Missouri State University alumni Gen Nelson and Sandy Parisi have used their education to improve the mental health of others.
After completing master’s degrees in counseling at Missouri State, the duo secured careers as mental health professionals.
“It’s been a long time since they were students here, but I can tell you that they both stood out as great counselors and hard workers,” said Robin Farris, clinic director for MSU’s Center City Counseling Clinic (CCCC).
Nelson and Parisi presented at CCCC’s sold out spring clinic workshops on April 14.
About the graduates
Nelson is a former school counselor and is currently the program director of the Lost and Found Grief Center. She also served on the board of directors for the Missouri School Counselor Association and the American School Counselor Association.
The Springfield Business Journal selected her as one of their 40 under 40 for 2023. For her fundraising opportunity, she raised money for the Springfield Public Schools Foundation.
Parisi has over nine years of experience working as a mental health professional. She was a residential therapist, an outpatient therapist and worked in leadership roles.
She is currently an EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) psychotherapist at Beyond Healing Center and a licensure supervisor at Burrell Behavioral Health.
Q&A with Nelson and Parisi
When did you graduate from MSU?
Nelson: I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2010 and a Master of Science in Counseling in 2013.
Parisi: I graduated in 2008 with my Bachelor of Social Work and then in 2014 with my Master of Science in Counseling.
What is the most fulfilling part of your career?
Nelson: Two things stand out to me the most. First, pouring into others the way so many people have poured into me. I am the product of many giving hearts who nurtured me from childhood to who I am today. The “pay it forward” concept rings true for many of us in this career, so knowing my work matters is by far the most fulfilling aspect of it all.
Second, the professional relationships and friendships I have formed along the way. No one understands the work like someone else in the field. The counseling community as a whole is quick to support and empower each other. Many colleagues over the years have become dear friends.
Parisi: The most fulfilling part of my career is serving people. It is my greatest privilege to join humans on their healing journey.
How has MSU helped you find success in your career?
Nelson: My education and preparation for my counseling career was topnotch. There are always unexpected aspects of the job, but I felt immensely prepared as I entered the field.
For example, during my first year as a school counselor, one of my students died unexpectedly. My principal at the time looked at me and said, “I’ve never had this happen before. What do we do?” And because I had been extensively trained in the school counseling crisis response plan, I was able to use that training to confidently navigate a challenging time for our school.
Additionally, the professors I had continue to be incredible mentors and cheerleaders all these years later. I have reached out to many of them over my career for insight and guidance and have been met every time with wisdom, support and unending encouragement.
Parisi: MSU has raised me. My professors in my master’s program really helped me to excel in my career as a licensed professional counselor.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time at MSU or in your career you’d like to share?
Parisi: I have two favorite memories. First, going to the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision conference in Denver, Colorado, and presenting with Drs. Leslie Anderson (professor of counseling), Paul Blisard (former associate professor of counseling) and Lyle Foster (assistant professor of sociology and anthropology).
Second, being a fly on the wall at Blissard’s retirement gathering at Andersons’ place. I got to hear lots of stories about the history of our counseling program at MSU, which was such an inspiration and privilege.