Zobaida Laota has lived and traveled all over the world, but when it came to the right place to pursue her doctorate degree, UNCG’s counseling and educational development program was the perfect fit.

Originally from Sudan, Laota and her family immigrated to the United States when she was six years old. They lived in North Carolina and Texas and became American citizens before moving to Saudi Arabia 12 years ago for her father’s job.

Laota returned to the U.S. for college, earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UNC-Chapel Hill and her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from NC State.

“I chose mental health, but in a lot of ways, it chose me,” she said. “I have a passion for it.”

Her interest in the subject started at an early age, when she first encountered individuals with autism and other developmental delays.

In high school, Laota spent time in Cambodia, the Philippines, Tanzania and Turkey on service trips, as well as other places in the Middle East. She also traveled to Honduras several times with the Global Public Health Brigade as an undergraduate student.

Throughout her travels, Laota saw how few services were available to individuals – especially immigrants and refugees – with mental health problems.

“I came into the mental health field because there was a significant need,” she said. “I want to find the best way to give back by seeing what the need is in the community.”

Whether it’s research, teaching or clinical practice, Laota wanted to contribute more to the mental health field, so she decided to look into different doctoral programs. Her former professors recommended UNCG’s School of Education.

The more she looked into UNCG’s program, the more she liked what she saw. Laota felt she would be supported and would have opportunities to pursue her specific interests at UNCG.

“When it comes to a PhD program, it’s really about the fit,” she said. “I felt like I connected to UNCG, and I felt like I could find a place here.”

 

Story by Jeanie McDowell, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications