Counselor Education and Supervision doctoral students Jennifer Ojiambo Isiko and Stephanie Maccombs were awarded scholarships from the Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW), a division of the American Counseling Association.
Both scholarships provided funding to attend the ASGW conference in Dorado, Puerto Rico, from January 31-February 2, 2020.
Isiko was the first student to receive The Rex Stockton Scholarship, a new award to support an international student to attend the ASGW conference. Isiko is a first-year doctoral student from Uganda.
Isiko described winning the Rex Stockton Scholarship as her “greatest gift for the year 2020.”
“As an international student, it was an adventure for me to visit the Island of Puerto Rico,” said Isiko. “I enjoyed the weather, which I found to be very similar to Uganda. I also enjoyed the conference; I learned some creative ideas about working with groups.”
Isiko holds a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda, and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Social Administration from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.
As she continues her doctoral studies, Isiko said she is interested in “improving marginalized groups’ quality of life through counseling and advocacy.”
Much of Isiko’s experience is concentrated in counseling and working to assist socially and economically disadvantaged groups in Uganda. She has directed and coordinated numerous organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life in vulnerable communities.
Isiko most recently worked as the director of Hand in Hand Uganda (HIHU), where she counseled and advocated on behalf of economically disadvantaged families and parents of children with disabilities. She was also a counselor at the International Justice Mission, where she worked with widows and orphans.
From 2016-2019, alongside her work with HIHU and the International Justice Mission, Isiko was a program coordinator for Triumph Uganda, a mental health support and recovery program for people with psychosocial disabilities. There, she conducted research on the extent to which girls and young women benefit from existing reproductive and sexual health services.
“Professionally, I have worked with people going through intense psychosocial turmoil who require therapy and advocacy,” Isiko said. “As a direct provider of counseling, what I am doing will contribute to alleviating this turmoil.”
During the 2000s, Isiko worked with numerous initiatives to coordinate programs to provide counseling and financial aid to Uganda communities affected by HIV and AIDS.
Attending the ASGW conference was valuable to Isiko, who sees herself conducting and overseeing training for practicing and prospective counselors after she receives her Ph.D.
Maccombs is a third-year doctoral student and Ohio University alumna. She was awarded the Barbara Gazda Scholarship, which supports and encourages outstanding students and new professionals to attend the ASGW conference.
“It is an honor to receive the Barbara Gazda Scholarship,” Maccombs said. “The financial assistance is certainly helpful and appreciated, and I am proud to be a part of an organization who values the professional advancement of students like me.”
During her time as a doctoral student, Maccombs’ focus has been on co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Her dissertation, which she successfully defended on Feb. 13, explores the predictors of problematic alcohol and drug use among undergraduate college students.
Maccombs will be a three-time Ohio University graduate in May, when she will officially receive her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision. In 2017, she earned a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health/Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling. In 2015, she graduated summa cum laude and earned bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Sociology-Criminology.
At the ASGW conference, Maccombs was able to present her doctoral research alongside her advisor, Dr. Christine Suniti Bhat.
“The conference was valuable in many ways,” Maccombs said. “I was able to gain experience presenting at a national-level conference, network with other renowned leaders in the field, and learn about innovative group work interventions that I can utilize.”
Maccombs is a certified Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC), and Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant (CDCA). She has been a counselor at Ohio University Counseling and Psychological Services for over a year.
Alongside her doctoral research, Maccombs worked at Hopewell Health Centers in New Lexington, Ohio, as a Chemical Dependency Case Manager and Assessment Specialist, a Medication Assisted Treatment Care Team Counselor, and a Medication Assisted Treatment Counseling Intern.
“I primarily worked with local drug court programs and with medical professionals who prescribed medications to assist people in discontinuing opioid use, known as medication-assisted treatment,” Maccombs said.
Maccombs has also co-instructed several Ohio University classes, workshops, and a master’s-level internship course.
After she earns her Ph.D., she plans to continue working as a counselor and hopes to one day become a faculty member in the Counselor Education program at Ohio University.
“I will receive the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Counselor Education this May so that I can help shape the next wave of counselors who want to help their friends, family, and communities,” said Maccombs.
In 2019, Maccombs was recognized in a Student Success Story for her article, “Group counseling for clients receiving medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorders,” which was published in Counseling Today.
Earning scholarships to attend the 2020 ASGW Conference was valuable to both Isiko and Maccombs and their career paths. It was both students’ first visit to Puerto Rico.
“I was able to explore the island of Puerto Rico, experience the culture, and better understand the resilience of the people there, as they have endured hurricanes, earthquakes, and political issues,” Maccombs said. “This was also my first conference outside of the United States, so it’s one I’ll never forget!”