Alumna Leslie Fern – Called to Counsel with Hope and Compassion

When Leslie Fern completed her undergraduate and graduate work in Human Resources, she was done with studying and the all-encompassing gruel of student life. She settled into a full time HR position and forged ahead in her new life as a working adult.

For over 20 years, Leslie’s life was full and meaningful. She cared for family members, volunteered at church, and advanced at work. As the years progressed, Leslie increasingly felt she was created for something more. She and her family had been through some hard trials and those times had afforded her a unique perspective on brokenness and what it means to come alongside those who are hurting. She was definitely serving others through her HR position, but Leslie heard God calling her to use her gifts in a new way. She began to research accredited grad schools offering counseling degrees. Because she felt strongly about incorporating her faith in her education, she applied at Winebrenner Seminary.

In the fall of 2015, Leslie started classes in Winebrenner’s Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling program. Unlike her previous studies, she was now juggling a full-time job on top of class time and homework. The grad level courses were challenging and she felt stretched. Fear of failure began to override her original motivation to be in the program. She completed the second trimester, but did not register for further classes.

Weeks later, Leslie met a friend on the Winebrenner campus. She observed the hustle and bustle of her former classmates and right in the middle of it all she recalled her time at Winebrenner and how God called her there. Specifically, she remembered a time when she witnessed a Winebrenner professor and his wife praying with a student. Leslie was struck by the overall scene and had a deep sense that she belonged at in that setting. While Leslie was on campus, Dr. Kelli Jo Arndt, Director of the MACC program, noticed her visiting and felt God nudging her to reach out. She called Leslie later that week at work and boldly said, “You belong here. Let’s get together and talk.” With God already speaking to her, Leslie could not say no and she agreed to meet. After a heart to heart with Dr. Arndt, Leslie realized that she needed to get over her fear and follow the path that God had set for her. Even Winebrenner’s tag line–“Follow His Call”–was speaking to her! She was humbled by Dr. Arndt’s belief in her and her genuine care. This esteemed professor and counselor saw something in Leslie that Leslie did not see in herself. With renewed vision and a workable plan for managing her schedule, Leslie signed up for the following trimester. She was doing this!

After graduating in August 2019, Leslie finished up her internship at Harbor, a community mental health agency in Toledo. She passed her licensure exam and was offered a full-time position at Harbor in the area of alcohol and other drugs. Her greatest motivation in her current role is the clients themselves. The majority of her clients don’t have anyone in their corner and it is a privilege to see people dig deep and rise up out of addiction. Many of her clients mention their faith in God which then opens the door for Leslie to draw on her theology training to give them guidance, help and lasting hope.

Leslie explains that what sets Winebrenner apart is the faith component. Thanks to the integration of the Christian world-view into all aspects of her counseling education, Leslie views her clients through a different lens. Rather than merely treating clients as processes that must move from A to B, Leslie sees her clients through a “God-lens,” as children of God who have incredible value. “All the spiritual components poured into me and woven into my education help me now to serve and made me more compassionate.”

Leslie boasts that Winebrenner is “a very, very special place.” She highlights the comradery she experienced among her program’s cohort and how her professors invested in her personally. She readily shares that the MACC program is not for the weary! In fact, it is the hardest challenge she’s ever faced…and the most rewarding.