A Leap of Faith

Changing Careers to Serve My Community

Gail Wilburn

Eleven years ago, I moved to Malibu, California, from Virginia, married Jim Wilburn, dean of the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, and ran out of excuses for not pursuing my dream of attending graduate school and becoming a counselor.

Despite my political background and having successfully raised two children (a daughter in medical school and a son prominent in the business world), I was intimidated—what if I didn’t remember how to study? But I soon learned that GSEP was the perfect place for a fresh start as there were so many professors who inspired, encouraged, and mentored me as I moved through the program.

Finally it came time to do my practicum and internship, both of which I completed at the Southern California Counseling Center, one of the finest training sites for those seeking marriage and family therapy licensure. At the center, more than 60 licensed health professionals donate their time and expertise to supervise a cadre of 80 volunteer interns who provide individual, family, and group counseling services to men, women, and children seven days a week. In fact, the volunteers provide more than $1.3 million worth of in-kind mental health services each year.

After fulfilling my required 3,000 hours and passing both licensing exams, I assumed the role of director at this terrific institution. I feel so fortunate to work with a staff I admire and so many wonderful students and interns, and hope that I can provide them a path as rewarding as mine has been.

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