010, I worked in the design/marketing industry for the big players in Portland (e.g., Nike, Addidas, Intel, Trimet, Dakine). During my professional working years I became captivated by bicycle touring as a hobby and made my first trip from Portland to the California border in 2006. Later that year, I met my wife. On our first outing we conveyed our mutual goal of bicycling across The United States. In 2008 our aspirations became a reality. It was such a moving experience that we returned to Portland and got married in the months that followed.
While I was and still am very passionate about my design career, I found there was a lack of purpose and I was becoming jaded with my work. I had known for a number of years that I wanted to obtain a post-graduate degree but was unsure where to begin. I set about looking at a number of programs in Portland that would prepare me for a profession where I could use my passion towards helping and make a positive change in the lives of others. I reviewed a number of programs, including art education, social work, law and writing, to name a few. Along the way, I had discovered that Lewis & Clark College offered graduate degrees in Counseling Psychology. After reading about the programs, and after a long discourse between Catie and myself, I applied and was subsequently accepted for Fall term 2008. The summer of 2008 was spent with Catie bicycling 4,000 across America. I was both excited and apprehensive about starting graduate school in the fall, because I had been out of college for the past three years. However, I was looking forward to the mental and academic rigors of college courses.
The learning curve was indeed steep and demanding the first two semesters, but leveled out by the third semester. One of my goals was to incorporate creativity into my studies as a professional helper. It can be very demanding, both mentally and physically, to span two disparate careers and move into a new profession, particularly if you don’t know the terrain or what obstacles lie ahead. Graduate School of Education and Counseling faculty have been extremely supportive in highlighting challenges and obstacles that lie ahead. They help me by asking the right questions as I move forward in my new career.
In February 2010 my wife Catie, a Lewis & Clark College education graduate, began looking for teaching opportunities in Oregon. While she had a number of promising leads from her previous experience in the education world, we both could see that the outlook was bleak. Around this time, she literally stumbled upon a worldwide association of American international schools on the internet. It has always been a goal of ours to live and work abroad, so she applied for the 2010 conference in Boston. Catie was among hundreds if not thousands of other teaching professionals vying for the best international schools. Since we both have a propensity for unbridled adventure, she had me tag along to ensure she didn’t haphazardly take a position in a dangerous country. The format at the conference was structured in such a way that applicants sign up for which schools they want to interview with. If interested in your application, schools would contact you. The conference lasted several days; on the last day, Catie was contacted by two schools, one in Ethiopia and one in Nigeria. Although she was not offered the position in Ethiopia, she was offered the position in Nigeria on the spot, being selected over several other more experienced teachers. In August 2010 Catie began teaching kindergarten at The American International School of Abuja, Nigeria. She is currently awaiting my December arrival after I complete my coursework and internships.
I share Catie’s story to illustrate its implications for what I plan to do with my career as a professional helper. Everyone wants to know “What will you be doing in Nigeria?” The dynamics of living in a developing country dictate that things get done by how much money you have, who your connections are, and what your level of education is. There are currently a number of potential opportunities. There is currently talk that I will have a job as a therapist at my wife’s school. Also there is a gentleman who is in the process of setting up mental health clinics in Nigeria’s major cities; he wants to meet with me upon my arrival to see what I can bring to the table. And finally there is a large demand among the expatriate community for therapists. There are a number of variables in my current equations and I will have to be open to what comes my way. I do know that I want to continue working within the mental health profession in one capacity or another. I feel very confident that my education at Lewis & Clark College has given me a solid educational understanding and prepared me for a variety of possible helping roles in the international community.
If I were to give advice to prospective students of the Lewis & Clark College program, it would be to do a bit of “soul searching” before committing to a program. Just like a job, it’s all about fit. Ask questions, do a little homework, talk with people who’ve graduated from Lewis & Clark College to learn their experience. Make sure it’s something you want to invest 2 or 3 years of your life studying. Be flexible in your endeavors and look for opportunity in what may seem like a crisis.
In 2008 I began thinking that I wanted to become an art therapist. However after two internships, one at a chemical dependency inpatient clinic and another seeing individuals and couples, my focus has shifted yet again. I am moving to a whole new culture that will bring with it a number of unknown opportunities. Lewis and Clark has given me the theoretical foundation to be flexible within the helping community. While being driven and focused is the mark of many individuals who make contributions to the world, there is something to be said for individuals who are interested in many fields and bring together seemingly disparate fields of inquiry.
If I had it to do over again, I would not be so afraid to step out into other areas of interest and combine disciplines that seem dissimilar. Some of the most innovative changes in history have come from people brave enough to combined separate fields of interest to make an exciting and novel discovery.