Chantal Doucet-Brice has a passion for books.

Chantal on Wheel of Fortune, flanked by her aunts

The written word has been as vital a part of her life as breathing or food. Whether she is devouring them from cover to cover or organizing them into thoughtful haiku, intriguing plots or complicated story lines, words are her medium.

“Growing up in New Brunswick [Canada], I always wanted to be something and a writer – a doctor, astronomer, a teacher, etc. and a writer, but I always knew I wanted to be a writer,” she said. “I wanted to be a horror story writer from the get-go.”

Her first attempt at horror writing was in the second grade.

“It was about a toy kite named Amy, who loved the sun because it kept her warm.  She was struck by lightning and burned to death,” Doucet-Brice said, with a chuckle. “It’s all my brain could process of horror at the time.”

She looks forward to the day when her first book is published, but until that happens, she continues to write and feed her passion for books and good literature – in between required text book readings, research papers and exams.

Though she has spent a lifetime reading books about distant locales and much of her adult life has been spent traveling to exotic lands to work on the other side of the globe, the Canada native never once imagined herself tromping the landscapes of south Arkansas, let alone the campus of Southern Arkansas University.

A chance meeting with an SAU alum while teaching in South Korea, would change her future and connect the dots between this restless, intelligent, literature-loving world traveler and SAU. Jared Brice and his southern drawl captured her heart and imagination when he entered her world wearing a red “Arkansas” shirt and hat. After completing seven years of teaching in East Asia, Doucet-Brice traveled back to Arkansas with her fiancé, where they married. After touring around South Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, her first impression of the “Natural State” was one of comfortable surprise.

“We traveled so long to get here. I didn’t know what to expect. The accent differences – I had difficulty understanding at first, but someone had coffee ready. That made the transition easier,” she said, laughing at the memory.

Doucet-Brice doesn’t collect dust, personally or academically. The University of New Brunswick graduate was ready to get to work on continuing her education. She looked into programs at all of the universities in Arkansas, but after calling two universities to get questions answered, her search was stalled.

“Their websites weren’t any help, but neither were the people on the other end of the phone,” she said. “In short, they were rude, unhelpful and condescending.”

Hearing her husband talk of his positive experience at SAU prompted Doucet-Brice to look more intently at the SAU website.

“The information on the SAU site was detailed and clear. They were enthusiastic and helpful when I called. I got the impression that instead of doing me a favor, they were truly interested in having me,” said Doucet-Brice. “The initial contact had a lot to do with it. It set the tone for what experience you expect to have.”

Upon second contact the gracious response received from Dr. Kim Bloss, dean of the School of Graduate Studies, and Secretary Gaye Calhoun bonded her to SAU.

Doucet-Brice is working on her Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Education in school counseling, while she also works as a graduate assistant to the University’s website coordinator.

Unpleasant experiences with her own high school counselor and her seven years teaching in South Korea’s educational system motivated Doucet-Brice to take on the second master’s degree in school counseling – quite the unexpected departure from what she envisioned herself doing with her life when she was plotting it as a child.

“From experience, I know it makes a difference to have strong support in schools by people who care,” she said. “Social problems in schools in Korea are not addressed as they are here. I felt helpless, and I hate that feeling. I wanted to help, so once I got back here I found that I was in a position to help.”

Though, south Arkansas may be a world apart from the exotic lands of her past, she has learned that opportunities come to people who reach out to grasp them. An opportunity to try out for her favorite television game show “Wheel of Fortune” landed her a coveted spot at the big, lighted wheel across from Pat Sajak and Vanna White. Doucet-Brice and her skill with words won the game, which was aired in January. Though she lost the final chance which would have garnered her $40,000, the driven perfectionist didn’t leave disappointed.

“I was thrilled that I got the chance,” she said, with a smile that always reaches her eyes. “I knocked another thing off my bucket list.”

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