University life is all about planning for future careers. And, often, plans change.
This was the case for graduate student Jamie Cayley, who crossed countries and career paths to reach a future at Missouri State University.
Cayley shares details of his path to academics and activism. These led him to become a recent 2020-21 Citizen Scholar Award recipient at Missouri State.
Crossing (country) borders to become a Bear
Cayley’s path to education has been an unconventional one, with homeschooling as of 6th grade.
While later studying mathematics at the University of Surrey in England, he made an additional unlikely choice: connecting with MSU faculty in Springfield, Missouri.
Inspired by the professors’ research, he reached out to them with questions. This included a request to spend his summer break working with them in Springfield.
“They said yes, and the rest is history,” Cayley said. “Missouri State became my new home.”
Pursuing a passion for mathematics
Cayley served as a research assistant for Reid and Belshoff his first summer in Springfield. They presented their combined work at MSU’s 2019 MAKO Undergraduate Math Research Conference.
Cayley then started as a mathematics course and faculty assistant the same academic year.
“I’m glad that Jamie took the initiative to come to Springfield to work with me and Dr. Reid,” Belshoff said. “He is a fine person, with a sharp mind and a good heart.”
Such heart led Cayley to a new passion – one for counseling.
Discovering the power of therapy
Cayley first developed an interest in therapy when joining Gendered Intelligence’s (GI) charity organization in England. But his experience at the MSU Counseling Center inspired him to pursue a career in the field.
“My therapist there, Jane Henke, has helped me make a lot of progress in overcoming trauma. She’s shown me it’s possible to become a therapist despite such trauma as, once properly processed, those experiences can become a very powerful tool for helping patients,” Cayley said. “That made me feel like counseling was something I could aspire to myself.”
As a transgender man, Cayley values the needed support counseling can offer trans youth.
Such youth are likely to experience higher incident rates of trauma, abuse and mental health issues, he explains.
“It’s so impactful to have someone see you for who you are and then choose to support you in your battles,” Cayley said. “As a professional counselor, I can offer these youth such support.”
To prepare for the career change, Cayley is working toward graduate certificates in addition to his master’s in mathematics. These include certificates in:
- Forensic Child Psychology.
- Statistics and Research Design.
- Student Mental Health, Family and Community Support.
Cayley has applied for MSU’s clinical psychology graduate program. If accepted, he will begin the program in fall 2021.
Different careers share same concerns
While mathematics and counseling may seem like very different fields, Cayley believes they involve similar skills.
Such skills go beyond the complex overlap of knowing statistics and understanding experimental designs in therapy. They also involve a simpler shared focus on overcoming assumptions, he explains.
“Math teaches you to be very aware of every assumption you are making to find a solution or proof to any given problem,” Cayley said. “It’s equally important for therapists to be aware of what assumptions they are making about their clients when deciding how to handle situations.”
Professionals in both fields also use varying approaches to solving problems and reaching solutions.
This can be crucial to discovering treatment pathways to proper patient care in therapy, Cayley shares.
“Mathematicians come to realize there’s more than one way to prove results, even when faced with the same facts and assumptions. Therapists must reach the same conclusion to avoid applying a one-size-fits-all solution to every patient,” Cayley said. “Learning there isn’t a single right answer can be key to helping people in both fields solve problems.”
A leader in LGBTQ activism
When not focusing on academics, Cayley invests time in LGBTQ activism.
He volunteers in varying leadership roles to help offer LGBTQ support in the Springfield community and abroad. These roles include:
- Community outreach vice chairperson of Me Too Springfield.
- QTBIPOC committee chair of The GLO Center.
- Youth board member and steering group peer leader of GI.