Publisher's note: The author of this post, Janiya Winchester, is a contributor to ECU News Services.
Dana Cea, a second-year East Carolina University doctoral student in rehabilitation counseling and administration
, is an advocate for people with disabilities and the LGTBQ community.
Cea's passion for advocacy stems from identifying as queer along with personal experience dealing with mental health disabilities, an autoimmune disorder and hearing issues.
"For me, it's pretty personal because those overlap with me,"
she said. "Also, I just found in connecting with others and hearing their experiences of what they went through and what was or wasn't helpful to answer, 'What was helpful?'"
For her master's degree, Cea developed a clinical guide for mental health professionals working with clients who identify as LGTBQ.
"I think it just comes down to respect and knowing how to talk to people. How do you not put your foot in your mouth? And if you do, how do you apologize and come around from that?"
Cea said. "I think that personal experiences of my own, experiences of others and seeing the impact that I can have in sharing information with others is what has driven me to get where I am."
Cea specializes in leadership, advocacy and LGTBQ components within suicide awareness in her doctoral program.
In her doctoral program, Cea is focusing on leadership, advocacy and LGTBQ components within suicide awareness. Another area she is interested in is trauma.
"I find a real connection to trauma,"
Cea said. "I have some trauma training and I incorporate that into everything. I think it helps, especially with the populations I'm working in, to be trauma-informed so that you're not re-traumatizing someone or asking questions that can be triggering."
Cea said her favorite part of the program is having the freedom to incorporate her interests into everything she does. Her dissertation topic is concentrated on defining what is helpful for students who identify as transgender or gender non-binary, as well as others who have a disability and are served by disability support services. She is investigating which disability support services lead to the success of those transgender/gender non-binary students while incorporating this into every class she teaches. Cea lectures master's degree students on how to work with transgender/gender non-binary individuals.
Dr. Paul Toriello, chair of the Department of Addictions and Rehabilitation Studies
within the College of Allied Health Sciences
, says Cea is a "rising star" in the field of clinical and rehabilitation counseling.
"In her first year, she completed more tasks and projects, both required and volunteer, that most students take several years to complete,"
he said. "Dana has earned the trust of the faculty to perform at a very high level whether it is teaching, research or service."
Cea received her bachelor's degree in business administration from Appalachian State University and her master's degree in clinical rehabilitation and mental health counseling from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She also worked as an insurance agent before returning to school to pursue a counseling degree.
Cea hopes to incorporate her business and counseling skills once she graduates.
"I really like doing consulting, where people can come to me if they have specific questions on trauma,"
she said. "For example, they might say, 'This is what I have going on. What are some techniques that I can use?'"
What advice do you have for other students?:
You always have the option of leaving. Whether that is a class, a major, a relationship, a party/get together, a conversation... you name it. You always have the option of leaving.
What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year?:
I wish I had known more about the student organizations and opportunities my first year. I have learned an incredible amount through serving on the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and attending events on campus.
Your words to live by: "The only constant in life is change"
- Heraclitus. The seemingly worst changes in my life have also provided the best opportunities, and I have learned to be increasingly flexible as life changes.
The one thing you cannot live without:
My spouse indicated that my phone should be the answer.
This Pirate advocates for mental health care for people with disabilities and the LGTBQ community.