Nadja Gould sits in her peaceful blue office at University Health Services, her trademark silver bun piled high on her head.
She is warm in her welcome, but every so often she glances at the reporter's notebook in my hand and the photographer's equipment. A dedicated counsellor and social worker, she is used to listening to people talk about their lives, and I sense that she is a little surprised to find the tables turned.
"I have always been interested in working with college students," she begins. "I had wanted to go to social work school since I was an undergraduate."
A licensed clinical social worker, Gould has been at UHS since she graduated from Simmons Social Work School in 1978. Hired then as the University's pregnancy counsellor, she has since become involved in everything from aiding rape survivors, to supporting the gay and lesbian community, to helping people with terminal illnesses.
The Counsellor's Counsellor
And according to people she has worked with in each of these areas, Gould quietly becomes a pillar they look to for strength.
"She can walk into a room and flood it with tranquility," says Michele S. Jaffe '91, who is the co-director of Peer Contraceptive Counsellors (PCC). "It's so wonderful to have her as an advisor. She's so completely unassuming and yet she's completely in control...I've learned a lot about dealing with people just from watching her."
"She does not hold her power over you in a relationship," Jaffe's partner, Laura A. Rosenbury '92, adds.
Rosenbury and Jaffe work very closely with Gould in their official capacity with PCC, and both of them often drop by her office just to chat. It's clear that Gould is far more than an administrative supervisor to them.
Yet neither can recount much about her life--where she grew up, if she has children, what she does when she goes home, what she worries about. The question stops them for a minute.
"I don't know very much about her," Rosenbury finally acknowledges, "... and she knows so much about our lives, but despite that you can still feel so close to her... She handles the role of counsellor and friend very well--she's the counsellor's counsellor."
Gould may be a private person, but she is an intense worker and largely responsible for many widely recognized programs on campus.
A list of the support groups she has either started or supervised here reads like a general information booklet on support groups at Harvard--Room 13, Peer Contraceptive Counsellors (PCC), Response, Contact, Life Raft and AIDS Support Group.
"Some days, it's absolutely amazing what she does--her energy is just amazing," her secretary of three years, Sandra L. Schleinz, says. "She'll have therapy appointments, plus emergencies that come up, plus doing supervision for her supe-group [a support group and training session for peer counsellors], and zillions of phone calls in between. She's hard to keep up with."