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Kathleen Steele-Puma

  • Kathleen Steele-Puma, Art Therapy '21
    Nina Johnson
Program / Year

Art Therapy ’21

Who or what inspired you to pursue your chosen field of study?

As a veteran who suffers from PTSD, I know what it is like to go to counseling and struggle to find the words to articulate the physical and physiological impulses experienced. The process of exposing a wound or peeling back the layers can be daunting, stressful, and unproductive. The beauty of building or making art is that it is intuitive and comfortable.

What does social justice mean to you?

A level playing field that is accessible and available to everyone regardless of skin color, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or disability status.

How do you hope to apply your social justice education in your chosen career?

I feel a great responsibility in shaping a non-dominate narrative. Regardless of the struggles or hurdles I have encountered in my life, I am aware of my position in a system that is plagued by systemic oppression; I acknowledge the voices silenced by the oppressive societal ideologies. As an art therapist, transparency and genuine adherence to self-reflection require an understanding of the implied freedoms to make choices that otherwise remain elusive to people of color and marginalized communities.

Where have you been working/interning as a student, and what does that work entail?

Currently, I volunteer four hours a week at CARES Northwest Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services in the pediatric outpatient unit. They are a nonprofit community based medical program. Their mission is to stop child abuse and neglect. As a volunteer, I keep children and their families company in the support waiting rooms. I assist with the completion of forms, play games, among various office activities. Interacting with the children at CARES has been an honor and a privilege, and is one of the most inspiring and rewarding jobs I have had in my life. Also, the experience and hands-on approach in family support and research at CARES have been and will be an excellent launching pad for continuing my education and entering into employment in holistic and multidisciplinary communities in the helping professions.

What is the most fun part of your program?

Being in a cohort.

What is the hardest part of your program?

Time management and setting boundaries with family and friends.

How would you describe your graduate school experience in one sentence?

The work load can be challenging, but the process of learning new skills in the field of art therapy has been immensely rewarding.

Who has been your most influential professor, and why?

This question is hard to answer because I feel that every professor I have had in this program thus far has been influential. I feel inspired by all of their stories as well as the subjects taught in the classroom.

What is a unique perspective you bring to your cohort?

Because I am an older graduate student, I have been able to share my life experiences and a wealth of knowledge.

What career will you be pursuing after graduation? Did you intend for this to be your career path when you enrolled?

To become a certified art therapist. Absolutely.

Describe an "ah-ha" or "right-turn" moment you have experienced here - a time when your perspective, opinion, outlook, or goals changed suddenly due to a specific experience.

I have not had any “ah-ha” or “right-turn” moments yet as I am on a path that is in direct alignment with my goals.

What do you think of Portland?

I love Portland; it has so much to offer. Its natural beauty, local restaurants, food carts, coffee, microbreweries, Powell’s Book Store, legendary ice cream and donuts, parks galore, there is so much to do and see within the city limits. I have lived in Portland for approximately twenty years and feel that I have not scratched the surface in terms of knowing what this city has to offer; whether you are a city dweller or someone who loves the outdoors, Portland’s your destination.

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