Lauren Shields is one of our two NCU Marriage and Family Sciences Community Hope scholarship recipients, and will soon begin her studies to complete her Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy at Northcentral University. We caught up with Shields to talk about her career goals, and what the scholarship means for her future.
Shields discovered a passion for marriage and family therapy when she took her first MFT class during her undergrad years at Utah Valley University, where she received her Bachelor in Behavioral Science degree with a social work emphasis. Since then, as she has followed her husband around various military bases for his Air Force career, she has discovered a passion for working with military families.
“My husband is a Captain in the United States Air Force,” explained Shields. “I am a proud military spouse. I wanted to be a resource and support for other military spouses, and began volunteering as an Air Force family advocate five years ago. It has been one of the best things I have ever done, and I love our military families.”
Shields and her husband Chase have been married for seven years, and have two boys, Garrison (4) and Everett (2). After living at several different bases in the Midwest, they are now currently residing in Hawaii. “We believe home is where the Air Force sends us, and we are enjoying our adventure,” said Shields.
Despite moving often, it was her work with military families that propelled Shields to seek out graduate school. “I feel that a Master in Marriage and Family Therapy will help me reach out to the military community with a unique perspective, and be a support and a resource for these families who may be struggling. I am hoping to become a Military Family Life Counselor, or set up a private practice as we are stationed around the world to help families in need,” Shields said.
It was this passion that helped her create the winning essay for the NCU Community Hope Scholarship, and outline a plan she hopes to someday turn into a reality. “As a volunteer Family Advocate for the Air Force over the last five years, I have personally spoken with couples who are fighting for their marriages,” explained Shields. “Frequently, these couples struggle with the stress of recent deployments, and face the challenge of reintegrating the military member back into the family following long periods of separation. While the military provides resources to assist in strengthening marriages, too often these programs may be sporadic, or focus solely on the active duty member. My plan is a military couples retreat called ‘Mind on Our Marriage.’ The retreat would be outdoors and technology free, allowing couples to focus solely on their relationship. The evenings would be broken up into sessions of couples’ therapy, group therapy with the military members, and group therapy with the spouses discussing stresses experienced on the home front.”
As a military spouse, traditional brick-and-mortar graduate schools weren’t really a solution for Shields. She originally enrolled in traditional graduate school, but had to change plans when her husband received a last minute assignment. She knew she needed to find an alternative. “As I was researching schools, I kept coming back to NCU,” explained Shields. “They have a military family therapy specialty, which not many schools offer. They also don’t require residencies, and their flexibility allows me to spend precious time with family and also focus on graduate school at the same time. When I spoke to my advisor for the first time, I knew it was the perfect fit, and allowed me to focus on a specialization for which I have always had a passion.”
Receiving the scholarship overwhelmed Shields with gratitude. The scholarship enables her to work toward her career goal, and gives her hope that her “Mind on Our Marriage” workshops will someday become a reality.