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Counselors Receive Research Grant to Study Native Populations in New Mexico

By Raquel Talamantes

UNT College of Education Counseling faculty members Amanda Giordano, Elizabeth Prosek and Michael Schmit recently received a research grant from the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) to interview Native Americans and gain a better understanding of how they want their culture to be portrayed in diversity courses and how to best meet the mental health needs of this marginalized population. 

Giordano, a specialist in addictions counseling and co-facilitator of the counseling program’s Addictions Counseling Research Team (ACRT); Prosek, co-facilitator of ACRT and specialist in mental health outcomes; and Schmit, an assistant professor specializing in outcome research, aim to gather information from the Native Americans participating in the study that has not yet been presented in existing research literature..

“We hope to gain new knowledge and understanding of how Native men and women experience counseling, if at all; or how counselors could better serve them,” Prosek said.

The award will provide the opportunity to conduct a qualitative study to inform counselors on ways in which they can provide more culturally sensitive counseling services. Additionally, the interviews will highlight the participants’ opinions about how Native culture should be presented in graduate courses.  

“We will conduct a phenomenological study with Native people, both on and off reservations, in order to ascertain Native Americans’ perspectives of how counselors can best approach the mental health needs of Native clients,” said Giordano, who is leading the study. “Additionally, learning about the lived experiences of Native Americans’ access to higher education may help counselor educators recruit Native people into counselor-training programs. Specifically, we will conduct individual, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with Native Americans on or near reservations in New Mexico.”

Giordano said she believes the most useful insight and direction in studies like this one comes directly from the population being studied, and she wants to give Native Americans a chance to share their voice as it relates to their own culture.

“Statistics continue to highlight mental health and substance abuse needs among this population” Giordano said. “Specifically, alcohol-related deaths are 520 percent higher among Native people than all races in the U.S., and death by suicide is 60 percent higher. Therefore, we believe it is crucial for counselor educators to gain a thorough understanding as to what Native people believe to be the proper treatment for these issues.”

Prosek adds that conducting phenomenological studies through a qualitative approach allows for the voices of the participants to be heard.

Giordano chose Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the study because of its large and diverse Native American population.

“There are 562 distinct Indian nations in the United States,” Giordano said. “It would be erroneous to group all Native people together without considering within-group differences. Therefore, our goal is to ascertain information from individuals from different tribes and Native cultural backgrounds.”

There are eight Native pueblos in northern New Mexico near Santa Fe: Nambe, Picuris, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Ohkay Owingeh, Tesuque, Santa Clara and Taos. The Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council Inc. (ENIPC Inc.) exists to provide tribal governors with a structure to collaborate and meet the needs of their communities, Giordano said.

“We feel that conducting interviews in northern New Mexico provides a unique opportunity to learn from individuals from many tribes,” she said.

Over the past five years, Giordano has dedicated time and effort to promote racial justice and to advocate for marginalized groups. Her initiative to combat oppression and to give voices to those in need led her to apply for the ACES grant and start this study.

“The idea of the grant project originated with Amanda,” Schmit said. “When she asked me to join the team, I felt honored and was excited to contribute my research knowledge to the magnitude of what this project represents — giving a voice to Native people.”

 

Pictured, left to right, Amanda Giordano, Elizabeth Prosek and Michael Schmit.

COE faculty receive $313,000 grant to help improve academic performance in local ISDs

Three University of North Texas College of Education faculty members have received a $313,000 grant to help local school children improve academically and achieve mental wellness.

The grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health will support the work of Dee RayNatalya Lindo and Peggy Ceballos, all from UNT’s Department of Counseling and Higher Education. They received the grant to support their project, "Play for the Future: Linking Mental Health to Academic Achievement for Young Children." The three professors will be offering play therapy, parent and teacher education, consultation, and additional initiatives to five schools across Denton and Little Elm during the three years of the grant. 

“We are excited and eager to serve the children and families of Denton County through our partnership with local schools,” said Ray. “Our delivery of play therapy services to children, parents, and teachers in local public schools will be directed toward improving emotional wellness and academic achievement. And we are incredibly grateful to the Hogg Foundation who are committed to the mental health and progress of children.

The Play for the Future project is an initiative of the Center for Play Therapy at UNT, which uses play therapy services as the cornerstone for improving academic and emotional wellness of young children. Play therapy and its adult-related programs have recently been recognized as evidence-based interventions for general functioning, disruptive and internalizing disorders, anxiety, and family cohesion, Ray said. Play for the Future will target schools within the Denton and Little Elm Independent School districts classified by the state of Texas with 64-85 percent economically disadvantaged students and 55-72 percent of the school population as at-risk academically.

 

Pictured, Dee Ray.

Counseling doctoral student named Tillman Scholar

Elizabeth BurginElizabeth Burgin, a doctoral student in the UNT College of Education's counseling program, has been named a 2017 Tillman Scholar by the Pat Tillman Foundation.

In recognition of their service, leadership and potential, the newly selected class of scholars will receive more than $1.1 million in scholarships to pursue their higher education goals.

Burgin said she is inspired by the Army communities she and her husband, Army Capt. Russ Burgin, have called home. She is committed to honoring the service and sacrifice of those in uniform and their families. After several deployments in Afghanistan, Capt. Burgin is now an ROTC instructor at UNT.

“I want to be an advocate for wellness and mental health for service members and their families,” said Burgin.

As a doctoral student, Burgin is focusing her writing and research efforts to develop counselor-specific competencies for military health care and military-focused adaptations to evidence-based treatments, with a focus on play therapy.

“As the next generation of private and public sector leaders, the Tillman Scholars are tackling challenges across national security, healthcare, technology, civil rights and education,” said Marie Tillman, board chair and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation.

“They believe their best years of service to our country are still ahead of them, and they are committed to making a direct impact to strengthen communities at home and around the world,” she said. “We are proud to support this newest class of Tillman Scholars in their drive to serve and empower others as our country’s next leaders.”

 

About the Pat Tillman Foundation
In 2002, Pat Tillman proudly put his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals on hold to serve his country. Family and friends established the Pat Tillman Foundation following Pat’s death in April 2004 while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan. Created to honor Pat’s legacy of leadership and service, the Pat Tillman Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships–building a diverse community of leaders committed to service to others. For more information on the Pat Tillman Foundation and the impact of the Tillman Scholars, visit http://www.PatTillmanFoundation.org.

 

CHE grad student researching play therapy effectiveness for Latino children

Gustavo Barcenas, a doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of North Texas, knows that sometimes in order to help others you have to play.

Barcenas spent the spring researching the effectiveness of play therapy for Spanish-speaking children.

Through a partnership with the Denton Independent School District, Barcenas has been conducting his thesis research at Gonzalez School for Young Children. He is trying to establish whether offering play therapy to Spanish-speaking children in their primary language is more beneficial than receiving the same therapy in English. The ongoing partnership with DISD serves about 30 to 40 kids each year at multiple schools.

Barcenas said adapting services to the needs of the Spanish-speaking population is important.

“There is a gap there for this community and we are trying to alleviate that by providing services in their school and in their language,” said Barcenas.

Since a lack of Spanish-speaking therapists is another roadblock, Barcenas enlisted the help of other bilingual therapists from UNT.

“We want to bridge the gap between academics and community,” he said.

Play therapy is generally used with young children and gives them an outlet to express their experiences and feelings through a natural, self-guided process.

“Children are such a vulnerable group already and then when you add race, gender and economic struggles, they are even more at risk,” said Barcenas.

Felicia Sprayberry, principal at Gonzalez School for Young Children, said she is grateful to have the play therapy program at the school.

“It has allowed our students to receive additional support in emotional and behavioral development, through age appropriate play situations,” said Gonzalez. “The play therapists are also very good at working with families and teachers to provide techniques or resources that can support the child in other environments. I credit the success of the program to Gustavo and the other therapists and the support they receive from UNT.”

Barcenas said that during his work at the school, he has witnessed how important safe spaces are to children.

 “I feel more passionate each time I work with the kids,” he said. “They are in challenging situations, and I see my role as being present. They need a place where they can express what they are thinking and feeling and what worries them.”

Barcenas said that after earning his doctorate degree he plans to continue working with children and families and with play therapy research in some capacity.

 

Pictured, UNT graduate student Gustavo Barcenas works with a local Denton Independent School District student while researching the effectiveness of play therapy for Latino children. 

Counseling doctoral student earns $20,000 fellowship

UNT College of Education doctoral student Ana Guadalupe Reyes has been selected for a $20,000 fellowship from the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Reyes is a doctoral student in the college's counseling program, specializing in equine-assisted psychotherapy and LGBTQ+ issues. As a National Board for Certified Counselors fellow, she will receive funding and training to support her education and facilitate her service to underserved minority populations.

“As the daughter of two undocumented immigrants, this fellowship recognizes the sacrifices my parents made to provide me with a better education,” said Reyes. 

This fellowship will help Reyes receive further training in equine-assisted psychotherapy at the Gestalt Equine Institute of the Rockies in Littleton, Colo., and complete her dissertation in equine-assisted psychotherapy with underrepresented populations.

Reyes said that during her fellowship year she will begin drafting a business plan for a private practice/nonprofit organization dedicated to providing mental health services to LGBTQ+ youth and other underserved populations.

As part of her clinical coursework, Reyes currently serves underrepresented clients and offers bilingual counseling through UNT’s Counseling and Human Development Center.

Reyes, who received her bachelor’s degree from Tiffin University in Ohio and her master’s from Marymount University in Arlington, Va., was just one of 22 students selected for the fellowship.

Higher Ed alum elected to state Board of Directors position

By Raquel Talamantes

Hope Garcia, director of Student Services at UNT’s New College at Frisco and a 2015 graduate of the UNT College of Education’s Higher Education doctoral program, was recently elected to the Texas Association for College & University Student Personnel Administrators (TACUSPA) Board of Directors.

“I have previously served as TACUSPA’s newsletter editor for two years and director of technology for three years,” Garcia said. “TACUSPA was the first professional organization I was introduced to, and it fits me well because there is a great deal of generalist work within student affairs that is included in my job duties. I enjoy working with my colleagues in TACUSPA, so being able to work closely with them on meaningful work is a pleasure.”

Garcia was nominated for the position against a handful of other TACUSPA members. She will be in charge of managing the member and institutional database and reporting out membership status and increases to organization. She will also recruit new members.

TACUSPA brings together administrators, staff, students and other higher education student affairs professionals across the state.

“Historically, TACUSPA’s membership has been composed heavily from public, four-year institutions,” Garcia said. “I would like to work toward increasing the number of represented organizations and members from the varying levels of higher education — four-year, two-year, private, for-profit, professional and residential.”

“Along with my colleagues, I also hope to work toward ensuring that the space TACUSPA provides is one that encourages the across-the-table talk and knowledge-sharing that would provide equal benefit to these various institutional types and in turn, a holistic benefit to higher education and the students and communities each of us touch.”

With this new position, Garcia said she will strive to help institutions support students, goals and institutional livelihood. 

Garcia will be officially sworn in at the TACUSPA Fall Conference in Dallas this October.

Apply to be a student ambassador for the College of Education for 2017-2018!

The purpose of the College of Education (COE) Ambassador Program is to promote and represent the College of Education and the University by assisting the COE Recruiter with outreach, working with the COE development office, and providing leadership and support for all education majors.

Why should I apply to be a COE Ambassador?

How does a $500 stipend per semester sound? In addition to the monetary rewards, COE Ambassadors get to meet new people, share their knowledge and love of UNT and the College of Education as well as help current and prospective students every day! They also build connections throughout campus by working closely with the college's Recruiter and Student Advising Office (SAO), Development and External Relations Office (DERO) and the Dean's Office.

What will the COE Ambassador program do for my future?

Students chosen to be part of this elite group receive valuable training and develop skills in problem solving, team building, interpersonal communication, promoting diversity and public speaking, making them more marketable in today's workforce.

What is being a COE Ambassador all about?

The COE Ambassador program is an amazing opportunity for students who desire to help others and promote the College of Education. We are looking for outgoing, friendly students who possess a genuine love for UNT and the COE, and are willing to provide excellent customer service, recruit new students, and be positive role models. Being a COE Ambassador is a prestigious honor and a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Applications are available through the COE Ambassadors page, and are due April 7, 2017.

For additional information, please contact Renee Foster at (940) 565-4577 or Renee.Foster@unt.edu

 

CHE doctoral students receive honors

Two doctoral students in the UNT College of Education's Counseling and Higher Education department recently earned prestigious honors from separate professional organizations.

In Higher Education, Nicholas Fuselier, a member of the American College Personnel Association, has won the ACPA Annuit Coeptis Award – Emerging Professional.

"I'm thrilled to be recognized by ACPA in this way," Fuselier said. "ACPA is my professional home, and it's a real honor to be a recipient of this award. The award has been around since 1979, so I feel incredibly lucky to join the community of recipients who have gone on to do some pretty incredible work in the field of student affairs and higher education."

Fuselier was nominated by a former professor and received letters of support from his colleagues.

According to the ACPA, the award honors five emerging professionals at a dinner that often includes "wide-ranging discussion and exchange about professional issues." The dinner carries on a tradition established by ACPA members Philip A. Tripp and Ursula Delworth, who enjoyed challenging contemporaries and junior colleagues in a spirit of personal and professional sharing, good humor and thoughtful intellectual debate.

Fuselier looks forward to carrying on tradition by joining and learning from the other recipients of this award at the dinner.

In Counseling, Ana Reyes, a doctoral student focused on changing lives in the LGBTQ community, has earned a $20,000 fellowship from the 2017 National Board for Certified Counselors.

The NBCC Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) is concerned with meeting the behavioral health needs of all Americans, regardless of language or culture, thereby reducing health disparities and improving overall community health and well-being, according to the NBCC. Fellowships to doctoral counseling students from the NBCC MFP aim to strengthen the infrastructure that engages diverse individuals in counseling and increase the number of professional counselors providing effective, culturally competent services to underserved populations.

"I think that my dedication and passion for working with underserved populations shined through my educational, work, and volunteer history," Reyes said.

She has worked with LGBTQ students, immigrants, refugees, survivors of human trafficking, and youths battling substance abuse. She said that these experiences have crafted her path to gaining this accomplishment.

COE Counseling faculty member wins national award

By Raquel Talamantes


Angie Wilson
, assistant professor of counseling in the UNT College of Education’s Counseling and Higher Education department, has won the Robert H. Rencken Emerging Professional Leader Award from the American Counseling Association.

Wilson is a past president of the Texas Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (TACES) and also a New Professional Board Member-at-Large for TACES. She holds a committee chair position in International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors (IAAOC) and serves on the Ethics Appeal Panel for the American Counseling Association. Wilson has also won previous awards including the IAAOC’s 2016 Outstanding Addictions/Offender Professional Award and the 2015 Professor of the Year Award given by the African American Student Leadership team at Texas A&M University.

“I am honored and grateful to be selected as the recipient of the 2017 Robert H. Rencken Emerging Professional Leader Award,” Wilson said. “One of my goals as a professional is to give back to the counseling profession through leadership and service. I enjoy serving our profession and working to be a voice for underserved populations and students. Working in these leadership positions at the local, regional and national levels has afforded me with opportunities to advocate for others, mentor others and give back to the counseling profession.”

According to the ACA website, nominees for the award must:

  • Have been a member of ACA for at least three years
  • Have been an ACA state branch or state division president
  • Have shown ability as a new leader in the counseling profession and have a master’s degree in counseling or closely related profession
  • Held at least one, but no more than three national ACA, division or region offices, board or committee chair positions

The Robert H. Rencken Emerging Professional Leader Award was created in 2006 and recognizes an ACA member who has demonstrated the potential to become a dedicated leader of the counseling profession in future years.

“It is my hope that the leaders who have inspired and helped me along the way recognize the importance and influence they have on emerging professionals,” Wilson said. “Several people mentored me and invested in me, and I hope they see the benefit of their mentorship, guidance and support in this recent accomplishment. I also hope to continue sharing the lessons that I’ve learned along the way to my students and new professionals.”

COE faculty member aids in rare study on terrorism

In the early hours of April 2, 2015, terrorists in Kenya launched an attack on a university full of students. Hours later, 147 people, mostly from Garissa University College, were dead. Traumatic incidents of this type and survivor resiliency have been widely studied in the West. However, in Africa, where such violence is a growing concern, research is scarce about how students who have experienced such violence can be helped in finishing their degrees.

In one of the first studies on the topic, University of North Texas researcher Marc Cutright joined James Oteni Jowi of Moi University, in a qualitative inquiry into what practices might best help those individuals heal and complete their academic goals.

"These are young people who had been shot multiple times, lost limbs or witnessed executions of their classmates," said Cutright, an associate professor of higher education and the director of the UNT Higher Education Development Initiative. "Sadly, we'll probably continue to see heinous attacks like this. We, as researchers, wanted to know if there were lessons that could be learned that could help these and any future students in their emotional recovery so that they can continue with and finish their education."

The study, "Recovery from terrorism: Testimony from survivors of Garissa and lessons learned for supporting resilience," will be presented at the Society for Research into Higher Education annual conference December 7–9 in Wales, and also at the Comparative International Education Society annual conference March 5–9 in Atlanta.

After the 2015 bloodshed, the roughly 450 surviving students were offered the opportunity to transfer to Moi University in Kenya or to sister campuses. Most declined. Of those who transferred to Moi University, 11 completed the research interviews.

For a few, it was the first time they had been allowed to speak at length about that day.

Among the findings that will be presented in December, the researchers noticed a few interesting takeaways:

  • Counseling should be long term. All 11 students initially received counseling, but free treatment in the following months was rare. The students wanted additional therapy so they could cope with unresolved and new issues that had developed. Students also wanted peer-to-peer counseling to provide help to students who declined support from authorities.
  • Faith-based counseling can be a part of, but may not be the sole, solution. Many of the Christian students were at the chapel reciting morning prayers when the attack began; afterward, they found comfort in God and their faith. However, others blamed God for the attack.
  • A financial advocate should ensure contributions and distributions are transparent and fair.Most of the students received nothing from the millions of shillings that had been donated on the students' behalf. Several survivors who asked about this were threatened, directly and indirectly, with expulsion from school. The students felt a representative in financial dealings would prevent misuse of funds.
  • Survivors need a sense of belonging and community. Some survivors kept friendships from their time at Garissa; however, few made new friends at the new school and several said they had withdrawn from the social world. Many felt the chance to tell their stories to others would help.

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