Nov. 1, 2013 –The Fort Valley State University alumni spotlight is featuring a Wildcat alum who traveled across the world to make the university her home. This month’s featured alum is Chizu Hirata, ’06/’09, a professional counselor who works in the university’s Valley Behavioral Health Services Center.
Originally from Suita-City in Osaka, Japan, Hirata, attended Kwansei Gakuin University, where she majored in educational psychology. After graduating from college, she entered into the professional world.
“After working in Japan, I looked into my trait,” saidHirata. “I learned that my passion is working with people. I re-evaluated my skill set, and after trying different jobs, I realized that counseling was the right fit for me.”
She decided to submit an application to collaborative program, launched by Georgia Southwestern State University, where Japanese citizens could travel abroad and enroll in American university graduate programs. Hirata was approved for the program, and in 2003, she traveled to Atlanta, Ga., along with ten students from her country.
From the metro area, Hirata was sent to her final destination: Fort Valley State University. She traveled by Greyhound Bus to Peach County, where she was delivered across the street from the university’s iron gate.
“When I came to campus for the first time, I felt this warmness, as if I finally arrived home,” said Hirata. “It felt as if I was supposed to have been here. I had no problems adjusting here. I’m grateful for the opportunity and education that FVSU has provided me. I’m grateful to give something back to the university in the form of helping the university’s students and working for students.”
Hirata says that her time at FVSU has been wonderful. She enjoyed the natural setting of the university, and began a hobby where she began taking pictures of the area.Hirata also met many great friends and people who helped her along the way.
During her first year, Hirata began working at the university’s writing center, where she struck up a friendship with its director Dorothy Hardman. She says that Hardman helped her sharpen her grammatical and writing skills for the class work she submitted to her professors.
“I wasn’t sure until I came to graduate school what field would be right for me (in counseling),” said Hirata, who also served as the president for the FVSU International Student Organization. One homecoming, Hirata and members from the organization marched during the parade. Hirata said that an advisor named Sharon Palms provided enormous support for their organization.
Hirata also credits FVSU academic affairs assistants Malinda Nicholson and Patricia Barrett for helping her while she was in the university’s graduate program. Additionally, the FVSU counselor states that Dr. Anna Holloway, dean of graduate studies; and Dr. Joyce Jenkins, former College of Arts and Sciences dean; and Dr. Julius Scipio, former vice president of academic affairs, were instrumental to helping her succeed at the university, not to mention faculty in the mental health counseling program, Drs. JerryMobley and Kan Chandras, along with other adjunct instructors.
“I feel like I owe them so much,” she said.
Hirata said that the university is still giving her opportunities to learn and grow. She says she is now working in her dream job as a professional counselor in the university’s Valley Behavioral Health Services. There, she is helping to train students for future jobs as the coordinator for the Peer Educators Program. As a dedicated counselor, she helps young people work through difficulties in their academic and private lives.
In 2006, the licensed counselor earned her master’s in mental health counseling fromFVSU. In 2009, Hirata earned her second master’s degree in public health from the university. In 2010, the state of Georgia green lighted Hirata as a licensed professional counselor.
Hirata wants the world to see what the university has to offer. “In Japan, land resources are scarce, but they are creative in using them effectively,” Hirata said, who says the university feels like a magical place to her. “I know what FVSU can offer.”
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