Shannon Williamson ('08, '10) | Clinical Psychology

Shannon Williamson

B.S., Psychology, 2008; M.S., Clinical Psychology, 2010
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

When Shannon Williamson learned that her family's home in New Orleans had been hit by Hurricane Katrina, she was devastated. But as the ACU community reached out to her, she found not only comfort, but a calling. Part of Shannon's decision to become a counselor stemmed from her experiences dealing with the tragedy that had struck her hometown. And, according to her, it was a good choice.

"I thought it would be a good fit for me, and I was right," she said.

Shannon came to ACU looking for a place that would not only encourage academic growth, but would also nourish her spiritually.

Nourishing the soul

"I was really looking for something nurturing and wanted to go to a Christian school," she said. "I wanted to go to a place that would foster my spiritual life."

While at ACU, Shannon found a niche in the Residence Life program as a resident assistant in the freshman and sophomore dormitories. She also led annual spring break campaigns - one of which involved taking ACU students back to help re-construct her home town of New Orleans.

"I really found a community that I could plug into," she said.

For her, one of the best parts about ACU was the interaction with caring and dedicated faculty and staff. Shannon discovered that professors and staff members weren't just interested in her academic well-being, but also wanted to impact her spiritual growth.

"The part that impacted me the most was the amazing faculty and staff," she said. "They want to help you figure out how to be the person God created you to be."

Shannon recognizes that this close rapport between faculty and students is unique. And she appreciates the difference it made in her life.

"It's rare to find a place where professors will take time out of their schedules and go have coffee with you or sit down and talk about God," she said.

On to graduate studies

When she graduated in 2008 with a bachelor's degree in psychology, Shannon just wasn't ready to leave yet. With ACU's master's program in psychology, she felt she had a place where she already fit in.

"I already knew the faculty and had a place in the community," she said. "And a master's was really key to my success in this field."

She served as a graduate assistant to Dr. McKelvain of the psychology department, grading, tutoring, and occasionally teaching when necessary. She also helped faculty members with special projects that needed a little extra manpower.

"It really introduced me to the life of a university graduate student," she said.

Shannon also worked on her graduate thesis, which examined how different religious beliefs affect how the sexes behave towards each other. She analyzed benevolent sexism, or underlying attitudes and ideas that affect behavior, as well as hostile or obvious sexism.

"I wanted to see how Scripture and how we read the Bible affects how sexist we are," she said.

Sharing coping skills

Her work in psychology, as well as the time she spent as a resident assistant, helped her gain a position at Dillard University in New Orleans as an instructor in the Center for the First Year Experience. Shannon works with freshman students, integrating them to university life and teaching them the skills they'll need to succeed in their college careers.

"It's great to be able to help students make that transition - to help them balance home life and school and social life," she said. "It's worked out really well."

She also loves being back in her hometown.

"I love being back in New Orleans - I can't imagine being anywhere else," she said. "Plus, I have all these fabulous cultural events to go to."

For Shannon, this job brings back memories of her struggle to cope at ACU when tragedy struck - and those memories include a community of loving and supportive people who helped her through that difficult time. One of her goals is to help her students in just the same way.

"I feel like when I was at ACU during Hurricane Katrina, my professors helped me out, and that experience helps me relate to my students," she said.

But no matter where she works or how much she loves her new location, Shannon's loyalty always lies with ACU.

"I always tell my students that I'm spoiled," she said. "I think my alma mater is the best."


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