Online psychology major follows in mom’s footsteps

Second-generation student Eitland working toward goals in clinical mental health
Abbey Goers | August 10, 2021

In high school, Grace Eitland swore she would go to a different college than her mom, Kristin, and pursue a different career. She wanted to blaze her own trail.

But Eitland’s career goals in clinical mental health align with her mom’s, who has her master’s in clinical mental health counseling from University of Wisconsin-Stout.

So, Eitland enrolled in UW-Stout’s on-campus rehabilitation services degree in fall 2019, a field she thought offered a bridge to clinical mental health. She has a passion for learning from people and the stories that shape them.

“I think it’s important for people to reflect on all that they have overcome to remind them that they are able and strong,” Eitland said. “I believe we have great potential and abilities, but sometimes we forget and it helps to have someone remind us of who we are when we get a little lost.

“My favorite quote is, ‘Many people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.’

Kristin and Grace Eitland
Kristin and Grace Eitland / Grace Eitland

Eitland struggled to adjust to campus life, however, after having returned from 18 months of active duty in the Navy Reserve as a hospital corpsman third class. The on-campus module and commute from her home in Wilson were not a good fit because she works full time at a local grocery store, volunteers for area organizations and is away from home on drill weekends.

“I absolutely appreciate my education, but I have other obligations outside of college. I wanted to find a healthy balance between college, work and my personal life goals,” she said.

Eitland transferred to the online psychology program to learn more about the specific field and grow not only academically but personally. 

Building blocks in psychology

Eitland’s first semester started off a little rocky. Originally, she was placed in the on-campus psychology program, so she didn’t have the proper information to register for online classes. But Program Director Sarah Wood quickly helped resolve the error.

Eitland also had some technical difficulties studying from home, but her instructors were patient, she said, even giving her step-by-step instructions to fix a software issue.

Psychology Program Director Sarah Wood
Psychology Program Director Sarah Wood / UW-Stout

“Dr. Wood really cares about the program and is always available and happy to help,” she said. “All of my professors are the same way. They enjoy helping and are quite successful at it. All you need to do is reach out.

Eitland appreciates the autonomy of the program, and many instructors allow her to work ahead. This means a great deal to her as her drill and work schedules shift on the weekends.

“With working more often I can save more for my future education. Because of this, I have noticed that I do not have the financial stress I used to have,” she said. “The material is helpful in growing my academic knowledge but is also challenging. I enjoy applying the material to my life and have grown so much. All of these things are building blocks toward my goals.”

‘Remember your goals’

Eitland, a graduate of Baldwin-Woodville High School, will earn her bachelor’s degree in spring 2022. She plans to pursue her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and go on to earn her doctorate in psychology.

So, after years of swearing she’d never follow her mom’s career path through UW-Stout, she is doing both of those things happily. “She and I still talk about how insistent I was, but I am very glad I laid down my pride,” she said.

Kristin, who works with Allied Mental Health Specialty Group, is excited that her daughter is “pursuing educational and career goals that fit her so beautifully.

“I feel a great sense of confidence and peace knowing that Grace will be well trained to not only be successful professionally, she will also be taught the importance of healthy self-esteem to better support and care for others by also knowing how to care for herself.”

Mother and daughter would like to open a practice together one day, with a possible holistic approach to mental health.

For people starting off in college or those thinking about switching majors, “it is OK to change your mind,” Eitland said. “The degree or lifestyle you planned on might not be working for you quite as well as you thought, and that is OK.

“Remember your goals. If you are unsure of your goals, take some time to reflect and experience life. Slow down and enjoy the process that you are in.”

UW-Stout’s psychology department and counseling, rehabilitation and human services department, within the College of Education, Hospitality, Health and Human Sciences, offer four undergraduate and seven graduate programs, along with five minors, four certifications and one specialization.

UW-Stout is a Military Times 2019 Best for Vets College. Veteran Services supports veterans, military service members and their families with academic and career goals. Students may be eligible to receive veteran or military education benefits and earn credit toward their degree through military experience or training.


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