Peace Corps Volunteer Combines Blends Two Passions Into a Career

For more than two years, Michelle Gaudreau, MA ’06, lived in a sub-Saharan village in Cote D’Ivoire, Africa. A Peace Corps volunteer, she worked with a local nurse, teaching health education in area schools. She also trained villagers in the prevention and treatment of diseases such as malnutrition, AIDS, and malaria, so they, in turn, could teach others throughout the country.

A Search for Meaningful Life Work Leads to AUNE

In fall 2003, due to civil uprising, she and other volunteers were evacuated from Cote D’Ivoire. Michelle returned home to Massachusetts and immediately launched an intensive search for meaningful life work that incorporated her two passions: dance and psychology.

“That’s when she discovered AUNE.”

“I’ve danced since I was three,” she said. “I’ve always loved dance, but I also have an interest and love of psychology. Basically, I wanted to find a way to combine them. I researched and researched on the internet until finally, I found AUNE’s master’s in dance/movement therapy and counseling program.”

Once enrolled, Michelle soon discovered that the program’s emphasis on hands-on practical experience in a variety of settings not only prepared her for her chosen profession, but helped her to define her career goals.

“For me, the best parts of my AUNE program were the practica and internships,” she said. “They definitely gave me confidence in my skills. I got to choose what I was doing and worked with different populations. I learned what age groups I enjoyed working with and where my skills worked best. When I looked for a job, I knew what I liked and what I wanted.”

After earning her master’s degree in dance therapy/movement and counseling from AUNE in 2006, Michelle joined the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, a statewide agency in Massachusetts for at-risk youth. Since then, she has served as senior clinician at the Elizabeth Birk Oatis Children’s Center, a long-term residential school in Lancaster, Massachusetts, where she works with boys, ages 12-16, with a variety of mental health diagnoses.

Work with Children Recognized Not Once, But Twice

In no time at all, she received two awards for her exemplary skills and dedication as a mental health professional. The first came in 2007 when, nominated by fellow staff members, she received a Special Recognition for Clinical Services award. A year later, in 2008, the agency, which employs 28 clinicians throughout six Massachusetts locations, honored her with an Outstanding Service by a Clinician honor.

“I hadn’t been there for very long, so I was shocked,” she said. “But, it was very, very nice.
Michelle lives in her hometown of Leominster. Despite her busy professional schedule, last fall she accepted new responsibilities as public relations director of the New England Chapter of the American Dance Therapy Association.”

Her AUNE training has served her well. I’m very happy with my AUNE education, she said. It was exactly what I wanted.

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