BROOKINGS – This past spring, South Dakota State University graduate student Kanbi Knippling, of Chamberlain, joined an elite group.
Knippling, who earned undergraduate degrees in psychology and human development and family studies from SDSU in 2017, was one of 30 clinical mental health counseling graduate students to be named a Minority Masters Mental Health Fellow by the National Board of Certified Counselors in March.
“Kanbi is an exceptional student who I think exemplifies all of the best traits of a Jackrabbit. It is hard for me to put into words just how proud I am of her,” said Kristine Ramsay-Seaner, Knippling’s adviser and an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development.
Growing up, Knippling spent her fair share of time in the hospital as a result of being born with myelomeningocele spina bifida, a condition obstructing the development of the spinal cord and its nerves. The hospital experiences opened her eyes to the relationships between physical and mental health and the stigmas associated with the latter.
“That’s what initially sparked my passion for this field,” she said. “I felt like I could truly make a difference and hopefully do my part to reduce that stigma.”
Her passions within the field have grown to include issues such as reducing health disparities and working with underserved communities, something she feels made the fellowship a perfect fit.
Ramsay-Seaner brought the fellowship to Knippling’s attention. After applying, Knippling endured an anticipation-filled month she likened to applying for graduate school before learning she made the second round. Another month went by before she got an email – she was selected as a fellow.
“I had my fingers crossed the entire time I was waiting for news on my application but was prepared for the possibility I wasn’t going to get it,” Knippling said. “When I found out I had been named a fellow, I sat staring at the email in disbelief for probably a half-hour.”
As part of her fellowship, Knippling traveled to the NBCC Symposium in Atlanta where she met the other fellows in this year’s class.
“Every single one of them is genuinely amazing and I left that week with so many new friendships,” she said. “To be part of the same group is such a great feeling and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to put it into words.”
Having returned from Atlanta with many new connections, Knippling is optimistic about her future. Her goal is to work with individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
The 23-year-old expects to complete her master’s degree in May 2020 and plans to pursue a doctorate in counselor education and supervision.
“This fellowship gives me the chance to meet and connect with professionals doing the type of work that I hope to do while also giving me access to training and resources that I otherwise wouldn’t have at this stage in my education,” Knippling said. “More than anything, I’m excited to continue learning and challenging myself to be the best counselor I can be. This fellowship allows me to do that and I’m incredibly grateful for it."