- Nina Johnson
Program / Year
Master of Arts ’20
Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy
What led you to enroll at Lewis & Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling?
Carmen’s work of socio-emotional relationship therapy, and the program’s focus of social justice and diversity.
Who or what inspired you to pursue your chosen field of study?
I was being a listener to my peers, friends, and even my family for most of my life so far. I’ve been passionate about helping others and lighting up smiles, and I’ve been wanting to walk with people from their dark world to the bright exit. In addition, I had great interest in psychology since fourth grade in elementary school after I had read my first psychology book my school handed to my parents about children development and parenting. After all, I found out most of the difficulties and concerns in life I heard from people are around relationships and especially families, I believe MCFT will equip me with the most helpful tools along my journey.
What does social justice mean to you?
I believe justice means the mutual respect between two people regardless their backgrounds. So, I don’t think social justice means people are getting everything equally, but more about the equal basic rights (depends on social construction) and respect every human being is getting regardless what background the person is from.
How do you hope to apply your social justice education in your chosen career?
I deeply understand that life is not fair, society is not fair to everyone, and I don’t think I will be able to make it all fair. However, I believe, throughout my education and experience, I am able to help my clients overview the situation and make changes, which will help them pass by the disturbing obstacles. My social justice education will also be critical in my career, because it zooms in my view and lets me see a bigger picture of personal networks, see how all the systems work together and intersect with each other. Moreover, it gives me the tool to help my clients to be aware of those inequity and even challenge some of these unjust systems.
Where have you been working/interning as a student, and what does that work entail?
Because I am an international student, I have mainly volunteered in this country. My only working experience was the time I became a care giver in a residential home. This experience made me realize how blind people can be and how much damage stereotypes can cause. This work entailed me to communicate with transparency and confrontations. I learned that sometimes people may not be aware of the microaggressions they conducted, but once you tell them, they are willing to apologize and change.
What is the most fun part of your program?
I think the most fun is class discussions. I get to hear lots of amazing ideas, personal experience, and even to surprise other students by sharing my own opinions and/or experience. It’s fun and important as a learning process.
What is the hardest part of your program?
The hardest part for me would be my language. Counseling is a communication work playing with language, and the school requires tons of readings. English is my second language, my vocabulary and grammar usually pull me back and slow me down while I am learning or practicing MCFT.
How would you describe your graduate school experience in one sentence?
I am honored to be in this warm, friendly, refreshing, comfortable, professional program.
Who has been your most influential professor, and why?
Lots of instructors are influential to me but I think Carmen would be the most influential professor for me, because she inspired me to look at the world from a unique angle and let me see a different way to do therapy. Her theories are inspiring, and her focus of social justice and diversity helped me understand myself better, which prepares me to be therapist.
What is a unique perspective you bring to your cohort?
As a student grew up in a different country, I believe my cultural experience and my view of this country from an outsider’s perspective are unique and valuable for my cohort.
What career will you be pursuing after graduation? Did you intend for this to be your career path when you enrolled?
I want to go to a Chinese or an Asian community and serve them as a family therapist. I did plan this before I entered the program.
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 been underestimating the amount of people who suffer and need help due to their gender identity for a long time. And I didn’t realize how harmful it can be if I say someone’s pronoun wrong. It’s a documentary video I watched in class and I was so shocked to hear those interviewees’ stories and see their numb or desperate faces. I then decided to learn and pay more attention to teens and/or young adults who are trying to explore and express their unique gender identity.
What do you think of Portland?
Portland is a beautiful city with friendly people and nice food. Portland is a white-dominant city but very diverse on gender and sexual orientation. I think compared to many other cities and states, Portland Oregon cares more about social justice which makes it a wonderful platform for people to pursue equity and equality.
Anything else you would like to add about your family, background, plans, etc.?
I am looking for a chance to volunteer and work for an Asian community that allows me to practice counseling in my own languages (i.e., Mandarin and Cantonese), in addition to English.