On May 14, UW–Madison will celebrate its Spring 2022 Commencement. We reached out to a few of our students who are graduating from programs in the School of Education to learn about their favorite UW–Madison memories and future plans. Following is a Q&A with Dorcas Akinniyi Jansen, who is graduating with a PhD in counseling psychology.
Where are you from, and what brought you to UW–Madison?
I’m from Dallas, Texas, and came to Wisconsin as an undergraduate on a track and field scholarship. I competed in the heptathlon and pentathlon from 2008–2013. I majored in psychology and sociology as an undergraduate and then matriculated into the Counseling Psychology master’s program after taking a year off working for AmeriCorps.
After completing the master’s program I was still interested in receiving training to become a psychologist and was admitted into the Counseling Psychology PhD program.
Why did you decide to pursue graduate study?
I’m in the Counseling Psychology PhD program and decided to pursue graduate study to increase my effectiveness with clients. Entering the master’s program was motivated by a desire to work with minority college students who are attempting to succeed in an environment that is not always welcoming.
I have recently honed in on an interest in working with college student-athletes of color after missing the invigorating feel of college sports. I enjoyed my time as an athlete embedded in a program where energized community was everything, and I’m hoping to integrate that into my career.
What are your research interests?
My dissertation is on the academic achievement motivation of student-athletes of color.
What was your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison?
Outside of being a student-athlete, I have also enjoyed working for the Posse Program as a Posse Mentor. The Posse Program is a merit-based scholarship program that supports students from cities across the nation as they begin their collegiate careers.
I mentored 11 first-year students through their first two years at UW–Madison and informally even now. I worked with students from Washington, D.C., who also possessed minority identities, and it was an amazing opportunity to support students within a college setting that was not developed with their needs in mind.
"Try to recognize your struggle as a part of the process rather than internalizing it as something only you are going through. You are not an imposter; you just have to find your people who remind you that you are safe and secure right where you are."
What class or professor had the greatest impact on you, and why?
I have loved working with Dr. Alberta Gloria as a TA for Academic Enhancement Seminars. She is absolutely brilliant, patient, and kind and taught me what kind of instructor I wanted to be. She found a way to balance support for students with real-world, tangible skills, which I found to be masterful!
What advice would you give to incoming students?
Find a support network as soon as possible! College life is tough and incoming students are supposed to struggle. Try to recognize your struggle as a part of the process rather than internalizing it as something only you are going through. You are not an imposter; you just have to find your people who remind you that you are safe and secure right where you are.
What’s next for you? What are your plans for the future?
I will be completing a postdoctoral program at the University of California, Davis next year with a sport psychology emphasis. Hopefully in the future I will be able to find a job within an athletic department where I can continue providing mental health services to college student-athletes.
What will you miss most about UW?
I will miss the summers, going to the Memorial Union, walking down State Street, and hitting up the Dane County Farmers’ Market all in one day. Those were some of the most fun and carefree moments of my life, and I look forward to coming back for graduation to recreate it!