How does someone with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a background working in accounts payable end up as a director of counseling and advising?
“I never planned this. I couldn’t have pre-planned it,” says Robin Washington-White, Ph.D., who started at TCC Northwest over the summer. Her journey to this position was a long and winding path but one that has led her to a position she thinks is a perfect match for her skills and background. The director of counseling and advising oversees multiple units in Student Development Services including counseling, advising, success coaches, testing services, student accessibility resources and career services.
Shortly after Washington-White finished her bachelor’s degree, she found herself working what she thought was her dream job, in an accounts payable position with a company renowned as a great place to work. It didn’t take long for her to realize she was in the wrong field. “I was spending my whole day paying bills and crunching numbers. I realized I wanted to work with people,” she says.
Washington-White went back to school and began fostering children. To learn to better care for these children, she took some classes which ultimately led her to a master’s degree in Counseling from Amberton University and then a doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy/Counseling from Texas Woman’s University. Over the years, she and her husband have fostered 25 children and ended up adopting two. “When I look back, I wonder how I did that,” recalls Washington-White. “At one point, I was writing my dissertation and had foster kids at home. I had to lock myself in the closet to be able to get some writing done!”
While at TWU, Washington-White managed the day-to-day operations of the Counseling and Family Development Center, a training center for new counselors. From there, she accepted a position as a career counselor at Brookhaven College. In this role, she administered career assessments to students and then counseled them through the process of selecting which field to pursue. Once she started this work, she knew she’d found her passion. “You know, when you’re in your passion field, doors open for you,” she says. “After I found my passion, my career took off.” Indeed it did.
After her time at Brookhaven College, Washington-White became a faculty counselor at Cedar Valley College, teaching education and human development courses alongside her work as a counselor. She was in that role for seven years before being promoted to Dean of Student Success, a position she held for three years. As Dean of Student Success, Washington-White created a new division focused on student retention, including counseling, first-year experience programming, student mentoring and the college’s career center.
About a year ago, when she saw the Director of Counseling and Advising position open up at TCC Northwest, she knew it was a perfect match for her experience and credentials. “Aside from the opportunity to take on a new challenge and learn a new culture, I knew that not many people are Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and also are experienced in community college administration. This position is a great synthesis of my interests, skills, and abilities,” she says.
Jan Clayton, Ed.D., TCC Northwest’s vice president of student development services, agrees with that assessment. Clayton says, “Dr. Washington-White has been an excellent addition to TCC Northwest. She has a wealth of knowledge and ideas in areas such as career development, the first-year experience and counseling. Most importantly, Dr. Washington-White is genuinely committed to, and passionate about, supporting the success of TCC students and her team.”
Washington-White attributes her passion for working with students and her commitment to career counseling to her own experiences navigating a career change and then finding her calling. “I firmly believe that education is the key to success and that students need to be on the right career pathway,” she says. “Students need to know that the time, energy, and money they are putting into their education are building towards something meaningful to them.”
In her time outside of work, Washington-White is a grandmother to two and also dabbles in real estate by managing a few rental properties. You would think that she is busy enough with work, but she says, “All the repairs, screening new tenants, managing lease renewals — it keeps me occupied!”