News & Stories
Christine Waters
October 14, 2022

A Network of College Mentors Inspired a Doctoral Student’s Research and Goals

What do social psychology, college residence halls and theatre makeup have in common? For Christy Waters ’16, they represent a collection of college experiences that led her to pursue a doctorate in counselor education and supervision from Mercer University. As Waters looks ahead, she can’t help but look back on the network of Berry mentors who helped her integrate her interests and grow to where she is today.

When Waters started at Berry, she knew she wanted to study psychology. She had an early fascination with how people’s minds work. Associate Professor of Psychology Victor Bissonnette’s courses on social psychology and a special topics course, Intimate Relationships, opened her eyes to new ways of thinking. Today, her research on non-traditional relationships is an extension of that early academic interest.

“I focus on counselor education and non-traditional relationships,” explains Waters. “The state of Georgia requires training for career counseling, but there are no education requirements for many topics counselors deal with daily, like sexuality. My research has an advocacy piece. We don’t have enough counselors already, and many are burned out because they’re not equipped to do their work.”

Waters is helping prepare the next generation of counselors by creating a crisis simulation training that includes these topics. In fact, her Berry experience also influenced the educational method she is now using in this research. Her job as a resident assistant (RA) introduced her to a training program that allows RAs to play out different scenarios before they are on the job. While pursuing her master’s degree, Waters began to wonder why counselors do not receive similar “role-play” training opportunities before starting clinical practice.

 She also dreams of advising students as a professor — following the example of Associate Professor of Psychology Susan Conradsen and Associate Professor of Theatre Alice Bristow, who were deeply invested in her future. Conradsen coached Waters to go to conferences and continues to reach out with opportunities nearly a decade after graduation.

Bristow equipped her for the future in ways she never expected. “In counseling, you are acting a little bit,” muses Waters about her minor in theatre. “You must leave yourself and your issues outside and think about someone else. It can feel like improv and can require quick thinking.”

The theatre department also created a course for Waters and a few other students interested in special effects makeup. Now, Waters runs a hair and makeup business as a side gig while earning her doctorate.

With Berry mentors in mind, she aims to use her collection of real-world experiences in psychological nonprofit work and in the clinical setting to help psychology students find their direction one day.

“Berry professors shaped me and my career aspirations,” expresses Waters with deep gratitude. “It was the best four years of my life, and Berry developed me into the person I am today.”

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