Student writer Andrea Day contributed to this story.
Jessica Gonzalez, an assistant professor at Colorado State University, was awarded the 2018 Multiculturalism and Social Justice Advocate Award by the Rocky Mountain Association for Counselor Education and Supervision at its recent conference. Nominated by fellow professors and past supervisees for her outstanding teaching and research in multicultural counseling, Gonzalez was the first recipient of the new award.
Gonzalez is a tenure-track faculty member in the School of Education’s Counseling and Career Development master’s program. Her research focuses on multicultural issues in counseling, client outcome in inpatient and outpatient counseling and mindfulness interventions for individuals with health disparities and their caregivers.
“Seeing the meaning behind this award through students’ reactions pushes me to keep doing what I’m doing,” said Gonzalez. “I’ve always perceived counseling as something that helps people become the best version of how they see themselves – not how I see them. Rather, whatever their goal is, whatever they want to achieve, I want to help them through that journey. Regardless of the award, I hold onto that.”
A place for innovation and inspiration
Gonzalez shared an experience with a student who approached her after the award ceremony at the conference.
“After I got the award, one of the doctoral students who identified as Latino came to me and told me that it was great to see representation because he hadn’t seen a Latina professor doing my kind of work before,” she said. “He said it was inspirational. I got teary-eyed – I wasn’t expecting that. But it helped me realize that now I am able to be a mentor to other people through the visibility of this award.”
Impacting the future of counseling
Gonzalez focuses her teaching on how to respond to a client whose values differ from their own. She also works toward providing bilingual services to the School of Education.
“Since I’ve started at CSU, I’ve been putting into motion the act of providing Spanish-speaking counseling services through being able to supervise counseling students who speak Spanish,” she said.
Gonzalez’s research currently addresses short-term meditation interventions for caregivers of people with cancer, Alzheimer’s and mental illness, as well as those who care for stroke survivors. She has hosted various workshops for the Fort Collins caregiving community. Her next steps include expanding meditation workshops to reach Spanish-speaking caregivers, hoping to help provide relief for those who, due to language or cultural barriers, might not be able to find it otherwise.
Looking forward to building awareness
Gonzalez looks forward to furthering diversity and multicultural development at CSU. She hopes to grow so she can continue to be a mentor for those in the Latino community.
“The next step is interviewing Spanish-speaking caregivers and seeing if they’re interested in meditation intervention,” said Gonzalez. “Part of it is finding a balance, because I want to advocate for underserved populations, and at the same time, I don’t just want to come in and tell them, ‘I’m an expert; this is what I think you need.’ I want them to tell me what they need.”
While she celebrates the honor of the award, Gonzalez doesn’t plan to take a break from her own personal development in multicultural competence.
“It’s a constant development,” she said. “Because I do this work and got this award doesn’t mean I don’t have any room to grow and increase my own knowledge and awareness. It’s a constant, everyday thing that I work on, and it’s something that I will never stop working on.”
RMACES focuses on the different ways to improve and contribute to the education of counselors, supervisors, graduate students, and faculty members who improve the practice of counseling. Covering New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, RMACES hosts a biennial conference to offer innovative presentations and recognize the talent of today’s counselors.
The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.