Over the course of her time at the College of Education, Janice Byrd, a doctoral candidate in Counselor Education and Supervision, has shown a dedication to advancing diversity initiatives through her research, outreach, and graduate work.

Byrd, from Branchville, South Carolina, served as professor Sherry Watt’s graduate assistant in her efforts as the University of Iowa’s Chief Diversity Office Inaugural Faculty Fellow.

“Working with Dr. Watt was, and still is, one of the best experiences I’ve had as a student. Her commitment to diversity, students, the college, and the university permeates through everything she does,” says Byrd. “She serves as a perfect example of the type of faculty member I hope to become.”

Through her position, Byrd assisted with many projects, including co-facilitating diversity trainings across campus and collaborating on projects and initiatives with the Chief Diversity Office.

“Assisting with tasks related to the Building Community initiative within the College of Education and observing the growth of a place that I call home is heartwarming,” says Byrd. “I feel that to be a part of such an initiative is groundbreaking for the college. I hope it continues to develop, that all voices regardless of status show up and share genuinely, and that as a result positive relationships are formed and strengthened.”

Byrd notes that her work with the Chief Diversity Office allowed her to see firsthand the programs in place to assist historically marginalized students with smooth transitions to college. Currently, she explores how school counselors can impact positive outcomes for these students and constantly evaluate their role in creating a college-going culture in K-12 educational settings.

Scholarship Recipient

Byrd says that because of their shared identities — black and female — being able to observe Watt’s demeanor and the way she collaborates and navigates certain situations was especially important. The work she did with Watt, a professor in Higher Education and Student Affairs, also ties into Byrd’s scholarship.

“My research interests focus on the high school to college transition of students from marginalized populations. Working with higher education researchers and staff helps me paint a vivid picture of services for retention and preparation to share with school counselors,” says Byrd.

“My goal is to investigate the role school counselors play in promoting social justice.”

“As a researcher and future counselor educator, my goal is to investigate the role school counselors play in promoting social justice, leadership, and increasing their level of multicultural competency,” says Byrd. “ I hope to specifically focus on promoting advocacy with respect to culturally competent and efficacious school counseling services for marginalized students.”

Byrd will graduate in December and move to Ohio to begin a tenure-track academic position at Kent State University. Byrd says she’s looking forward to teaching future counselors and impacting students’ lives. She says that her long-term career goal is to start her own program that would focus on young girls of color and their personal, social, academic, and career development, and provide them extra support to reach their goals.

“I see myself as someone who can plant a seed,” says Byrd. “I’m hoping that I have that kind of impact in someone’s life, because I know there have been many people who have had that impact on my life and my career and who constantly stressed the importance of paying it forward.”