As a college graduate and veteran educator, Sultana Dusang seemingly couldn’t have made her mother, Amina Shaheed, any prouder. Then, she did by graduating with a Master of Education in School Counseling from Lamar University’s online program in May 2018.
“She was very excited and supportive because I am an immigrant,” Dusang said. “My mom and dad [Mohamed Shaheed] didn’t have any education coming into the country. When we came over from Guyana, South America, as children, they really reinforced education for us.
“My mom was a maid, and my dad was a custodian. The only sad part for her was that I waited so long to get a master’s, and my dad died before I did. He would have been really happy to see that one of his children had gone this far in school. I had support from all of my family.”
Dusang, 58, has been teaching for 25 years. Happenstance sparked her interest in school counseling. Two years ago, the counselor at her school, Sabine Pass (Texas) High School, was out for a full school year, so she took over.
“I ended up liking it a lot,” she said. “By the time I got to March, the kids said, ‘Why don’t you become a counselor?’ I said, ‘No. I’m too old. I can’t do this. I can’t go back to school.’ They said, ‘Yes you can. You can do it. You’re telling us we can do everything, but you won’t do it?’ That was the motivating factor.”
While Dusang searches for a high school counseling job, she continues to teach Advanced Placement English at Sabine Pass. Dusang is also a high school counselor consultant on the side.
“I’m very picky now,” she said. “I told my husband [Douglas] that I want to do something that I want to do. I’ve been very specific about what I am applying for, and I have been focusing on high school positions. I don’t feel comfortable doing elementary counseling. I had two job offers in that and turned them down.”
Runs in the Family
Picking a school for her online degree program wasn’t a difficult decision for Dusang. Her two sons, Drew and Sean, both graduated from Lamar University with engineering degrees and work as mechanical engineers.
“I knew Lamar University had a really good engineering program, so I figured it would flow over into the M.Ed. program,” she said. “I also knew a couple of co-workers who had taken their courses through Lamar University. Plus, it is close. I want to support the local university in my area.”
Just like Dusang’s mom, her sons were extremely proud of her on graduation day.
“My sons were excited,” she said. “They were tickled pink. They’re good sons. They said, ‘Mom, you’re smart. You can do this.’ They thought I should have gone back years ago and said, ‘Mom, you keep talking about this and you never do anything.’ They were very supportive.”
The online format was ideal for Dusang with her busy schedule.
“I’m one of those perfectionists,” she said. “I think being older and not having kids at home gave me an advantage in balancing school with work. I spent a lot of hours on it because I wanted everything to be perfect.”
One of the most appealing aspects of the program was its flexibility.
“When you’re doing an online program, you have to figure out that you can’t do everything at once,” she said. “I’m really independent, so I like the idea of working at your own pace. I was able to balance it, and I have an understanding husband, too. There was quite a bit of the time when he was traveling by himself. If he had not been supportive, it would have been tough.”
Her favorite courses in the online M.Ed. in School Counseling program curriculum were CNDV 5320: Multicultural Counseling and CNDV 5323: Career Development.
“Multicultural Counseling was interesting and gave me a different perspective on counseling different cultures and world views,” she said. “I liked Career Development because helping kids with their college and careers is my focus in school counseling.
“I liked all of the assessment and instruments they suggested for helping kids with their post-secondary careers in college. I also liked the various theories that were suggested to help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and areas of interest.”
Dusang came to the United States when she was 11 years old.
“My brother and sister came over three or four years later, so the family was separated for a while,” she said. “When my dad immigrated first, he went to Boston because his sister was there. My mother followed a year later. Then, I came a year later and we moved to Ohio. That’s where I did my middle school and high school. I moved to Texas, liked it and stayed here.”
From an early age, Dusang had a passion for school and American government and history.
“Because I came from a country that is very communist with a dictatorship, I like the whole concept of history in America,” she said. “I focused on that. I couldn’t figure out if I wanted to go to law school or not. When my husband and I started going out, he said that I liked to talk and, ‘Why don’t you become a teacher?’ I said, ‘I hadn’t thought about that.’ My friends thought I should do it, too.”
Dusang graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor of Arts in historical studies and a 3.7 GPA in 1992. She has taught English and history during her teaching career, which includes stops at Hamshire-Fannett Independent School District and Nederland ISD.
“I started the master’s program at 56,” she said. “My husband would like for me to have my own business full time. I like helping kids get into college. I like diverse populations. I like helping kids who are first-generation.”
In addition to graduating, Dusang earned the Most Promising Professional in School Counseling Award from Lamar University.
“They told me it was because of my leadership skills and initiative,” she said. “I was the contact person among the hundreds of students, so I guess my name was said a lot. It was a nice surprise. I didn’t even know they did the awards.”
Dusang has learned quickly that school counseling involves a lot of tenacity, something she clearly does not lack.
“The counseling program is more in-depth than other M.Ed. programs,” she said. “There are more hours attached to it and a lot of work related to it. I recommend it, but I tell people, ‘If you are not somebody who likes to do a lot of work, it might not be the program for you.’ I didn’t realize the program would be that in-depth. I stayed the course and didn’t want to give up on it once I started. I’m very happy with my Lamar University degree.”