Leah Hoffman

Leah Hoffman

Licensed Addiction Counselor, Willston State College
Willston, ND
M.A. Addiction Studies, 2016

"My advice to USD students and recent graduates is to get to know yourself well and engage in self-reflection often. The skills and knowledge you gain in the classroom are important, of course, but a strong sense of personal and professional integrity is invaluable. Your successes may ebb and flow, but maintaining consistent ethics and respect will give you credibility that not everyone has."

Q&A with Leah:

Describe your current educational or professional pursuits.

I have been an addiction counselor in North Dakota for the past seven years. Nearly six years ago, I married a third-generation farmer. Two baby boys later, now age four and two, our roots remain planted in northwest North Dakota with no intentions of leaving. I graduated from Minot State University in May 2010 with my B.S. in addiction studies and returned to Williston to complete a practicum placement at Northwest Human Service Center. I remained there for three more years after I became a licensed addiction counselor. Most of my energy was focused on facilitating an Intensive Outpatient Chemical Dependency program.

Our first son was born in January 2014 and in June 2014 I took on the privilege of being Williston State College’s first full-time mental health counselor. Over the past four years, I have established a counseling center where I see students for consultations, brief short-term interventions, and referrals. I work more intensively with students experiencing substance abuse disorders and provide substance abuse prevention efforts to the campus community. The goal is to integrate mental health and substance abuse services into the educational environment to promote a holistic approach to success. If students are not functioning well outside of the classroom, it is often reflected in their academics.

I am part of a student affairs team, which gives me a glimpse into all areas of higher education. I initially saw myself as a counselor who just so happened to work on a college campus; however, I have found myself very interested in higher education. I began USD’s Ph.D. in health sciences program in the summer of 2017. I will finish my coursework in December 2018 and begin my dissertation in January 2019. My research efforts will be geared towards rural substance abuse prevention and treatment. More specifically, I am considering a needs assessment for northwest North Dakota from the perspectives of family members of individuals with substance abuse disorders. My goal is to transform my public health research into effective programs and initiatives to improve individual, family, and community wellness.

Continuing my education was a way to open the door for teaching in higher education someday. My ideal scenario would be to deliver addiction studies education in my current community, which in turn would create more professionals to better provide northwest North Dakota with addiction and mental health services. I am also very interested in college student mental health. An exciting current project I am working on in my program is designing a course with learning objectives including resiliency, communication, self-awareness, stress, purpose, fulfillment, and self-actualization. If I can teach this course, it will be the perfect marriage between my areas of interest. I am enjoying my experience of providing mental health services to the WSC campus and I hope to continue in this role for a long time.

How did your USD experience influence your career path?

I began my M.A. in addiction studies online through USD shortly after I began working at Williston State College. I had been eyeing USD for a couple years because I knew USD offered the entire program online, which was what I needed. I was immediately impressed by USD’s dedication to the addiction studies profession. The coursework was immediately relevant to my real-world experiences since I had already been a licensed addiction counselor in North Dakota for about three years at that time. I had been out of school for a few years and returning to formal education was somewhat seamless, and I credit the faculty and the online delivery for that.

Tell us about your proudest achievement.

My proudest achievement is not necessarily a singular moment, but rather the feeling I have as I reflect on the past five years. I’m grateful to have found a balance between growing my family and advancing my career and education at the same time. Being the mom to two boys, wife to a farmer and volunteer firefighter, a full-time counselor, and a student are all challenging at different times. I am proud that I have found a groove where I can do each and feel good about it!

One professional achievement I am proud of is establishing the counseling center at Williston State College. Over the past four years on campus, the counseling office has moved from a small, secluded office to a large, centrally located, beautiful and functional space. Through persistency and advocating, counseling has become a primary stop for students to improve their overall wellness. I am proud to work with students during a time of transition in their lives. For many, my office is their first experience with anything counseling related and I want the experience to be positive so they will seek help again in the future if needed, regardless of where they are in their lives.

What was your USD experience like? Were you involved in any campus organizations or activities?

Despite being an online student, I felt very engaged with the USD campus. The online learning format allowed for genuine interactions with my instructors and fellow classmates. One thing that drew me to USD’s online addiction studies program is that it is also offered on campus, with instructors who are on campus. This added a level of credibility for me. I visited the campus for the first time in the summer of 2017 for the Ph.D. in health sciences orientation. It was great to meet with instructors who I had in my M.A. program. I toured the campus, saw the classrooms, and spent time with my Ph.D. advisor.

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