Kelsey Wendland (she/her/hers)
Graduation Year: 2014
Program/Degree: BS in Psychology, BA in English, Minor in WSGS & MA of Social Work from the University of Kansas
Current Job/Position: Youth Therapist at a Community Mental Health Center in Kansas City, KS
Where have you found yourself and what career goals have you pursued since graduating from Loyola? Where do you see yourself heading in the next several years?
Since graduating from Loyola, I have worked in the social work field and obtained my Master’s in Social Work, which allows me to practice as a mental health therapist. I have worked professionally with youth in a few different capacities, such as providing social work services to high schoolers struggling with homelessness or otherwise not living with their parent(s). For the past 3 years, I have been employed as a Youth Therapist for a community mental health center in a racially and socioeconomically diverse area of Kansas City. In this time, I have come to specialize in providing therapy to children and families who have experienced psychological trauma, such as child abuse and neglect. I am trained in play therapy as well. In the next several years, I would like to continue working as a therapist with kids and families to hone my clinical skills and perhaps teach an adjunct course at an MSW program.
How did the Women’s and Gender Studies (WSGS) program impact your career success and life overall?
My education with the WSGS program has allowed me to apply intersectional feminist and critical theory to my work with therapy clients and the broader county that my agency serves. For example, many of my clients are in therapy to heal after surviving sexual abuse—I use the theories studied in my WSGS classes to provide context for myself and my clients to process their trauma with them. With this WSGS-influenced lens, I can better understand factors that contribute to my clients’ health and their experience of trauma—both individually and at the community and cultural levels.
On a personal level, my WSGS education has empowered me to embrace parts of myself I grew up ashamed of and appreciate critical thinking more broadly. It has enhanced my ability to empathize and place sacred value on being one’s authentic self. I can definitely say my relationship with my partner and my ability to support friends and family is strengthened because of so many of the things I learned through the WSGS program.
What was your favorite course/project you took part in whilst being a part of the WSGS program?
It’s difficult to choose! One of my favorite courses was my very first WSGS class, Women in Literature with Dr. Susanne Bost. The focus or theme for the course was women in the domestic sphere and the cult of domesticity. It was powerful (and, to a college freshman, mind-blowing!) the ways that she interwove so many different themes around gender and intersectionality through the texts that we read.
Do you have any fond memories of your experience within the program? If so, please elaborate.
Another class I took for my WSGS minor was Psychology of Sex and Gender. I remember being so interested in and excited by all the research we learned about related to sex and gender. I would get so enthused about topics we covered that I’d frequently tell my friends about what I’d learned. All semester long (and still sometimes to this day), my friends would tease me for the amount of times I started sentences with the phrase “Studies have shown that… [fill in the blank about some research that supports how gender is a social construct].” A funny and fond memory to look back on because it reminds just how excited I felt to be learning about something I had so much passion for.
Do you feel as though your WSGS degree has guided you towards a more fulfilling career path?
Absolutely! I think my WSGS studies led me to gravitate toward working with people who experience oppression—sort of as a way to steward the privilege that I have with my professional degree. As a result, I specialize in working with clients and families who have experienced gender-based violence such as sexual abuse or domestic violence as well as clients who identify as trans or non-binary. Knowing that I’m not just supporting individual healing in my job with clients but also hopefully breaking cycles of oppression and gender-based violence is one of the most fulfilling aspects of my work.
In what ways has your WSGS education helped prepare you to be a more engaged global citizen and local neighbor?
It has definitely helped me engage more as a global citizen and local neighbor through my career and focus as a therapist. Within my personal life, it has increased my mindfulness not only of gender and sexuality-based oppression but also of other intersectional identities that are marginalized. I think that the ways that my WSGS classes focused on intersectionality paved the way for me—as a white, college-educated American—to expand my understanding and value for social justice and human rights beyond just gender-related concerns since I’ve graduated. It gave me the thinking skills that I’ve continued using to grow in most areas of my life.
What advice would you offer to current or prospective WSGS students?
Give space for yourself to speak up in class, but also leave room for others’ if you already have plenty. When imposter syndrome is rearing its ugly head, remember you belong here and your insight is wanted and needed. AND, at the same time, remember that your experience is not universal, so you may not automatically understand what others express and experience and vice versa—challenge yourself to believe what your peers are expressing and trust that they’ll do the same. Also, it is EASY to incorporate and meet the requirements for the interdisciplinary minor and so worth it.