Life’s path can be tricky to navigate. We start down certain roads and miss signposts along the way, but if we are lucky, it brings us to exactly where we should be. Simmone Stovall has gone full circle. At 39, she is a wife, mother of two, business owner and master’s candidate. She will receive a graduate degree in Community Psychology in December, and is currently serving an internship at The Healing Center, which helps sexual assault and abuse survivors and their family members heal from the trauma of sexual abuse and empower them to rebuild their lives.
Empowerment can be an overused word, but for Stovall it has served as metaphoric bookends. She has always been interested in empowering women – sometimes in rather unconventional ways. She remembers an interest in psychology since junior high school and pursued it by enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, however she left during her junior year. “I also was interested in fashion and cosmetology, so I decided to go to MATC,” she said. After earning an associate’s degree in cosmetology, she started working in the industry.
“Working with people in a salon, you learn a lot about them,” Stovall said. “People tell you things they would never tell anyone else. You help people build a positive self-image; help them feel good about themselves. There’s a lot of psychology going on behind that chair.”
Stovall’s next path was becoming a business owner. She returned to school to earn a business degree from Concordia University and opened a salon, Beauty Masters Salon and Spa, in 2004.
After many years of listening to client’s life stories, issues and turning points, Stovall decided to look into following her first career goal of becoming a psychologist. “I looked into another university’s program, met the requirements after a year of study and, for some reason, could not complete the online application. I just didn’t feel at ease about the decision. Something was keeping me from enrolling,” she shared.
She chose to trust her instincts and wait until the answer came to her. Turns out, the wait led her on the path to Alverno.
Stovall had been on and off Alverno’s campus for 10 years. “I’ve always been impressed with the beauty of the campus and the women there. They’re empowered to make change in their lives and the community.” She got involved as a Mentoring And Support To Excellence (MASTE) mentor through her association with Juliette Martin-Thomas, PhD, retired professor of Psychology at Alverno, who started the program.
In 2011, Martin-Thomas shared with Stovall that Alverno was starting a master’s program in Community Psychology. “This taught me to be patient, to be open to God’s direction and guidance from Juliette,” she said with a light air of solemnity.
Stovall started the master’s program that fall. “I wanted to be hands-on and connected with the community to empower women to seek a better life and to help them recognize their strength,” she said. “When women feel better, they do better.”
At The Healing Center, where 600 to 800 clients are counseled each year, Stovall works in individual and group counseling sessions and is involved in advocacy and case management work. “We focus on whole wellness. There are a lot of components to getting over the shame of sexual assault. We look to treat the whole person,” she said. “I’m honored to be a part of that process.”
Melinda Hughes, program director at The Healing Center, is pleased to have Stovall on board, as well. “When we interviewed Simmone, she was a standout: confident and well prepared.” Hughes is also a part-time, adjunct professor of Community Psychology at Alverno.
Stovall started her internship in May and is doing great, Hughes said. “Simmone has a great capacity to be supportive and listen with a nonjudgmental heart. Currently, we are co-facilitating a group together.”
For Stovall, empowerment is something you pay forward. “Alverno empowers me to make substantive change, and supports and prepares me to do this work. I have learned how people experience me, meaning I understand what kind of impact I have.”
Balancing work, school and life is tough for all students, and Stovall admits it’s no different for her. “I stay mindful of where I am and focus on the moment, prioritizing on faith and family.” And by ‘family’ she means her husband and children and the greater community in which she serves.