Byeolbee Um wants to support historically underrepresented students through qualified school counseling services. That’s why she decided to pursue her doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Supervision at the University of Iowa College of Education.
Um grew up in Gunpo, a small city near Seoul, South Korea. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Seoul National University of Education. While working toward her degree, Um was engaged in an organized and systematic training to become an educator, which helped her develop her calling as an advocate for students and educators.
She then went on to earn a master’s degree in counselor education at the same institution while simultaneously working as an elementary school teacher for five years. The school Um taught at was a public elementary school located in an area where many students had various cognitive, emotional, and social needs.
“This work experience led me to realize the importance of school counseling and the necessity of relevant resources and support for student development,” Um says.
Additionally, while assisting several research projects in her master’s program, Um became fascinated with designing and conducting research for schools.
“I wanted to keep learning more about school counseling and develop my own research projects to support underserved students,” Um says.
These combined experiences influenced Um to pursue a doctorate at Iowa.
“The primary reason that I chose the University of Iowa is because of its research-intensive atmosphere,” Um says. “I knew that our program is qualified and nationally recognized, given that the Iowa alumni in our field have done wonderful jobs in teaching, research, leadership, and services.”
As an international student, Um also felt Iowa was particularly equipped to support her success.
“It was attractive to me that the department and faculty understand diverse cultural issues and living difficulties that international students usually encounter because our program has many international colleagues and alumni,” Um says.
Now in the midst of the doctoral program, Um has been involved with many research projects about school counselors’ and counseling students’ professional development and wellness. Her research agenda broadly encompasses school counselor burnout, counseling students’ professional identity, scale validation, and first-generation students’ development.
As a way to support school counselors and underrepresented students, Um is preparing for her dissertation about the impact of personal and organizational factors of school counselor burnout and work engagement, such as professional identity and school climate.
“I hope to contribute to improving school counseling training and research,” Um says.
While at Iowa, Um has found much success. She has received four grant awards from national and regional professional counseling organizations and has also been awarded four research and travel grants and one scholarship from the College of Education.
Still, Um’s favorite part of her graduate school experience so far has been collaboration.
“Being a member of a large college community has given me valuable opportunities to share my passion with others and work with them collaboratively to contribute to the academia and community.”
Um has eight journal articles in print or in press so far and says most of them are the result of collaborative work with professors and fellow doctoral students in her department. Additionally, working as a research assistant at the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health has provided Um with the opportunity to develop professional connections with diverse staff and researchers across the College of Education.
Involvement on campus has also been a highlight for Um, who serves as a member of the International Student Advisory Board and as treasurer of Chi Sigma Iota, a professional organization for counseling students.
Since the Fall 2021 semester, Um has been completing her school counseling practicum. She says this has been a great opportunity for her to experience and compare the school counseling systems of two different countries.
After receiving her doctoral degree, Um wants to make an impact on the field of counselor education by continuing to conduct her research and educating school counseling professionals.