Christa Brandenburg named Outstanding Graduate Student
for release: May 20 , 2010
MONMOUTH – In many ways, Christa Brandenburg represents the typical Western Oregon University student. She has made major sacrifices in order to earn pursue her dream of a master’s in rehabilitation counseling. She is unlike many of the students, in that she has a 20-year career behind her. Brandenburg, this year’s Outstanding Graduate Student, has answered her calling to help veterans dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues.
“Making life changes and letting go of what’s going well–in order to pursue that singular calling all of us have–takes a lot. I think at Western there are probably more students than not who are overcoming obstacles both personally and financially to get a college education,” she said.
Brandenburg has held several positions throughout her career in helping people with these crises, such as a counselor and case manager, most recently for Serenity Lane in Salem. Up to this point her bachelor degree in fine art and a year-long counseling internship leading to state and national certification as an addictions counselor have sufficed, but she wanted to move to the next level of professionalism to better help her patients.
Throughout the graduate program, Brandenburg has taken every opportunity to continue working with the populations that she’s always been dedicated to. From September through mid-February she worked as an advanced practicum student and intern at the Veteran’s Reintegration Center in Eugene. She worked primarily with women dealing with psychiatric disabilities, mostly post-traumatic stress. Her interests are in wellness, stress reduction and mindfulness meditation and she used tools in those areas to help her clients.
“I’ve taken my interest in wellness and recovery aspects of addiction treatment, and interest in working with veterans and their families, and folded them together in most projects that I did,” she said. “The need is so great right now. That’s really what pulled me in to get the master’s degree. They really need people who have a heart for it, especially with the addictions piece.”
Since February, she has been at WOU’s Student Health & Counseling Center completing her internship. She’s been working with students providing counseling, doing academic risk assessments, and providing alcohol and drug screenings for students.
Brandenburg’s faculty will miss her dedication in and outside of the classroom. Kim Poage and Dr.’s Julia Smith, Linda Keller, Chung-Fan Ni and Hank Bersani wrote jointly in a letter of support for this award, “Ms. Brandenburg always goes the extra mile in completing every assignment and activity. Her enthusiasm for the learning process is contagious. She is a conscientious and prepared student who constantly seeks ways to relate course material to real-life application. In the classroom, she comes prepared and willingly speaks up as a leader in raising pertinent issues and asking questions which add to the overall learning environment for all of the students.”
Now that Brandenburg is completing her master’s, she’s applied for counseling positions with the Veterans Administration, helping veterans reintegrate. Then she is considering entering a doctoral program in fall 2011, continuing a career path that includes research, policy and teaching.
The outstanding Graduate Student Award honors a student who has demonstrated superior achievements in scholarship and academics, character, leadership, and initiative during graduate studies.
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