Amanda McCarthy

Associate Professor and Program Coordinator in Interdisciplinary Health Professions, Rehabilitation Counseling

Amanda McCarthy

What year did you start working at NIU?

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
I grew up in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and I live in DeKalb now.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, B.S. in biology, biomedical science concentration
University of Wisconsin-Stout, M.S. in rehabilitation counseling, concentration in vocational evaluation Northern Illinois University, Ed.D. in counselor education and supervision

In which department(s) do you teach?
School of Interdisciplinary Health Professions

What do you like about working at NIU?
The students. I feel fortunate to have worked with hundreds of students who make me very hopeful for the future of my profession and the world. I enjoy building working relationships with students and seeing them progress toward their goals. Getting a front row seat to watch their development is very rewarding.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Your mental and physical health matter. Be kind to yourself and take care of yourself. It’s good to be ambitious with career goals but finding a balance between school, work and life is essential to being a professional. 

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
There is a big problem right now with retaining quality counselors, especially at state agencies. I’m working on a project now related to rehabilitation counselors’ intention to stay employed in their current job (vs. leaving for another position). What we are finding is that the interactions between the counselor and their supervisor seem to predict the counselor’s intention to stay. Different counselors want different things from their supervisors and different counselors are getting different things from their supervisors. We specifically looked at whether the interactions counselors want from their supervisors matches what they are actually getting. The closer the match between what they want and what they are getting, the more likely counselors are to stay. For example, counselors who are getting as much support from their supervisor as they want are more likely to want to stay employed in their agency. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, this helps us understand that good supervision may involve understanding and meeting counselor preferences. 

What do you hope students take away from your class?
Besides learning the course content, I hope they recognize that I care about their success. I want students to be successful. 

What is your favorite campus event?
This is a tough question because there are many. However, if I had to choose one it would be graduation. I love attending graduation to celebrate the huge accomplishment of earning a college degree. 

What is your favorite memory of NIU?
There is something about the start of each new semester that feels motivating. I always enjoy hearing the sounds of the Huskie Marching Band practicing as I am preparing for the new semester. It’s something about the fresh start and possibilities of a new semester that stick with me. 

Who has influenced your professional path?
My husband of 15 years, my kids, my former professors, my parents/in-laws, colleagues and siblings/siblings-in-law. They all have shaped me into who I am today. I find that everyone has something special to offer if you pay attention and are willing to learn from them. 

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I wanted to be a teacher. I was fortunate to have wonderful educators who encouraged me to do my best, be a kind human and not focus on comparing myself to other people. This advice sounds simple, but the value of having someone in your corner encouraging you when times are tough cannot be overstated. I am an educator today in my role as a professor and very much enjoy helping students find their passions and strengths within my profession. 

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
Yes, I am the editor-in-chief of the Vocational Evaluation and Career Assessment Professionals (VECAP) Journal. The VECAP Journal is the official peer-reviewed publication of the VECAP association, an organization that promotes quality career assessment for individuals with disability. Essentially, VECAP’s mission is to make sure that people with disabilities receive the information they need to make informed career choices, because all people deserve to live happy, satisfying lives and work is often a big part of the puzzle. My leadership role in VECAP helps bring national visibility to the rehabilitation counseling program here at NIU. I also have students serving as assistant editors, which gives them experience with the peer-review publication process and enhances their graduate education. 

What community organizations are you involved in?
The community organizations I’m involved with in this season of life focus on my kids and their interests—youth soccer league, cub scouts and library programs. 

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I enjoy spending silly, unstructured and quality time with my kids and my husband (without electronic devices). They make me laugh and teach me gratitude. I enjoy taking leisurely walks in the neighborhood and exploring local attractions (e.g., trails, parks). I also have a lot of hobbies including decluttering and organizing our home, meal planning and sourcing local food, and caring for flowers and veggies in the garden.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
My husband is also a professor here and our kids both go to the university daycare. We enjoy all the Huskie sporting events and have been season ticket holders for basketball. NIU is a great place and feels like home. I feel grateful to be part of such a wonderful community. Go Huskies.

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