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Briana Smith

  • Briana Smith
    Nina Johnson
Program / Year

Master of Arts ’19
Professional Mental Health Counseling


Philadelphia, PA

What led you to enroll at Lewis & Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling?

Family and friends encouraged me to explore the country through education, considering that most of my life was spent in Pennsylvania. I turned down three other close to home schools to enroll at Lewis & Clark.

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

Truthfully, negative life experiences have lead me to pursue this career. Simply stated, I want to bring about positive change in the counseling field and be the counselor that I wish I had when I was younger for others who are in need.

What does social justice mean to you?

Social Justice means thinking and working toward helping people around me and below me who are experiencing oppression. It also means standing up and speaking out against the wrongdoings of others toward those around and under me. Ultimately, use your privilege for the betterment of others who don’t have the same ability or privilege.

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

I hope to apply it in future settings by encouraging those that I interact with to think of others in everything that they say or do in order to bring about positive changes.

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

When I first started the program, I was working various odd jobs but mostly retail. It wasn’t until last year that I started working jobs more related to the field, specifically in residential settings with kids. That work entailed documentation and skills training. Currently, I am in the process of doing paperwork for my internship that I will be starting early as a secondary practicum.

What is the most fun part of your program?

Practicum and being in my element with my clients. You have to go through four full semesters of boring and tedious paperwork before you get to practice your craft. Practicing your craft is always the best and most fun part of learning anything.

What is the hardest part of your program?

The program is only hard if you don’t ask for help. If I’m drowning in assignments or feeling like I don’t know what to do, I just run to my peers or professors for some help. Trust me, don’t drown in anxiety and frustration if support is just an email or office appointment away.

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

Grad School isn’t so intimidating, it’s just like undergrad and high school but with more debt.

Who has been your most influential professor, and why?

Henderson hands down! Justin Henderson, although somewhat new to the faculty, comes off as if he’s been in this field for his entire life. The energy he brings to his classes/lectures is powerful and passion filled. He’s very inspiring with how much he knows and how much he’s willing to help students further themselves as future counselors.

What is a unique perspective you bring to your cohort?

I can provide insight on what it is like to be a queer, black, female (a triple threat, I know). Yes, there are other queer individuals, black individuals, and females. But all three?! There’s only me! Also, I have insight into the mental health system due to my life experiences as well.

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

I initially pursued this field to become a licensed counselor, however I think that I will now be pursuing a doctoral program in Counseling Psychology to become a psychologist. Dr. Smith has a nice ring to it and I’ll still be able counsel at that level.

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 don’t think I have had a true “ah-ha” moment yet, but I am sure that maybe I will have it within the next year as I start my internship and will finally be doing the “real” work to be a counselor.

What do you think of Portland?

It’s just like Portlandia. Full of quirky oddities and quirky individuals with bigggg personalities. Similar to mine, really. The only sad part is that there is a large homeless population that seems to be riddled with mental health issues. Back in Philadelphia, there are homeless individuals but they are less visible and here it’s hard to miss them. It only serves as a reminder that mental health services are immensely needed in this part of the country.

Anything else you would like to add about your family, background, plans, etc.?

I just want to say that I feel very lucky to be in this program in general. If you had asked me where I would be at this point in my life 10 years ago, I would have never guessed that it would be here. I have seen many people in my life have great dreams and never fulfill them and I just feel grateful to have been accepted in this program to fulfill my dreams of giving back to individuals in need of help for their mental health.

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