After a push by the Faculty Council, Student Government Association and the student-organized #getCAPSready campaign, the Ithaca College Center for Counseling and Psychological Services hired an additional postdoctoral resident Oct. 7. Originally from Nigeria, Abimbola “Bola” Afolayan studied at Antioch University New England in Keene, New Hampshire and has lived in the United States for almost 20 years.
Staff Writer Elena Piech spoke with Afolayan about her background, her move to Ithaca and her impact on CAPS.
Elena Piech: What made you want to study psychology?
Bola Afolayan: I’m just passionate about empowerment, just empowering people, helping people find their voices because I know it’s very important. I worked as an advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and all of that. I just wanted something that could give me a little more [of a] platform to support people and their struggles.
EP: How was the move to Ithaca?
BA: It was tough at times, but I just thought I needed to do this. And I did it. It’s such a beautiful place here at Ithaca, I hope you also notice that — the landscape, Cayuga Lake and all of those lakes — I wish I am able to pay visit before they all close [for the winter]. I think it is very beautiful here. I will not call it home yet, but I’m warming up to it.
EP: What do you think you bring to CAPS?
BA: I want to think cultural adaptation. That is something that is very passionate for me. When an individual is in front of me, I want to be sure that I am sensitive about the culture of that person to see if maybe the instrument I’m using for assessment [did not take] into consideration that population when it was developed. If not, what should I be doing different, not just for assessment. I’m very passionate about cultural adaptation.
EP: We added another CAPS employee to meet the needs of students. What do you know about those needs being met or about wait times being shorter?
BA: I believe so. Actually, since I started — this is not just about me — since this position started, there have been times where there was no name on the waitlist at all. I think things have been going well.
EP: When you were applying for this position, did you know about the #getCAPSready campaign and all the other background related to why CAPS wanted to hire a new employee?
BA: No, I did not. It was actually when I came in that one of my colleagues handed me The Ithacan newspaper and I read about some of the struggles and I was like, “Whoa. That is interesting.”
EP: How does it feel that you are the employee CAPS hired to help solve the problem regarding wait times and serving students?
BA: I would say my spirituality is very important to me. So I was wondering and I thought, “Wow, it’s for a reason.” I could not believe that all of the efforts had to happen for me to come. Entering it, it was a team spirit. So when I say I was the one who has come like the Messiah to fix everything, [I came] to join the team. I appreciate all of the efforts and all the studies that were done to make things happen and to realize I actually kind of made history to be the first person in this position. It’s a rotating [position]. Yearly someone new will come in. Because it’s postdoc, a postdoctorate is usually for one year. For some, it may be two years or so.
EP: How would you describe yourself as a counselor?
BA: I like to listen to them and have an understanding. I like to be present. I like to appreciate their values and see their commitment to those values and whether they have committed actions to those values. And if that is where they should be, then we try to work on that. When I say work on that, I want to say that the client, the student, is in the driver’s seat and I’m by the side. They make their decisions, they do their thing. But what I think I bring to the picture is if we can work on things together, if I’m able to support them to have self–reflection about something. Change will come, from there they can make their own decision, always knowing that it’s a collaboration, and I want to support them.