CHE Announcements

Announcements for the CHE Departmental Home Page

Apply to be a student ambassador for the College of Education for 2018-2019!

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 6, 2018.

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


Higher Education Prospective Student Open House

New Higher Ed faculty's research examines community colleges' strengths, challenges

UNT may be a four-year research university, but it has a long-running dedication to community colleges. The UNT College of Education is home to the Bill J. Priest Center, named for the founding and longtime chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District.  The UNT College of Education also offers doctoral programs in Higher Education, which enroll many community college administrators seeking to advance within their institutions. Alumni of the program include leaders at many North Texas community college campuses, and are known across the state for their expertise.

Now, the UNT community college team has a new member, whose research dives into the role of community colleges as important sites for credential completion, civic engagement and strengthening our democracy.

Cliff Harbour came to UNT from the University of Wyoming and before that worked at Colorado State University. Early in his career, he was an academic dean at a community college in Durham, North Carolina. Harbour is excited to be in Texas, however, a state that he calls “an exceptional place for higher education.”

“In our business, people say there are two places to be if you want to work in a large, complex, growing higher education sector: Texas and California. In both states, public and private institutions range from open-access community colleges to research universities with international reputations. It’s all here,” he said.

And, Harbour added, “Texans really take pride in higher education, so that brings an appreciation for the work we do, but higher expectations as well.  And this is good.” 

Harbour’s current research projects focus on the Completion Agenda, community college civic engagement programs, and developing a stronger normative vision for community college education.

 The Completion Agenda

The Completion Agenda is a nationwide effort to increase graduation rates, especially in higher education. 

“Every college or university would like to improve its graduation rates,” Harbour said, “but this is especially important at community colleges.” 

Completion rates at community colleges are relatively low – lower than those reported for four-year colleges and universities. 

“But, there’s a reason for this,” Harbour said. “Traditionally, community colleges had a mission of access, and their role was to provide an open door to high school graduates without regard to their grade point average (GPA) or standardized test scores (e.g., SAT, ACT).” 

So, to attract these students and working adults and those who did not move on to full-time university study, community colleges offered courses day, night and weekends, and the tuition was affordable. For decades, community colleges were leaders in providing adults with new higher education opportunities, either in occupational fields or in university transfer programs. Today, however, community colleges must do more than provide access. 

“And we all get that,” Harbour said. “The challenge community colleges face now is how to improve graduation rates without decreasing access.” 

Harbour’s first strand of research is grounded on a critical analysis of leading completion reforms to assess where there are gaps in addressing student needs. 

There is a lot of important research available on community college rates, he said. This work, however, is grounded in the disciplines supporting it. 

“This isn’t a bad thing” Harbour said, “it just recognizes that different social sciences bring their own conceptual and methodological limitations, and educators must synthesize this work to make it more accessible for practitioners.”

Harbour, a former community college dean, noted that, “Community college leaders want programs and practices that they can use tomorrow, and the best research is not always presented in a form that facilitates this work. So we need to help explain and disseminate that work.” 

Civic Engagement

A second line of inquiry for Harbour concerns the growth of new community college civic engagement programs. These initiatives are focused on helping students develop the skills, dispositions and values necessary to be effective members of their communities. 

“At the end of the day, community college students will succeed in life because they have developed the capacity needed to identify and solve problems in collaboration with others – in the community, at work and in the political institutions that organize our democracy,” Harbour said.  “Yes, we all need to do more to eliminate barriers to access and improve completion. But when students leave us and go forward in their lives, they must be prepared to negotiate and advocate for themselves and their families. They need to know how to work effectively in a democracy.” 

Harbour’s research focuses on nationally recognized civic engagement programs and examining the leadership that makes them successful.

Normative Vision

Harbour’s third line of research involves the development of a stronger normative vision for community colleges. He began work on this project in his recently published book, John Dewey and the Future of Community College Education. Every college or university is guided by an institutional mission, he said, and an institution’s mission is established by the state legislature or its trustees. 

“But institutions need more than this,” Harbour said. “They also need a normative vision – a vision of what the institution needs to be about, ethically.  And this includes ensuring that all of us on campus accept responsibility for protecting and securing our democracy.”

The Higher Education Program Faculty and Students

As one of the newest faculty in the College of Education’s Higher Education program, Harbour is working with six colleagues who are teaching and mentoring students in certificate, master’s and doctoral programs. 

“These faculty are truly exceptional,” Harbour said. “They are at the very top of the field in their teaching, research and service. It’s an honor and privilege to be a part of this group. 

“I was familiar with their work before I came to UNT. But now that I’m here, I benefit from their suggestions and observations, almost every day of the week.” 

As for the students in the program, Harbour was reflective. 

“You know,” he said, ”I’ve been working with graduate students – most of them community college leaders – both as a peer and as a professor in doctoral programs, for more than 30 years. What impresses me most about UNT graduate students – and I’m talking about those I have worked with – is that they are not just unusually bright and hardworking. They also have a sense of quiet confidence and professionalism that is often hard to find.

“For those working at community colleges, it’s clear, they know there are big challenges ahead. But, these people are looking for the challenges, seeking them out, and taking the measured risks associated with leadership. They are compassionate and care deeply about their students and their institutions. I’m not sure where they get that. Maybe it’s a Texas thing. But they are definitely players, and they will have a great impact that benefits all of us. And this is good.”

CHE chair recognized for life-saving book

Janice Holden, department chair and professor of counseling in the UNT College of Education's Department of Counseling and Higher Education, received a diploma from the Royal Life Saving Society Commonwealth November 26 at the society's annual National Lifesaving Championships competition in Leeds, England.

The society conferred the diploma, a kind of certificate of recognition, for a book Holden co-authored with water safety expert Stathis Avramidis titled Near-Death Experiences While Drowning (available here: The primary purpose of the book is to educate water safety professionals about the possibility that someone they rescue from drowning may report a near-death experience, usually involving hyperlucid perception from a position apart from the physical body during circumstances in which no conscious experience would be expected, and about how to respond to such a disclosure in a way that helps and does not harm the rescued person.

The diploma reads, "For a high standard of knowledge of lifesaving values and for service in contributing to the development of the Society's aims and objectives."

The Royal Life Saving Society was founded in 1891 in London in response to the large number of drownings occurring at the time. It is a charity registered in the UK with the Charity Commission and is governed by Royal Charter.


Above: Pictured, from left, Stathis Avramidis, Janice Holden and RLSS UK President Ian Hutchings.

Counseling faculty part of $1.5 million in grants

Three University of North Texas professors have been awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to begin the work of increasing cultural competency in therapists.  

Angie Wilson, assistant professor in the Department Counseling and Higher Education in the College of Education, and Chandra Carey, associate professor and interim chair of the College of Health and Public Services Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services, along with Peggy Ceballos, associate professor also in the department of  Counseling and Higher Education, have been awarded a four-year $1,272,233 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement a program to address health disparities by enhancing the delivery of culturally competent mental health services to underserved communities.

Through this grant they will prepare UNT students to provide cultural competency training throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth region. The focus of this grant award is to provide counseling services in integrated care settings and to increase the number of mental health counselors working with underserved communities. In addition to the training, 80 master’s-level students will receive stipends for their clinical internship experiences.

“For me, it is exciting to look at the impact that the services we will provide through this grant will have on our community,” said Ceballos.

Wilson and Carey also have been awarded a separate grant of $353,543 from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to build clinical partnerships and assist with delivery of culturally competent counseling services and recruitment and retention of students from underserved populations.

Wilson said that grant will result in UNT developing partnerships with more than 20 agencies in the Dallas Fort Worth area to train therapists in cultural competency. She added that 33 UNT master’s students will work as interns with those community partners that target Latino and African-American communities.

“This is about the people in these communities getting the help they need,” Wilson said. “Our goal is that it extends beyond the interns and reaches the citizens in underserved communities.”

Carey added that one of the issues they hope to address with both grants is that people of color don’t generally reach out for help with mental health issues. Even when they do, they are not likely to return for regular counseling sessions because of a lack of cultural understanding from the therapist, she said.

“This is about access to services that reflect all cultures,” Carey said. “We need to redefine the narrative and recognize cultural differences so that all people can get the help they need.”


Pictured, from left, Angie Wilson, Peggy Ceballos and Chandra Carey.

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


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.