Dr. Maiden. Dad. Professor. Those are just a few names Brian Maiden is known by in Richmond, Virginia. The father of four is a teacher at Virginia State University in the Counselor Education Program, where he strives to make a difference in his community every day. Maiden doesn't just love teaching; it's a life passion for him, too. He loves teaching his children, and he loves teaching his students.
“I started working in insurance, wearing a suit and tie, sitting at my desk all day,” said Maiden, “But that was not my life. I knew I wanted to do something else.”
Maiden firmly believed in the theory of planned happenstance – the idea of taking advantage of unplanned opportunities. It's a theory he has used to guide his life and career. It's driven him to make more significant, more impactful, contributions to his community.
“Being curious and putting yourself in a position to meet people who can help you along is important, even if it’s not what you originally intended,” said Maiden. "I needed to do something bigger because the mental health issues of students were just astronomical, and they were growing,"
As the problems in schools, like anxiety and violence, continued to increase, Maiden returned to school and got his Ph.D.
“I like school. I enjoy school. I woke up one morning and said, 'I need to do something different, so I think I'll go back to school,'" said Maiden. "All of those things led me here."
Maiden's biggest goal was evolving how counselors help students progress through their developmental years in school.
“When you think about counselors, you maybe go to them if you have a problem, but they’re primarily there just to help you graduate,” says Maiden. “I want us to be mental health practitioners because our students are dealing with a lot.”
According to Maiden, it was common ten years ago to only see two or three students per school year dealing with anxiety. That number today is closer to 50 to 60.
“It was frustrating to me,” said Maiden. “I had to turn that frustration into positive energy and positive movement.”
While at Virginia State, Maiden has worked tirelessly to help struggling students.
"We've brought in some educators, and they are focused on the academics. We've got to get them caught up, and we've got to get them focused on what they missed academically," said Maiden. "Until we deal with the speed bumps these kids are experiencing, until we deal with the mental wellness issues, they’re not going to learn.”
According to Maiden, it’s common for students to be suspended for being in a minor fight or other small incidents, causing these students to fall further behind academically.
“Instead of them getting suspended and missing five days, [counselors] can meet with students and go through mindfulness exercises and teach [students] different strategies so that conflict is not their first step,” said Maiden.
Being driven to impact the community and kids is most important to Maiden, and it's at the center of everything he does.
“We’re always a community, regardless of what else is going on. If kids are getting in trouble, we have to make sure they feel like they’re a part of the community," said Maiden. "The world is struggling, and the world needs good counselors. I want to have that kind of impact on people where I'm either preparing counselors to work with [kids] who are dealing with mental health, or I'm doing it myself."
Today, between continuing to raise his children and his volunteer work in the Richmond community, Maiden is focused on the research he hopes will make a difference in students' lives not only in Richmond but across the country.“My research is on school-based mental health. That’s my Michael Jordan list. That’s my GOAT list,” Maiden proudly said. “That’s where I put my energy.”