Advocacy Heroine: Dr. Donna Henderson
Interviewed by Sandi Logan, CSI Leadership Fellow and Professional Advocacy Committee Member; Beta Chapter, University of Florida
It was with great admiration that I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Donna Henderson, who is a counselor educator at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. In addition to being active in professional associations at the state, regional, and national levels, she has served as President of Chi Sigma Iota (CSI), as well as the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES). In 2010, she was recognized by the American Counseling Association as an ACA Fellow for her longstanding, exemplary leadership and service to the profession. She is a former teacher and professional school counselor, and holds designations as a Licensed School Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor. Her research interests focus on counseling children, particularly in the school setting, and issues related to counselor education and student development. She has presented at numerous professional counseling conferences and has been the author or co-author of many scholarly and collaborative publications. Forthcoming in its 9th edition, Dr. Henderson and colleague, Dr. Charles Thompson, have co-authored, Counseling Children.
When asked about how her advocacy efforts in the profession first came about, Dr. Henderson stated that it was more serendipitous than anything else. She described that, as problems emerged, one of the continuing opportunities was that of educating others about what we, as counselors, do and how we do it. Importantly, she explained that advocacy can take many forms, from educating and promoting awareness with an individual, to advocating for the profession at the national level. "Each person has the ability to advocacy in some way, and should decide what’s best for them and their clients.” I could not agree more with this perspective—every professional counselor has the ability to be an advocate.
Over the years, Dr. Henderson has learned that it is important to "stand firm.” What she meant by this is that we need to stand firm in our advocacy efforts when we can see that such efforts are leaning on the side of what’s in the best interests of the most people.
I quickly came to recognize in my conversation that Dr. Henderson is the type of leader to "Model the Way” as leadership experts Kouzes & Posner (2012) would say. She not only talks the talk, but she also walks the walk. She engages in advocacy efforts, just as she expects of her students. One of her ‘explanation points of advocacy’ is in watching her students and seeing their wonderful advocacy efforts. "I’ve got story after story about the amazing work they are doing…This makes it all worth it.” Her face lit up as she reminisced about a former student of hers who wrote her a letter after two years of working as a professional school counselor, venting about how frustrated she was by many of the policies and politics within her district. Consequently, the student decided to attend law school so that she could advocate for school reform that positively impacted the school counseling profession.
When asked about what particular advocacy efforts bring her the most personal satisfaction, Dr. Henderson proudly shared "watching my students step into their role as an advocate by far, brings me the most satisfaction.” Some of the advice that she believes is most important for students and professionals, alike, to hear is:
- Listen first and listen often
- Be open to others viewpoints
- Be intentional in your efforts
- Embrace flexibility
"I have come to respect that patience is key and timing is everything, and that includes advocacy.” - Dr. Donna Henderson
Originally posted April 25, 2015 at csi-net.org.