Creating Connection in the Classroom is Elementary for Watson, Argosy Grad and Instructor
For younger students, the path from high school to an advanced degree is often linear. But for many nontraditional students and adult learners, that path to higher education can have plenty of unique twists and turns.
Dr. Tom Watson has been there. Before earning his M.A. in Professional Counseling/Community Counseling in 2004 at Argosy University—and his Ed.D. in Counseling Education and Supervision in 2013—he was a stage actor, a music producer for a Peabody Award-winning radio series, and a production team member for Dreamworks and MGM Studios.
“I tell my students that while each of our life experiences may be different, what we have in common is that we’re together, right here, right now,” says Watson, who teaches master’s level counseling courses at Argosy’s Atlanta campus. “How each student found his or her way here is just part of their story. Where they go from here is the next chapter.”
Watson, who first realized counseling was a career option at age 10 while watching a movie about Sigmund Freud, believes his previous life in the creative arts and his current career in education and counseling have much in common: both provide an opportunity to help people better understand themselves.
“Theater and film both offer audiences an opportunity to explore why they—and others—do what they do,” says Watson. “Psychology and counseling do the same thing, but on a more intimate, individual level. I think that’s ultimately what motivated me to pursue my M.A. and Ed.D. in psychology. I loved the idea of connecting with people one on one, and supporting them in changing their lives for the better.”
Watson grew up in an Air Force family and attended six schools before his twelfth birthday. Today, he is president-elect of the Military and Government Counseling Association. He says his childhood—and his career in the arts—helped prepare him for teaching.
“When you live overseas and move as often as my family did, you learn to be adaptable and flexible,” Watson believes. “I think you become more open to experiences and people. Because I grew up in the military, I have a special appreciation for military students. And because I returned to college for a graduate degree after a successful career, I understand the challenges of being an older student. You bring all of those experiences with you into the classroom.”
Connection matters to Watson. In fact, feeling connected is part of what appealed to Watson when he began his studies at Argosy in 2002.
“I remember being a bit anxious when I returned to school,” Watson recalls. “I had graduated ten years earlier from Georgia State University with a degree in Communications, Film and Video Production, so it had been a while since I’d been in a classroom. On my first day of classes, I remember the counseling department chair welcomed students as we arrived. When I introduced myself, she remembered me from my personal statement on my application. Her authenticity and her energy impressed me and really made me feel so welcome. It was very different from my undergrad experience. I didn’t feel like a number. There is something very reassuring about being in a place where you know they want you to succeed.”
Watson says Argosy’s culture of connection eventually convinced him he wanted to remain at the school as a teacher.
“When I was acting or working in film production, I never imagined I’d return to Atlanta and pursue higher education,” he says. “While my career has never been conventional, the path has led to a place where I feel very much at home. When you’re interested and enthusiastic about teaching, students notice. When they know you care and want them to succeed, that’s pure gold. I take pride in a teaching style that’s creative, connected and collaborative. In my experience, it’s an approach that creates a space in which great things can happen.” ###