2017 Professional Development Scholarship Recipient – Stacy Shields

As an early career psychologist, I feel extremely privileged to have received the SoACE professional development scholarship to attend the 2017 American Psychological Association (APA) Annual Convention. It was exciting to participate in such an enormous convention while also heartening to find a smaller community of professionals who share interests in vocational counseling. Attending this convention reminded me of how important it is to connect with other professionals and to celebrate the work that is being done in our field.

My passion for career counseling began in graduate school, and I am currently a career counselor for first and second year students at the University of Houston – Clear Lake. Attending APA’s convention was one of the first times that I was surrounded by so many psychologists with similar interests. A colleague and I lead a conversation hour focused on the disadvantages of compartmentalizing career counseling from personal therapy. In addition to a discussion of the literature in this area, we specifically discussed how dismissing career issues in therapy sessions may neglect a large part of a client’s identity. We also highlighted ways of addressing the intersection of mental health and vocational issues through both general counseling skills and collaboration with other professionals.

One of the consistent themes throughout programming at the convention was a call to not operate in our own “silos” and to collaborate across disciplines. I know it is easy for me to keep to my own office and department in the midst of a busy semester. However, I was reminded at the convention that those outside of career services departments hold valuable knowledge. By working together, we can increase the impact that our work has on our clients and students. I was amazed to learn of how collaboration expanded the application of career theory and practice across populations and settings – from broadening career exploration opportunities for elementary-aged students to decreasing recidivism among prison inmates.

The largest takeaway for me from the vocational psychology programming at APA’s convention was the importance of recognizing the ever-changing world of work. It does our students and clients a disservice if we do not adapt and evolve. One symposium at the convention including work by Blustein, Kenny, Diamonti, Lent, Brown, and Savickas focused on the Psychology of Working Theory and the impact of precarious work on the services we provide to our clients. The future of work is uncertain, and they discussed the importance of helping our clients plan for both optimal and not optimal choices. This seemed well paired by another symposium presenting various work done by Whiston, Howard, Solberg, and Ali, which included information on changing career development paradigms and evidence-based practice. They discussed the critical ingredients of career choice interventions and job search interventions from research published in the Handbook of Career and Workforce Development (Solberg & Ali, 2017). This was a reminder to me that it is not enough for us to only feel that our work is having an impact, but that we need to remain current with the literature and intentionally assess outcomes – another thing to add to my task list!

Overall, the convention was a whirlwind of an experience. Despite being exhausted when I returned home, I left feeling inspired and invigorated to continue connecting with like-minded professionals (like you!) and to continue the meaningful work in our field.

Reflections from our 6th President – Shelly Underwood

Wow! Ten years?!?!  As the old adage goes, “time flies when you’re having fun!”  I’m excited to share with you a bit about my SoACE journey thus far and how, you – its members, continue to inspire me.

As a new professional, I was fortunate to have been encouraged and supported in my interests to get involved in SWACE.  When news of the planned merger with SACE was announced, I remember feeling a strong sense of excitement and enthusiasm for new opportunities that would be afforded given the diversity of the proposed new membership and each association’s rich history.  The extraordinary efforts of the strategic planning and merger team committees laid the foundation for the association we derive so much benefit from.

San Antonio was the destination for the inaugural SoACE Conference and “Synergy” was the theme!  I had the privilege of serving alongside three talented members, Patsy Hammett, Sue Martin and Woody Wentworth, to chair the planning of this much anticipated event.  With the support of Karen Thompson, our President, the board, and a brilliant conference committee, more than 900 SoACE members gathered in the Alamo City to network and grow within the profession we hold so dear.  In this role, I began to realize our shared challenges and opportunities and I remember thinking the “synergy” is real and we have a lot we can accomplish together.  It’s also important to note I learned a few new line dances that year and till this day, I can’t help but crack up when I hear Chubby Checker’s Twist!

Beginning in 2011, I was extremely fortunate to have the experience of serving on the SoACE board for a three-year tenure starting with President-Elect.  This was a challenging, but also exciting time, as I was making the transition professionally from career services at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio to university recruiting at Tesoro, now Andeavor.  Whether we were introducing a new web platform via SoACE Connect, reviewing by-laws to ensure they enabled our work, looking to grow membership, exploring collaborative opportunities with other regional associations, or preparing for a successful conference experience (on the magnificent beaches of St. Pete), I was continuously amazed by the commitment of our SoACE volunteers.  From board members and conference chairs, to committee leads and members, the passion they lend in addition to time and energy is invaluable empowering the association at large to fulfill its mission.  I grew as a professional so much during this time – each board member I served with brought unique perspectives and abilities that strengthened both me and the team.  In the midst of busy days, that just get busier with time, I relied (and continue to rely) on this network for advice, best practices, and motivation.

Here we are, ten years later. SoACE, driven by its membership and supported by a wonderful team at CMC Global, continues to evolve and remains a resource for those both seasoned in our profession and new.  I count my blessings that I have the opportunity to work in the company of such amazing professionals that positively impact our profession and the students and stakeholders we serve daily.  I’m excited to celebrate all that has been achieved in the past decade in my home town of San Antonio this December, alongside you and my Andeavor team.  The “Synergy” is more real than ever and opportunity lies ahead to leverage the talents brought together years ago into one super association!

Reflections from our 8th President – Jay Killough

My first ever SWACE conference was back in 2002 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I wanted to get involved in the organization, so I volunteered for the Registration Committee in order to meet people. I worked the check-in table and handed members their name badges and bags for a couple years. From there, I volunteered with the Technology Committee. We were the people in charge of building and maintaining the SWACE website. There was a lot of turnover that year and I remember going from a committee Member, to committee Chair, to Board Director for Technology within a year. Things happened FAST. I remember feeling out of place at board meetings, so I stuck to what I knew which was web design. During summer of 2005, our president, Randy Wilson brought to our attention that SWACE would possibly be merging with SACE. The next year, the vote passed and the transition began, merging the two associations. Through this transition and some intense board meetings, I was able to see the talent involved in making such crucial decisions to merge the two associations.


I can remember it like it was yesterday. November 12, 2012. I was at home sitting at my desk working on graduate school work when my phone rang at about 9:00 p.m. Toni McLawhorn had emailed me earlier in the day asking if we could talk. I was curious why Toni would be calling me at my home on a weeknight. She cut straight to the point and asked me if I would mind being nominated for President Elect for SoACE. Stunned, I began asking many questions. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem saying yes to new opportunities, but this was a big deal. All I could think of were the Presidents before me, Karen Thompson, Donnie Brown, Norma Guerra-Gaier, Eric Pearson, Toni McLawhorn, Shelly Garcia, and Tim Harding. There’s NO WAY I could be President. I’m thankful Toni was as patient, kind and understanding as she was, because after answering all my thousands of questions over a few days, she assured me it was the team that made things work for SoACE, and was she ever right. I was, and remain, impressed by the talent involved with SoACE.

As President Elect, Matt Berndt and I had a wonderful conversation in St. Pete that I will never forget. To reference City Slickers, Matt looked at me and said, “Focus on one thing in your presidency and put all your energy into it.” The next year, as an organization, we passed new by-laws that made the organization more inclusive (thanks to Tim Harding’s futuristic strength). The next step was to follow up on that inclusiveness and provide a group option for membership so whole offices could participate in SoACE. This was our one thing that year. An executive committee made up of some of the most powerhouse thinkers diligently and deliberately thought through all the potential pitfalls and gains that could possibly come from a group membership. Stacy Ballinger, who headed the committee, presented the group membership option to the organization, which went to vote at the New Orleans conference in 2014 and passed unanimously. Since then, our numbers have increased and we have broken the thousand-member mark. A huge thanks to Jeff Cummings, Corinne Earle and all the folks at CMCglobal who keep us organized and running efficiently.

I smile thinking of SoACE. I smile as I reflect on my years on the board and the presidency, and I think of the unforgettable conferences, the wealth of knowledgeable and inspiring people, and the relationships I have been so fortunate to build. I smile. I look back on the countless hours I spent questioning what decision to make (right, Tim?), but now

realize that being surrounded by a wonderful team is how decisions get made. Through the nearly 10,000 emails in my SoACE email folder and all the conversations with the best people in the world, I am grateful for all the wonderful people involved with SoACE who put their time and energy into making it function. I smile ear to ear.



I am continually excited to see the up and coming talent that is being produced in SoACE. Each year the conference gets better and better, and I look forward to all the new and exciting offerings SoACE is delivering. KGs, the Employer Relations Summit, the webinars, and consultations are just some of the excellent resources SoACE provides year-round.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!