Visitors to Ellen Pauloski’s office are greeted by a collection of stickers. Once hanging on the wall, the stickers—many of which are mementos from the places she’s lived or visited—are now displayed on a table near her desk. Despite being so well traveled, Pauloski will tell you that her favorite place in the world is still Burlington, Vermont, where she spent two summers during college with a campus ministry called The Navigators.
Pauloski took a job with that same campus ministry after college and was eventually placed here in Athens. When she decided to look for a new job, she was quickly hired by the University of Georgia as part of an initiative to increase the number of academic advisors on campus. She was onboarded and trained alongside 24 other advisors and then placed in the School of Social Work’s Bachelor of Social Work Program.
Pauloski knew that she eventually wanted to pursue a graduate degree, and when she realized that staff members can take classes through the University System of Georgia’s Tuition Assistance Program, she started looking for a part-time program. As luck would have it, there was one in her school that was based out of the Gwinnett campus.
“I met with my boss at the time to talk about the program and the possibility of juggling full-time work with the demanding social work curriculum. She was so supportive and encouraging, and she sent me straight upstairs to ask the M.S.W. program director if I could study remotely from Athens,” she said. “The director basically said that higher education should be about making things work, so we made it work.”
Since graduating from the program in 2018, she practices therapy part time but remains in her full-time position as an advisor. Pauloski said she has noticed that the way she advises students has changed due to both her time as a student and her role as a therapist.
“The kinds of questions that I ask my students have been deeply informed by my education and fieldwork. We can share about our experiences, and it has been very sweet and fulfilling to connect in a deeper way,” she said.
When asked if she ever intends to pursue counseling as her singular profession, Pauloski laughed.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” she said. “At this point, I’m pretty on the fence about whether or not I would ever jump ship and do therapy full time. I am someone who really likes the stability of a salaried job with benefits.”
Pauloski said that she doesn’t really have a preference as long as she’s serving and helping people.
“I have a gift for bringing order out of chaos,” she said. “I love it, I’m passionate about it, and it allows me to make a unique and valuable contribution. If I can connect my job—whatever that job may be—to that vision of bringing order out of chaos and fostering peace and flourishing, then I am content.”
The themes of order and chaos extend beyond her professional work into all areas of her life. She enjoys organizing as well as weeding her yard, and she
appreciates the metaphor of gardening as an exercise for removing the unnecessary to make room for growth.
For someone who often deals with emotional and draining subjects, self-care is deeply important, and she credits the School of Social Work with being a good advocate for the students and practitioners who may feel stressed or overwhelmed.
Pauloski’s self-care routine varies depending on the season of life she’s in but sometimes includes out-of-the-ordinary relaxation methods. During a few particularly tiring semesters of graduate school, she decided to audition and perform in musicals with Brightstone Productions, a community theater group in Watkinsville.
“It was so life-giving and enriching, and it was tremendously beneficial for me to make myself do it—especially during those high-stress seasons,” Pauloski said. “It was a good source of exercise and social interaction when I really needed it. And besides, it’s important to dust off your tap shoes and sing at the top of your lungs every once in awhile.”