Follow Your Heart No Matter What
By Tiffany King
College of Coastal Georgia student Morgan Strickland hopes to be a positive influence in the lives others. Strickland, who is set to graduate December 2019, is pursuing a bachelor's degree in psychology at the College of Coastal Georgia. She plans to become a counselor and help people change their lives for the better.
Strickland, 25, lives in Camden but considers Brunswick her home. She graduated from Camden County High School in 2011 and enrolled at the College as a part-time student in 2013. Strickland took time off after high school to be with her grandmother.
"Her health was starting to decline and I wanted to savor my time with her and I'm really glad I did," Strickland said. "A lot of people feel that urge to jump right into college after high school, and I definitely felt that societal pressure. I dug deeper and asked myself what I really wanted to do. I realized I wanted to take a class or two, spend time with my grandmother, work, and not feel overwhelmed—go at my own pace. That's one thing I like about the College; I never felt pressured by my advisors to do more than what I could handle."
Strickland liked the close proximity of the College to her home where she felt safe and familiar. She also liked how the College transformed from a two-year community college into a four-year institution. Another bonus for her was the affordable tuition. Recently the College of Coastal Georgia was ranked the ninth Most Affordable Small College in the Nation by Student Loan Hero. Between scholarships and working while attending College part-time, Strickland hasn't incurred any debt.
"Having such affordable tuition rates makes it feasible," she said. "Having no student debt during my undergrad education was always a goal of mine."
Making a Career Out of Encouraging Others
With a little over a year left in college, Strickland is planning her next step—graduate school. She hopes to attend August State University to earn her master's degree and narrow down her specialization in counseling.
"I've been in counseling and it has drastically transformed my life for the better. I want to be able to do that for other people," she said. "I try to encourage other people and that's one thing people compliment me on the most, which positively reinforces my career choice."
Strickland works as a nanny and babysitter, and being around kids she feels drawn to counseling children, in particular girls who suffer from eating disorders. She's also interested in couples counseling, but won't make a definitive decision until graduate school. In the meantime, she's has plenty of psychology professors at the College to talk to about her future.
"I like that in the psychology department professors have different passions. If you're interested in monkeys, you know to go to Dr. Karen Hambright. If you're interested in research you go to Dr. James Pope," she said.
Strickland had the opportunity to be among the brightest psychologists and researchers in the country at the Southeastern Psychology Association conference in March, held in Charleston, S.C. She and classmate Kristen Phillips presented their group research project on "The Correlates of Shyness." Their research focused on the predictors of shyness in an individual. Their research found that sensitivity to punishment, mindful attention awareness, and sensory processing sensitivity—which estimates the sensitivity of one's nervous system—to be significantly correlated with shyness. Their project started in Dr. Pope's Research Methods class, with originally four group members. Dr. Pope encouraged students whose research was accepted into the SEPA conference to go for the experience. Strickland found the event to be very encouraging.
"All of these psychology-minded people get together every year and have a whole conference about research and people present what they've been doing. I felt like I was with my people. Everyone there was passionate about psychology. Everyone there was someone I could talk to," she said.
Pursue Your Passion
Attending the conference was a great moment for Strickland, especially since some people in her life have discouraged her from wanting to become a counselor.
"I remember being in the second grade and, though I didn't have the appropriate language at the time, I said I wanted to be a psychologist," she said. "Throughout my life, there were people who said, 'You don't want to do that. You're not going to make any money. The burn-out rate is ridiculous.' The one I heard the most was 'You're going to lose your sparkle.' It made me second guess if this was something I really wanted to do with my life—and it is."
Once Strickland stopped paying attention to the naysayers and made the decision to work towards becoming a counselor, she never felt more positive about her education. When it comes to choosing a career path, she advises her fellow classmates to follow their hearts.
"I love it when people pursue their passion and are not afraid of what that means for their financial future," she said. "You don't go into any service-working field (like counseling) for the money. You do it because it's in your heart and you want to make a difference and change the world."
During her time at the College, Strickland said she gained more confidence in herself—which she attributes to her faith—learned the importance of work-life balance, and found a passion for learning.
"In high school I wasn't fired up about my education and I didn't have perspective about how privileged I am to live in America and have the opportunities to go to college. I realized I loved college, I love learning, and being able to say as a student 'Yes I know that!' I never had that in high school and I found that at the College."
Strickland also serves as vice president of the Psychology Club and is a member for the Golden Key Honour Society.