Ph.D. Profiles - Heather Paessler-Chesterton, Susan Lahey & Jenny Beasley Preffer
Jenny Beasley Preffer
Career Services Director
St. Augustine, Florida
Three women, three parts of the county, one common goal: a high-profile grant study project that is beginning to gain national notice in the field of counselor education.
The project itself, a grant study awarded to Regent and funded by accrediting bodies ACES and CACREP, was designed to compare the effectiveness and student satisfaction rates of traditional CACREP-accredited master’s programs and CACREP-accredited master’s programs online.
For Susan Lahey in Nashville, Heather Paessler-Chesterton in Chicago and Jenny Beasley Preffer in Florida, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. The grant had three distinct sections, and the three Regent Ph.D. candidates were at the top of the list for their professors. My dissertation was almost done when I was invited to work on the grant,” says Lahey. "My entrepreneurial side kicked in, and I said, 'Yes!'" Paessler-Chesterton and Preffer were just as quick to jump onboard. Two years later, the women are ready to present their groundbreaking work at a national convention in Charlotte, N.C.
So exactly how difficult was it to work together from a distance? “We don’t feel distanced from each other at all,” says Lahey, a counselor in a private practice and full-time professor at a local university near Nashville. In fact, she says, getting close to a colleague may be inherently easier online since time spent together is intentional and focused.
Paessler-Chesterton, who works with youth in alternative school settings in the Chicago area, says that Regent’s cohort structure and yearly on-campus residency contributes greatly to the closeness. “For a week and a half every summer, you meet together with the students and professors you’ve been working with online all year long.”
For Preffer, career services director for Florida’s Flagler College, faculty expertise was a powerful draw. “Regent’s professors are very well-known in the field – they’re very connected.” Preffer credits her professors for making her current job even possible. “Florida licensing required me to have a certain course that Regent didn’t offer at the time,” she says. “When I told my professors about the situation, they designed an independent study program that allowed me to fulfill the requirement.”
Together, Lahey, Paessler-Chesterton and Preffer have come a long way professionally – and from a long way geographically. But what is distance in the face of friendship and professional camaraderie? “We are part of each other’s lives now,” says Preffer. “The three of us will be friends and colleagues for life.”