This issue: Summer 2018

Why I Teach: Winston Seegobin

Years ago a faculty mentor transformed Seegobin’s life; now it’s his turn to do the same for doctoral students at George Fox

By Melissa Binder


inston Seegobin still remembers sitting down with the girl. It was a small, bare room with wooden chairs for her and for him, the troubled high school student and the inexperienced counselor.

“I’m pregnant and I don’t want my parents to know,” she told him. “I’m going to kill myself.”

With only a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the time, Seegobin was unqualified to provide the kind of therapy the girl needed, and he knew it. Motivated by that interaction, he spent years becoming better prepared to help people like that girl.

Now a professor in the univer sity’s Doctor of Psychology program, Seegobin is dedicated to preparing others for the same work.

“When I teach students, I want them to know the work we do is not just work,” he says. “There’s a sacredness to it.”

Not long after he met the girl, Seegobin left his home island of Trinidad to study clinical psychology at the graduate level in the United States. After a few more years back home – teaching, counseling, and playing a leadership role at a drug treatment center – he returned to the States with his wife to pursue his doctor of psychology degree. It was during that time that Seegobin faced another life-altering conversation – one where he was the person in need.

“In the second year, I went to this professor and I said, ‘In the first year of the program, I feel like the professors took us apart. Everything was pulled apart.’ I said to him, ‘I don’t like this. I don’t like where I am right now. I’d like to spend some time with you, and I want you to help me by putting me back together.’”

The professor said yes, and their relationship bloomed into a three-year mentorship that transformed Seegobin’s life.

The Trinidadian’s father had died when he was a toddler. He was the youngest of five children, and his mother never had any education – not even at the elementary level. He didn’t like school and didn’t really have anyone accomplished to look up to. “I grew up feeling very inferior, like I didn’t have anything to contribute to anybody,” he says. But Seegobin’s mentor accepted, supported and encouraged him.

“Teaching is a way of mentoring students. I don't just give them information—I give them me.”

“I wasn’t just learning how to become a different psychologist,” he says. “I was learning how to become a different person – how to become more accepting of myself, how to be satisfied with who I am and not wanting to be anyone else.”

The experience completely reoriented Seegobin’s perspective on teaching. He’d taught off and on for years, primarily at colleges in Trinidad. As one of few people on the island with higher-education training in psychology, teaching had seemed obvious. It came naturally to him, and he was passionate about raising up others who could respond appropriately to the needs of local youth, like the girl he’d felt ill-equipped to help. But through his own experience of being mentored, he came to see teaching as a much grander opportunity. “Teaching is a way of mentoring students,” he says. “I don’t just give them information – I give them me.”

In addition to mentoring students one-on-one, Seegobin infuses his class time with as much personal relationship as possible, openly sharing stories from his own life and inviting students to do the same as a way to more deeply explore concepts in the material.

“Authenticity is important, ”he says. “Genuineness, transparency, vulnerability – all of those things are essential parts of what teaching is all about.” 

For Seegobin, authenticity means not only sharing his experiences, but allowing his complex Indo-Trinidadian cultural background to flow into his teaching. He sees this background as making him distinctly laid back and focused on emotion – qualities that don’t necessarily reflect the norm for American academia. With support from his wife and two sons, Seegobin feels like he’s finally let go of the pressure to project busyness and settle into who he is.

mplex ethnicity – and his wife’s Chinese background – Seegobin is particularly passionate about mentoring minority and international students. He hopes not only to help these budding psychologists succeed in their academic and professional lives, but do so while being completely and unapologetically themselves.

“I tell students, ‘Be yourself. For you to be a good psychologist, you have to be true to yourself,’” he says. “I think we need to celebrate who we are every day.”

facebook sharing button
twitter sharing button
email sharing button