Mariel Marshall is a second-year student in the Division of Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling who sees it as her mission to ensure that future counselors advocate for their clients, particularly people of color. While growing up in New York, Marshall saw a lack of counselors who came from a similar racial and ethnic background.

“In my culture, we don’t advertise going to therapy. It’s not something we talk about. We more so handle it in our household,” Marshall said. “My main goal of being in this field is to bridge the gap between people of color and actual formal therapy and trying to provide a voice and break down the stigmas against actually getting formal treatment.”

Marshall is studying in the program’s dual-track psychiatric and developmental disability curriculum. As a second-year student, she is completing her practicum, most recently doing outpatient counseling in a community mental health clinic. Her master’s research is focused making cultural identities more salient during or counseling sessions. Marshall said while the race or ethnicity of a client’s counselor is less impactful, having a counselor recognize cultural identity can have a tremendous impact on wellbeing.

“If the therapist does make it aware that their client’s cultural identity is welcomed, noticed, and valued, it does help the therapeutic relationship,” she said. “Our program gives us the stepping stones, and the practicum and internship is supposed to help us build upon those.”

As a graduate student, Marshall seeks opportunities to serve her community in myriad ways. Recently, her program hosted a lunch and learn event to learn about what people go through during an active shooter training. At the end of the event, Marshall noticed leftover, unused food, which she donated to a community shelter for those who are homeless.

Marshall is also the president of UNC-CH’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The UNC-CH chapter of the NAACP seeks to promote political activism, advance social and economic justice, and to foster a sense of cultural pride and campus ownership among minority students on the campus and in surrounding communities.

In the Department of Allied Health Sciences, she also serves on the Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Team, an initiative led by Brenda Mitchell, PhD. Representatives on the DILT provide student perspectives on inclusion and diversity with particular regard to creating a safe and accessible space for all forms of diversity, including issues beyond ethnicity and race.

As a UNC Hospitals Volunteer Association Community Service scholar, Marshall has built connections with alumni, worked as a graduate assistant for her program and hopes she will be able to continue to give back to her program.

Marshall also has received a scholarship from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). She has had the opportunity to work closely with program faculty members to develop trainings for the North Carolina Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (NCDVR). Marshall has also had the opportunity to present with faculty members at a day-long training for NCDVR counselors.

“As an out-of-state student, the scholarships I get make it manageable. It makes it feasible for me to be here to continue my education,” Marshall said. “It makes me feel good to know that somebody believes in what I’m doing.”