Class of 2019: Chris Baxter

For eight years, Chris Baxter worked his dream job at ESPN. Eventually, however, he had a desire to make an impact in students' lives. So he left his enviable position and enrolled in the Curry School's Counselor Education program. (Photo: Baxter working the ESPN desk at UEFA EURO 2016 in Paris. Courtesy of Chris Baxter.)

What did you do at ESPN and why did you decide to change careers to become a school counselor?
I worked at ESPN for 8-years before departing for the Counselor Education Masters Program at Curry. For the majority of my time there, I was an Associate Manager of Programming & Acquisitions with a specific emphasis on soccer and bowling. That role came with a lot of interesting opportunities, but my primary responsibilities included: managing relationships with business partners (e.g. Major League Soccer, U.S. Soccer, the Professional Bowlers Association) and analyzing Nielsen ratings data to inform strategic television scheduling decisions.
The decision to leave ESPN is not one I took lightly because for much of my life, working there had been my only ambition as a professional. I am so grateful for all the incredible friendships and experiences I gained through working there. Despite my exciting and fulfilling career, I came to the realization that I wanted to remove myself from the pressures of corporate business and do something that would enable me to make a more positive impact on people at a personal level. After several years of reflection, conversations with friends and family, and exposure to the work of school counselors, I decided to apply to School Counseling graduate programs.  
Why did you choose the Curry School for your program of study?
Throughout my graduate school application process, I had the opportunity to attend interview days for School Counseling programs at several institutions. On a Friday in February, 2017, I entered Holloway Hall for the Curry School interview day around 8am. By about 8:15am, I think I knew in my heart that this is where I wanted to spend my next two years and learn how to become a school counselor. From day one, I feel that the Counselor Education program faculty has created an atmosphere in which students are vigorously challenged and deeply supported. Each professor has his/her own unique way of pushing everyone to achieve their best while also expressing sincere care for all of us as human beings. This has been an incredibly rewarding and engaging environment to learn and grow in, and I have really valued the whole experience.
What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time while you’ve been here?
Without question, it has been the people. The relationships I’ve built with my classmates and professors have helped me become a better version of myself. Their compassion, wisdom, and diverse perspectives have been invaluable to my continued development as a school counselor and a person.   
What is one thing you learned during your studies that surprised you most?
The extensive work that school counselors do as both collaborators and advocates. When I entered the Counselor Ed. Program at Curry, I held the stereotypical view that school counselors work almost exclusively with students at the individual and small-group levels. My education has helped me better understand how much energy school counselors commit to relationship-building in the school community as well as social justice advocacy. Through data analysis and the development of collaborative connections with staff, administrators, community stakeholders, and families, school counselors can positively contribute to systemic changes that make student access to high-quality education and overall well-being more equitable.
What will you be doing next?
I am humbled and thrilled to be joining the wonderful community of students and staff at Osbourn Park High School (Prince William County Public Schools) as a school counselor for the 2019-2020 school year!