Academic Programs / Social Justice

Evolving Career Goals: Discovering the ‘Social Justice’ in Sport & Health Psych

Dillon Waschenbach is an Adler University student identifying his personal and career goals while completing the Master’s in Counseling: Sport and Health Psychology program.

I had already identified where I wanted to start my career and what population I wanted to serve before enrolling at Adler University. I was dead set on working in an athletic department with college students. I aspired to help them mitigate daily stressors, both in their sport and personal lives. However, my notion of social justice — the university’s cornerstone — and its applicability to sport was murky. I did not plan on advocating for a more just society.

But while chipping away my first year of coursework in the Master’s in Counseling Sport and Health Psychology (MASH) program, my career outlook evolved. Two specific experiences sparked new ideas for me: My Social Justice Practicum (SJP), and a core requisite called Contemporary Issues in Sport.

My SJP experience enhanced my societal and community outlook, reinforcing the reasons I decided to pursue a master’s degree in counseling. I joined fellow students in schools throughout Chicago, where we facilitated group activities and held one-on-one motivational interviewing sessions. It was evident from the start that each of the schools struggled due to lack of resources, and the students were paying the price. They were not getting enough attention, let alone the motivation to graduate or pursue continued educational opportunities, such as college degrees.

My group’s goal was to help students find and capitalize on opportunities for success; connect with their peers; and be comfortable in their learning environments. Our undeniable impact on then fueled me — I wish to, one day, expand our program throughout the region and country.

This idea inspired me to research funding sources for new stadiums and arenas during my Contemporary Issues in Sport course. My final project paired those findings with information about impact such facilities had on their communities. What did I discover? Most of the tax money spent on the centers stemmed from the state, rather than their respective neighborhoods. The perks were, therefore, not as lucrative as project coordinators suggested: Only a small fraction of taxpayers who funded each space were even able to access it. When everyone is paying for these stadiums, why do owners or curators rarely, if ever, open them up to the greater communities? I proposed leveraging stadiums for event use, exercise venues, neighborhood meetups, and more.

My experiences at Adler have spurred curiosity, questions and, thereafter, potential solutions that have ultimately led to my evolution both as a graduate student and future counseling professional. I can and should aspire to ignite positive change in society. While rewarding, working exclusively with college athletes suddenly seems limiting; and community engagement, limitless. I strive to spearhead a group effort to counsel not only students, but the communities serving as their foundation. It’s now clear that despite my future job title, I will commit to spurring beneficial changes throughout society.