Barb Daubenspeck: Change Creates Opportunity
By Dan Sheridan
“I believe that change creates opportunity. When something really terrible unexpectedly happens, even though it is difficult to deal with, something good comes out of it.”
Those are the words of Barb Daubenspeck, Program Director and Associate Professor of Clinical Counseling at Bellevue University. I had the privilege of sitting with this infectiously happy and almost giddy professor in her office, which is a reflection of herself - a nicely decorated model of organizational perfection with everything in its proper place amidst the chaos of a busy life. Daubenspeck’s life story, featuring scenes of change and tragedy is an affirmation of the sincerity of that belief, as well as the secret to her happiness.
The small town girl from Duluth, Minnesota, discovered early that she had a passion for writing. Daubenspeck wrote for her high school newspaper and went to college intending to study journalism and become a writer. Then she took a psychology class, fell in love with the field, and changed directions.
“I’ve always had, from my earliest recollections, an innate interest in people,” explained Daubenspeck, “how they think and why they do the things they do. For example, as a little girl when my family watched television together I spent more time watching their reactions to the show than the show itself.”
That natural interest in human nature drove her to get her Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Wyoming. While there, Daubenspeck had an experience that helped her discover something unexpected about herself which would alter the course of her career. In her first year of grad school she had an assistantship which required her to teach a class.
“I really had no interest in teaching,” said Daubenspeck, “at first I did it grudgingly, just to pay the bills. But I soon realized how much fun it was. I had the opportunity to talk about my passion and get other people excited about psychology.”
With this rich background in experimental psychology and teaching, Daubenspeck took a position as the Chair of the Psychology Department at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska.
“I helped revamp the whole curriculum, I was the coordinator of academic assessment, and I was able to make a difference in multiple ways. I planned on spending my whole career there. And then, after 12 years of living my passion at Dana, the college suddenly closed. I was devastated.”
Daubenspeck was now dealing with the loss of her dream job while at the same time going through other struggles, including a difficult divorce. But Daubenspeck, inspired by her belief that change creates opportunity, was able to see the silver lining.
“This was a new possibility,” explained Daubenspeck, “I was planning on being at Dana until I retired, but now this unexpected change gave me the opportunity to do something else.”
That opportunity came quickly. Dana College closed on June 30, 2010, and within a month she was teaching at Iowa Western.
During her time at Iowa Western, Daubenspeck, now remarried, experienced a devastating personal tragedy when she lost her newborn baby. But her belief about there being good even in difficult situations served her well in this trial and she used the experience to better serve others. Daubenspeck emerged from the ashes of grief with a growing interest in the applied side of the psychology field.
“I started to appreciate the value of mental health services more than I ever had,” explained Daubenspeck, “that applied nature of all that I had been learning – social, emotional, and physical development.”
Change, though tragic, created another opportunity for Daubenspeck. “You think you’re on a certain fixed trajectory,” she said, “but life has a way of altering that course. There are two things you can do at that point; you can either give up or get past the initial shock of the life-altering event and find an opportunity to use that experience do something good.”
For Daubenspeck, that opportunity came in 2014 at Bellevue University.
“In my position at Bellevue University I’ve had the opportunity to influence the field of mental health by working with students who are preparing to be practitioners. My background, passion, and personal life experiences give me a unique perspective which I believe have made an impact on our program.”
Daubenspeck was instrumental in helping Bellevue University obtain CACREP accreditation status for its Clinical Counseling program. CACREP stands for the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, and the specialized program accreditation provides recognition that the content and quality of the program has been evaluated and meets standards set by the profession. Bellevue University’s program is also one of the few in the country fully online.
“As the leader of the program, attaining CACREP accreditation with the support of my faculty has been my greatest success at Bellevue University,” Daubenspeck said, “we worked so hard as a team to get to that place and it was a great day when we accomplished our goal.”
When asked why she would encourage prospective students to enroll in Bellevue University’s Clinical Counseling program, Daubenspeck lauded Bellevue’s faculty.
“The faculty make any program what it is,” explained Daubenspeck, “ours have vast experiences, they’re passionate, and have the unique gift of listening. That’s our gift as counselors, to be able to sit with people and be a witness to their stories.”
Thanks for letting us be witnesses to yours, Professor Daubenspeck.