Sharon McCallie-Steller joins Oliverian staff as a counselor and assistant to the Head of School, working with students and across departments to streamline processes as we continue to grow and improve.
Oliverian is thrilled to welcome Sharon McCallie-Steller, who’s joining Oliverian as full-time counselor and assistant to Head of School, Will Laughlin. In this newly-established role, she eagerly anticipates joining the perspectives of each department to help improve operations while building long-term therapeutic relationships with the students who make Oli such a vibrant, dynamic place.
McCallie-Steller’s counseling experience is the product of a midlife career change, serving as an excellent example for our community that it’s never too late to pursue our passions — and that hard work, commitment, and emotional engagement pay off. Sharing more about her background and cross-functional professional experience, McCallie-Steller sat down with us to discuss what motivated her to pursue a path in mental health work and what she looks forward to in her new role.
A: After I received my bachelor’s in English Communications, I started my career pursuing various types of administrative work. For over twenty years, I raised a family while focusing on service-oriented administration, executing communications, quality assurance, financial development, and process improvement across several industries. I had been an executive assistant to the CEO of a hospital — a busy, necessary role — for seven years when I took a step back to reflect on my professional path.
As my children approached college-age and young adulthood and began to ask what course they wanted their lives to take, I began wondering, Does my current routine satisfy me and align with my values? Can I spend my daily life helping people? Ultimately, after some self-reflection and communicating intensively with my family and other supports in my life, I made the decision to return to school at the age of 40, pursuing a graduate degree in mental health counseling.
A: I graduated in 2014 and began working at Mountain Valley Treatment Center, a place for adolescents with OCD, anxiety, and related disorders. I fell in love with the work, and I felt that other meaningful aspects of my identity aided me in this specialized environment. As the mother of a child that grew up struggling with an anxiety disorder, I have had a lot of experience with seeking support of professionals and learning parenting techniques tailored to children with anxiety. It was professionally and personally fulfilling to work with kids and families in that way.
It was after my time at Mountain Valley that I took this role at Oliverian. Of course, Oliverian differs from Mountain Valley in that it isn’t a treatment center, but rather a place to navigate the challenges of daily life with support, giving students the freedom to self-discover, work around obstacles, and learn self-motivation.
I find it immensely satisfying that at Oliverian counselors work in tandem with faculty, dorm parents, and administration, partnering to meet each student’s needs and to understand the underlying source of a student’s behavior. When we do that, we can help them when they’re struggling, help them realize the need for change, and act as guardrails as they learn to carry out this change.
A: I’m so happy to work somewhere that gives kids the agency to define success for themselves. One of my frustrations as a parent is witnessing firsthand how we as a society pigeon-hole kids and narrow their understanding of which paths are acceptable or what defines ‘success’. There are so many ways to be successful, and, here at Oli, we support all kinds of futures, whether they’re at traditional universities or in vocational training or artistic apprenticeships. I love that we place no constraints on success other than telling students that anything is possible and that finding what fulfills them, finding their place in the world, is what really matters.