Emma Brown

Turning Roadblocks Into Leverage, Graduate Finds New Path

For years, Emma Brown has faced challenges and struggled to find her professional footing. But through her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from The University of Alabama she’s gained newfound confidence and an unwavering drive.

This December, Brown will graduate as one of the top students in her program.

“I’ve spent the majority of my life second-guessing almost everything I do,” she said. “I feel comfortable in this [field], I feel that I could really help students who are transitioning from one big stage of life to the next.”

Growing up with a disability, Brown learned the hard way that she would face more roadblocks than some others. However, she never let that stop her. In fact, it in part inspired her.

“I think my background in education management and being able to do research, and my own experience with disability led me into rehabilitation counseling,” she said.

Brown earned her bachelor’s in education management from Young Harris College, and went to work in job development, where she scouted vacant jobs for individuals based on their skills and experience. It was here that Brown realized she wanted more opportunities to work one-on-one with individuals with disabilities who were transitioning out of high school, so she started looking at graduate programs and found the STAR Scholars Program at The University of Alabama College of Education.

Project STAR (Service, Teaching, Advocacy, and Rehabilitation) is a federally funded program that trains master’s students for careers in special education and rehabilitation counseling. Brown is among the first cohort of STAR scholars at the Capstone and has made a name for herself as one of the top students in her field of study.

In the STAR program, students gain real experience aiding students while they move to their next stage of life. The program encourages collaboration between rehabilitation counselors and special education practitioners to build relationships that help both parties provide more well-founded services to their students.

Although Brown attends through UA Online from her current residence in Sparta, Tennessee, the STAR Program gave her the opportunity to spend three weeks of the summer in Tuscaloosa, working one-on-one with students in the Crossing Points Program to create tailored transition plans for them.

With her background in job development and the new knowledge and skills from her master’s program, Brown was able to see firsthand the impact she can have.

Making these plans for students to help get them into the community is really “What [rehabilitation counselors] try to do,” she said.

Following graduation, Brown hopes to continue laying the groundwork of bridges for transitioning students to cross. However, she knows she’ll never be a “fresh master’s grad” again, so Brown hopes to explore what else the world holds for her bright future.

“If there’s anything that this master’s degree has taught me, it’s that the journey towards getting what you want is not going to be easy.”

Brown has spent her collegiate career empowering herself with her perseverance. No longer does she feel the need to move past the obstacles and roadblocks in front of her, but rather use them as leverage to propel her onto her next endeavor.


Breanna Erickson, UA Strategic Communications, bnerickson@crimson.ua.edu