Graduate Student Spotlight - Hilary Eaton

Kristin Wyninegar, NASPA IV-W Graduate Student Representative

November 27, 2017

Hometown: Rapid City, South Dakota

Graduate Institution: South Dakota State University (SDSU), Brookings, SD

Degree you are working towards: Masters of Science in Clinical Mental Health

Undergraduate Institution: Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD

Previous Institutions: South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SD Mines), National American University (NAU)

Why you chose your graduate institution: I chose my graduate institution because of the Counseling and Human Resource Development program, which has an emphasis in Clinical Mental Health. South Dakota State University has a satellite program in Rapid City, where I live; therefore, it was the deciding factor for me to pursue my Masters degree through this institution. I also plan on residing in Rapid City post graduation in December, so it was dually important to for me to attend the ‘west river’ program because of the infrastructure I already have in place for myself.

Why you wanted to go to graduate school: After I had finished my undergraduate degree in Psychology, I found myself working in a few different places that used my degree, first as a Residential Treatment Counselor at the Children’s Home, and then a Director of Student Success at National American University that followed. While I did enjoy my time working in these positions, and still feel fortunate that I could find work using the degree I worked hard to attain, I wanted more. I missed being a student, and in each role I had I wanted to have more influence on the betterment of people I worked with, and began seeking a program that could give me a broader set of intellectual tools. Thankfully, there was a relatively new program at the University Center in my city that had a curriculum very much in line with what I was looking for, and I can say that as I come to the end of the program, I am grateful in having the opportunity to make that choice.

What area(s) of Student Affairs interest you most and why: I am most interested in working in the Counseling Department especially upon completion of my Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health. Understanding students’ needs and ways of responding is the most important goal for College Counselors in helping students cope and work through life transitions. When traditional college students enter academia the primary task of these young adults is establishing an autonomous identity separate from parents and caregivers, while still maintaining a close bond. Students may encounter loneliness and isolation, which may be amplified by physical distance from support systems. Counseling services provide opportunities for students to share their experiences, thereby, enhancing support systems and fostering appropriate coping skills. College students are often confronted with considerable pressure to achieve, not only good grades, but also to make progress in decisions regarding future careers and obtaining the necessary educational background to be successful.

The profound and unexpected stress of college can not only impact one’s emotional state, but also take a toll on concentration and academic functioning. Without proper support from student affair professionals and campus services, students may withdraw from college, enter financial repayment, may default on loans, and have no credentials to show for their hard work. To achieve these goals we will need to learn how to make colleges supportive to meet the needs of all students. I enjoy working with all students as they grow, develop, and work through life’s many transitions. I have a desire to assist in the growth and development of college students, but also my own willingness to continue growing and developing in my abilities to meet the needs of our students. Learning experiences, however challenging, always lead to a more satisfying way of viewing life. And if I am to facilitate the personal growth of others, then I too must grow.

A memorable moment working with your students at your assistantship: The bulk of my time outside of classwork was spent at South Dakota School of Mines, first as a Graduate Assistant and then as a Counseling Intern. While there, I have fallen into multiple roles in different departments; whether it be proctoring tests, helping the scheduling department, assisting the Dean of Students, or filling any role needed in the Counseling Department itself. When I started as a Graduate Assistant, I worked the front desk of the Department, helping schedule counseling sessions and accommodated testing. It has been closer to a year since I have been assisting at the front desk of the office, until last week when the office was low on staff so I helped out to help make sure things ran smoothly. While there, a regular student to our office came in, and the first thing they said when they saw me back in my “old spot” was that they missed seeing me there. They were immediately excited to catch me up on how they were doing, curious on how I was, and quickly segueing into deeper more meaningful conversation. I realized then, that in all of the varied roles I have been in, with the multitudes of students and clients I have worked with, that my presence had not gone unnoticed. Though it may be a subtle, seemingly inconsequential moment, it was clear I had made an impression on this person, and thankfully a positive one. In a program as intensive as the one I am completing, it is easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees, but through that interaction, I got a reminder of why I entered this program in the first place: to find ways to positively impact those around me. 

What are your hobbies: Reading; spending time with my significant other, Chris, and my pug, Chunk; Yoga; eating good food; travelling; playing Skyrim and Pokémon; and watching Pride and Prejudice and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy on a consistent basis.

What is your dream job: While I love and aspire to make a positive impact on the people that I work with, my dream job would be to run a Pug Rescue or Sanctuary.

What/who is your spirit animal: This is easy: I’m finishing my masters program that I have worked tirelessly on for three years… If my spirit animal represented my needs and hopes, it would without a doubt be a sloth, because let’s be honest: who doesn’t love a solid nap?

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