Dacia Johnson has over 20 years working in the field of rehabilitation. She has spent 15 of those in the public sector, helping individuals with disabilities obtain and maintain employment. While working in the public sector, she has taken an active role in the policy, planning, management, and administration of vocational rehabilitation programs.
In addition to her work in the field, Dacia works as an adjunct faculty member for PSU’s Counselor Education program, where she teaches new professionals entering into the field of rehabilitation case management principles and techniques.
How did you transition into the field after your graduate studies?
One of my first contacts in the field of vocational rehabilitation was Dr. Tina Anctil. She encouraged me to apply for a job working in vocational rehabilitation in the public sector and I was fortunate enough to get hired on as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. I immediately felt like it was a great fit for my values and passion for the field of vocational rehabilitation. I had an interest in advancing into a leadership role and sought advancement opportunities and experiences wherever I could identify them. Obtaining my graduate degree was an essential component to my ability to advance in my career.
What has proven to be the most useful thing you learned while at the GSE?
Solid counseling skills and a good understanding of your values and therapeutic point of view will take you wherever you want to go professionally. PSU’s program provided me with a framework to springboard into positions of greater responsibility and eventually led to leadership opportunities in my field of study.
What accomplishment in your career are you most proud of?
There are so many rehabilitation professionals that I have learned from over the years of working in this field. I am proud to have had the opportunity to learn from many experienced, talented individuals and hopefully continue to share insights and passion for the field with new professionals. Teaching has been a very rewarding outlet for me to share my experiences with others.
The GSE strives to make an impact on our community through the work of our students, faculty, and alumni. What does the term “impact on the community” mean to you?
I believe that the vocational rehabilitation counselor position in the public sector is one of the best jobs out there for master’s level counseling clinicians. One of the areas I have tried to impact is to get individuals entering the field of Rehabilitation Counseling to understand the field of public vocational rehabilitation and to consider this line of work as a career.
How do you try to incorporate this concept into your daily work?
I try to bring energy and commitment and enthusiasm to the work that I do and also be a resource of information and insights for those considering entering the field. I believe it is important to take the time to do informational interviews for those who are exploring career options. No matter how hectic my schedule may be, I will block off time to meet with those considering the field. It is a way of giving back to the profession as well as a great reminder as to why I am so excited about the work.
Did you have a favorite course while at the GSE?
I think that the practicum experience was an incredible opportunity that provided me with insights into my counseling and communication style.
What advice would you give currently enrolled or recently graduated students?
I believe strongly that students need to reach outside of the educational experience and connect with their chosen field of practice through volunteering, entry-level jobs, informational interviewing, etc. It is so important to develop professional contacts and a first-hand awareness of the labor market and the reality of the world of work. Taking the educational experience from theoretical to practical is a critical piece to starting a career.
I also think that the rehabilitation community is very small and it is important to develop positive working relationships with other professionals that you come in contact with during your daily work. I am regularly surprised at where those professionals will turn up in different roles and responsibilities. You never know who will be your next job reference, boss, coworker, grant partner, or referral source!