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COE-planned conference focuses on community college issues

The 58th annual Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC) conference was held March 31 through April 2 in Plano. The conference was organized by Beverly Bower, a COE Counseling and Higher Education professor, executive director of CSCC and director of the Bill J. Priest Center for Community College Education at UNT, where CSCC's national office is housed. Sue Young, an administrative coordinator in Counseling and Higher Education, also helped organize the conference.

The CSCC is a subgroup of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), but this was the second year the CSCC conference was hosted separately from AACC's annual convention. Bower and Young work year-round to plan the CSCC conference logistics, such as where the conference will be held and what food will be served.

"I love the logistics - planning the conference from the beginning, coming up with food ideas and trying to meet the needs of everybody year after year," Young said. "It's a lot of fun. I think it's a very well-organized conference and that people are really pleased by it."

According to Bower, nearly 200 people from around the country attended the CSCC 2016 Conference. Bower said that conference attendees normally include professionals who teach in higher education with a specialization in community colleges, students who work in community colleges part-time while working on their doctorate, full-time doctoral students, community colleges' institutional research departments and professionals interested in research who work full-time at community colleges.

The theme of the 58th CSCC Conference was Community College Impact on Individuals and Society: Reimagining, Reconceptualizing and Redefining Research and Scholarship. The sessions showcased community college research organized around six research strands: students; organization, administration and leadership; faculty, curriculum and teaching; contexts, methods and foundations; policy, finance and economics; and international.

Multiple speakers gave presentations at the conference, including Christopher Mullin, executive vice chancellor of the Division of Florida Colleges, and Arthur M. Cohen, well-known author of The American Community College.

This year, large topics of discussion included campus carry, which community colleges plan to implement a year after universities; financing of community colleges, because free community college is a big topic for the current presidential candidates; and emerging leadership in community colleges, because many current community college presidents are at retirement age.

The conference also offered collaboration possibilities for attendees, and one session specifically focused on listening to attendees' ideas and discussing how individuals could help one another in their research.

Many publishers that have community college journals support CSCC's conference, so another session at the conference concentrated on what research publishers are looking for and what ideas they would like to see in publication. Bower said that after the conference, these journals often publish special issues including research based on this sessions' topics of conversation.

Bower hopes that those who attended the 2016 conference learned more about where community colleges and research for community colleges are going, as well as the issues community colleges have that need to be researched. She believes that if researchers know more about these issues, they will get a sense of what research will be useful at community colleges in the future and what topics they should be studying to help inform community colleges' decision making.

"This [conference] is an opportunity to really talk about the current understanding of community colleges, the current research and the emerging issues and topics for community colleges," Bower said. "It's a chance for attendees to network and share ideas, which is a lot of the opportunity, and to look at things in different ways."

The next CSCC Annual Conference will be held at the Hilton Hotel in Fort Worth April 6-8, 2017. For more information, visit

Students, community learn the ropes of Animal Assisted Therapy at COE workshop

By Mary Murphy

In 2000, COE Counseling and Higher Education Professor Cynthia Chandler incorporated Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) into the counseling program at UNT. It became the first accredited counseling program in the U.S. to offer training for students and community members to work with their pets in volunteer and professional settings.

Now, Chandler helps students, professionals and community members – and their pets – get registered to work in Animal Assisted Therapy, bringing the beneficial effects of AAT to a much wider audience across North Texas.

"Research has shown that within five minutes of petting a therapy dog, hormones associated with stress and anxiety go down in the person petting the dog, and hormones associated with wellness and healing go up," Chandler said.


The Workshop

Each semester, Chandler hosts an Animal Assisted Therapy Workshop on campus for students, professionals and community members who want to work with their pet as a therapy animal. Getting registered to do this is a two-part process – the handler must attend an eight-hour workshop, and the pet and handler must pass a team evaluation. Chandler hosted her most recent AAT workshop on April 9, and held team evaluations for dogs and horses April 16.

Chandler's eight-hour weekend workshops are open to anyone over the age of 10 who wants to volunteer with his or her pet. Participants who are younger than 18 must have an adult sponsor. Professionals who are interested in receiving introductory training on incorporating AAT into a professional counseling practice also often attend.

The majority of the workshop is designed to teach non-professionals and is constructed by Pet Partners, the largest therapy animal program that registers multiple types of species as therapy animals, including dogs, horses, cats, llamas and more.

Workshop attendees learn the basic precautions of volunteering with therapy animals, such as infection control and risk management. They are also taught how to read animals' body language and how to use this to gauge the pets' stress level and determine if they need a break or if they're comfortable approaching a stranger.

Chandler includes some advanced AAT training for professionals toward the end of the workshop, and explains how therapy animals add to the psychodynamics of a therapy session as a live, social being. She also expands on how counselors can read their pets' body language to learn more about their clients.

"I'm a strong believer in animal communication," said Dee Ann Knight, workshop attendee and school counselor at Walker Creek Elementary in Birdville ISD. "It was interesting to see how [this communication] could be used to help others. I learned to trust the animal, which I try to do already, but this workshop really validated that watching and listening to the animal can give insights into human behavior. They can help us with ourselves and others."

According to Chandler, there are two ways pets assist in a therapy session. First, the pet plays the role of "nurturer" by providing physiological nurturance through engagement with a human being. Pets also perform this role when they volunteer as a therapy animal.

In a therapy setting, pets also take on a second role as an "emotional distress detector." According to Chandler, animals (especially dogs and horses) can smell hormonal changes in the body, and they can smell when a person is sad, anxious or upset. When the animal smells these hormone changes in a client, it can use its body language to tell the counselor new things that the client may not be comfortable revealing outright.

"I value [my therapy dog's] sense of smell, and her sense of sight," Chandler said. "When she smells something going on with a client that the client hasn't revealed to me yet, I can read her body language and she tells me what's going on with that client. It helps the client and I get to important issues."

Although the AAT workshop only skims the surface of different techniques that can be used in a professional setting, Chandler offers two more advanced courses about AAT at UNT: the AAT Distance Learning program and a university course that is open to undergraduates, graduates and returning professionals.


The Evaluation

The weekend after the workshop, dogs and horses were tested for aptitude (how well they can follow commands like for dogs, “sit,” “down” and “stay” or accept petting) and temperament (how the animal reacts to stress, such as crowed petting, waving a plastic bag in front of them to see how they react to visual distractions and by dropping a metal can behind them to see how they handled loud noises). There are over 20 evaluation exercises each animal must pass. Each evaluation is catered to the species of the animal. This spring’s session was the first time horses were evaluated on the UNT campus.

Therapy animals must be able to remain calm in loud and stressful situations because they will often volunteer in settings that are loud and full of commotion, such as hospitals or schools.

“Not all animals have the temperament, interest or desire to do this, so we have to find out if they do,” Chandler said. “The most important thing is that the pet is happy, enjoys being with people, and shows a desire to continue [the evaluation] with a smile and a wagging tail.”

Once a team passes their evaluation, they qualify to be officially registered to practice Animal Assisted Therapy in a volunteer setting or incorporated into a professional practice. Not only does AAT benefit people in the community, but is also benefits the handler and their pet, Chandler said - the handler gets to spend more time with their pet, and the pet lives a more stimulated life going out and doing things instead of staying at home.

According to Chandler, AAT is also beneficial because it promotes the awareness of the special relationship between humans and animals.

“[AAT] keeps reminding people of the important relationship available to us between humans and animals,” Chandler said. “As long as we can be reminded of this, and remember how important it is for us as a human race to interact with and honor nature, I think it will keep us a better people - we stay kinder, we stay more compassionate, and maybe we stay a little bit more authentic.”

Chandler’s next Animal Assisted Therapy workshop will be held in September 2016. To learn more, visit


Above, a little horse gets ready for his big moment: his evaluation with Professor Cynthia Chandler.

Higher Ed grad students, faculty shine at national events

from left to right: Brittany Markowitz, Shannon Cantlay and Brittany Ankeny.

A team of three students in the UNT College of Education's Higher Education master's program placed third in the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Case Study Competition. Brittany Markowitz, Shannon Cantlay and Brittany Ankeny faced off against five other teams in the competition, which was part of the NASPA Annual Conference March 12-16 in Indianapolis.

"This is their first time attending the national conference. As their faculty sponsor for the event, I'm very proud of their hard work," said Uyen Tran-Parsons, senior lecturer in Counseling and Higher Education.

The competition challenged teams to examine diversity and racial bias at a fictional university.

Also at the NASPA conference, Amy Fann, assistant professor in Counseling and Higher Education, and graduate students Catherine Olivarez and Nydia Sanchez presented papers, and graduate student Rachel Cleveland was selected for the New Professional and Graduate Student Review Board for the NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education. 

Several UNT Higher Education students, alumni and faculty also presented at this year's American College Personnel Association National Convention in Montreal March 6-9. More than 3,000 people attended the convention, ACPA's first to be held outside the United States.

Fann and Sanchez presented a paper titled "The Experiences of American Indian College Students at Two-Year Tribal Colleges and Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institutions." And Trans-Parsons presented on "Social Justice Pedagogy and Practice: The Self as Instrument."


Delegates from UNT enjoyed a group dinner during the NASPA conference.

Counseling’s Wilson named to national leadership position

Angie Wilson, assistant professor in the College of Education’s Counseling and Higher Education department, was recently named the 2016-17 secretary for the International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors (IAAOC).

Wilson was elected for IAAOC’s secretary position out of three potential candidates. As IAAOC secretary, she will communicate with the American Counseling Association office, the IAAOC membership, and keep track of what’s happening in IAAOC’s different committees.

“The International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors is really great because offender clients are often overlooked in the counseling community,” Wilson said. “Our organization serves that purpose – to provide education, information, resources and guidance to counselors who work with offenders and the addictions population.”

Wilson is the former chair of IAAOC’s Process Addictions committee and is the current chair for IAAOC’s Sex Offender Treatment committee. She has also been a member of the Texas Counseling Association and is the immediate past president of the Texas Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (TACES). Her role as IAAOC secretary is her first national leadership position.

Although the majority of Wilson’s research has focused on issues within counselor education and process addictions (behavioral addictions such as eating disorders, gambling and shopping), in her clinical practice she works with those who have committed sexual offenses.

“I wanted to help people whom others didn’t want to help,” Wilson said. “I wanted to be a person that people could talk to, and I wanted to assist an underserved population. One of the things I believe is that out of all the sex offenders that I’ve provided therapy and counseling to, I know I’ve made a difference in at least one life, and hopefully that helped prevent at least one abuse – prevent one childhood sexual abuse, one rape, one offense.”

The IAAOC recently awarded Wilson with the 2016 Outstanding Addictions/Offender Professional Award. The IAAOC selected Wilson for the award because of her contribution to the field of addictions and offender issues through her clinical practice work with sex offenders.

“I’m so fortunate that IAAOC honored me this year,” Wilson said. “It means a lot to be recognized by your peers, and it means a lot to me working with the sex offender population. So often we get focused on our research and classes, and our clinical practice falls to the wayside. It’s really great to be honored for my clinical practice.”

Wilson is currently working on research project that will incorporate the focus of her clinical practice into her research. Right now, she is in the preliminary process of organizing studies to see if sex offenders who have been in counseling for a longer period of time have more empathy than sex offenders who just began counseling or who have not had any counseling at all. Wilson hopes that from these results, she can ascertain if sex offender counseling truly promotes empathetic development.

Students, faculty from COE Department of Counseling and Higher Education receive national awards

By Mary Murphy

The American Counseling Association recently announced its recipients for the annual ACA National Awards. This year, six out of 35 awards were presented to University of North Texas students and professors for their distinguished achievements.

Dee Ray, Counseling and Higher Education professor and director of the Child and Family Resource Clinic, received the Don Dinkmeyer Social Interest Award for her contributions to the counseling field that positively influence children and their families; Cynthia Chandler, Counseling and Higher Education professor and director of the Consortium for Animal Assisted Therapy, received the ACA Professional Development award for her pioneering and continuing work on Animal Assisted Therapy; and Cynthia Bevly, a doctoral student at UNT, received the Ralph Berdie Memorial Research Award to support a pilot study for her dissertation concerning the assessment of psychostimulant misuse among college students.

Included in the ACA National Awards are the ACA Best Practices Awards, which are given to three nominees each year for their outstanding research projects. Both Yung-Wei Dennis Lin, a former UNT doctoral student, and Jenifer Balch, a senior lecturer at UNT, received an ACA Best Practice Award.

Although Lin is now an assistant professor at New Jersey City University, he received this award for his UNT Ph.D. dissertation research.

"I am so humbly grateful for all the training and support I received in the Department of Counseling and Higher Education at UNT, particularly the Center for Play Therapy," Lin said. "Without all the care, support and training there, this meta-analysis study would never be completed."

Balch received this award for her groundbreaking dissertation research study, which was the first study to be considered an evidence-based design exploring play therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The study demonstrated the importance of attending to interpersonal dynamics in children with ASD, and future researchers can build on Balch's study to create a better understanding of how and to what degree play therapy is helpful for children with ASD.

"I put my heart and soul into my dissertation research and am honored to receive this award as a result of it," Balch said. "I am extremely passionate about working with and advocating for the mental health needs of the autism population and truly believe in the power of play therapy. I hope to see future research and advocacy develop from my study."    

The ACA's International Association for Offender Counselors (IAAOC) also awarded an annual one-recipient research grant to Bryan Stare, a doctoral candidate from the UNT College of Education. Stare will use the grant for his dissertation entitled "African American Males' Experiences of Treatment Mandated by Mental Health Court: A Phenomenological Study."

"I believe that [Bryan's] research can have important implications in the field of counseling, thereby offering skills and techniques to practicing counselors to better understand and serve individuals who fall under the umbrella of addiction and offender counseling," said Delini Fernando, the UNT Counseling and Higher Education professor who nominated Stare for the research grant.

According to Stare, African American men are overrepresented in the judicial system and underrepresented in research on mental health courts, a form of specialty court. Specialty courts are designed to help offenders confront mental health or substance abuse issues in order to reduce the likelihood that those factors lead to a return to prison. Stare plans to study African American males' perceptions and experiences of the mental health services offered at a mental health court (MHC) diversion program in Dallas County to understand what the program is like for participants.

"I feel honored and encouraged receiving this grant," Stare said. "The study I am preparing is very meaningful to me personally and professionally. As my research plan materialized I picked up incredible support along the way from my peers, committee, research team, and now a national organization. I feel very fortunate."

The number of ACA National Awards presented to UNT professors, former students and current students represents the accomplishments and positive impact of those in the College of Education's Department of Counseling and Higher Education, said Janice Miner Holden, department chair.

"I think it's noteworthy that there are hundreds of counseling programs across the U.S., but six of the total 35 [ACA National] award recipients are affiliated with UNT," she said. "We are disproportionately well-represented among award recipients."

The ACA National Awards will be formally presented to recipients at an awards ceremony during the ACA 2016 Conference and Expo in Montreal, Canada, in April.


Above, Jenifer Balch, COE senior lecturer and recipient of an ACA Best Practice Award.

UNT counseling doctoral candidate published in national magazine

By Mary Murphy

Bryan Stare, a doctoral candidate in the College of Education counseling program, has had an article published in Counseling Today's December issue.

Counseling Today is a publication of the American Counseling Association that reaches more than 56,000 counseling professionals nationwide. The magazine published Stare's article "Business Practices for the Beginning Counselor," which focuses on establishing private counseling practices. This is a concept that Stare said isn't well-explained in classes. 

According to Stare, most practitioners who enter into private counseling practices must learn on an independent basis. There are few how-to books about private practice, and there's little literature on the topic in professional journals, he said.

In order to learn more about how to establish and maintain a private practice, Stare interviewed three graduates from the doctoral counseling program at UNT. These three graduates have been working in private practice for at least 10 years and regularly see clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Stare asked the graduates for their experience-based advice on basic business practices such as marketing, mentorship and income.

"Most counseling programs don't address the needs of the relatively small number of students who want to launch into their own practices," said Jan Holden, chair of the Department of Counseling and Higher Education and one of Stare's former professors. "For those new counseling professionals who do [establish private practices], they encounter unique challenges. Articles like Stare's address that otherwise somewhat neglected yet important niche."

Stare's article, "Business Practices for the Beginning Counselor," can be found in Counseling Today's online and print editions. 

Alumnus named superintendent of Sherman ISD

The Sherman Independent School District Board of Trustees named David Hicks, area superintendent for Denton ISD, as its lone finalist for superintendent at its meeting called on Nov. 18. Hicks earned a master's degree in Educational Administration and a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from UNT. He will replace Al Hambrick, who retired in August 2015.

By law, the Board must now wait 21 days before voting to hire Hicks. The Board is scheduled to offer Hicks a contract on December 10, 2015.

Hicks currently oversees the academic programs and the instructional and administrative leadership initiatives for 14 schools and 13,000 students in Denton ISD.

"I am excited at the opportunity to lead a district with as proud a tradition of excellence as Sherman ISD. I know there are no limits to what our teachers and students in Sherman can accomplish, and I'm appreciative to the Board for giving me the opportunity to serve as superintendent," he said. "I value the importance of building relationships within the community and I look forward to working with our administrators, teachers, students and parents to make Sherman ISD the best school district in Texas."

Hicks has more than 27 years of experience in public education and has demonstrated leadership in three nationally recognized school districts, most recently in Denton ISD – the second-fastest growing school district in North Texas. Prior to Denton ISD, he served as a principal and assistant principal in Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. He began his career as a teacher and teacher trainer in CFB ISD.

Story courtesy of Sherman ISD website

COE alumna named Kilgore College's first female president

Brenda Kays, a 2001 alumna of the UNT College of Education's Higher Education doctoral program, was unanimously selected Kilgore College's ninth president by the college's Board of Trustees Nov. 23. Kays, who has served as president of Stanly Community College in North Carolina since 2011, is Kilgore's first female president.

Kays is a former vice president of Student Learning and Success at Guilford Technical Community College (N.C.) and former Chief Academic Officer and Dean of Instructional Services at Vernon College (Texas).

She earned a Master of Education in counseling from Midwestern State University and a Doctor of Education from UNT.

Kilgore is a publicly supported, two-year comprehensive community college in Kilgore, Texas, about 25 miles east of Tyler. It serves more than 11,000 students each year.

Kays will begin work at Kilgore the first part of January.

Professor discusses near-death studies at international conference

Jan Holden, chair of UNT's Department of Counseling and Higher Education in the College of Education, was a featured counseliJan Holden news storyng expert for a profile on near-death studies produced by an American-based Chinese television company. 

The story was broadcast online by New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television, which serves more than 100 million potential viewers in China and around the world, as well as on NTD's Houston affiliate. The story featured information from the 2015 International Association for Near-Death Studies Conference in San Antonio, at which Holden was a speaker. 

Click here to watch the full video broadcast.

Accepting the invitation: the start of two Gates Millennium Scholars

Nydia Sánchez, Flor De La Garza, Amira SpikesFrom Left: Nydia Sánchez, Flor De La Garza, Amira Spikes

Accepting assistance for applications can uncover unexpected avenues; such is the case for Amira Spikes and Flor De La Garza, who will be beginning their college careers as Gates Millennium Scholars.

Nydia Sánchez first met the two in January 2014 while taking a course in the anthropology department. As part of the course, she would visit the Peer Assistance, Leadership & Service class at Denton High School to document participant observation hours and get to know the students.

"Flor and Amira immediately introduced themselves to me on the first day and asked me questions about college. They stood out from other students in that sense," said Sánchez. "At the end of the semester, I invited all the juniors in the class to contact me if they wanted an extra pair of eyes to review their college essays or if they were interested in working with me through scholarship applications. Of the entire twenty-plus class, only two students followed up with me that summer - Flor and Amira."

Their first meeting took place at a bubble tea shop and was centered on the Gates Millennium Scholarship. After learning the details about the scholarship and the funding they could receive, both Spikes and De La Garza became committed in pursuing it. Before long, a tradition of weekly sessions at Willis Library was born.

A few hours each week, the two would meet with Sánchez to work on the scholarship application and eight short essays that would highlight areas such as their leadership skills and community experience.

"I think the hardest part for all students is figuring out just what to write about. I was able to mentor them through that process," said Sánchez.

Each year, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program selects 1,000 graduating high school students across the United States to be awarded up to 10 years of funding for a bachelor's, master's and PhD. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program was initially funded in 1999 by a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Receiving the scholarship means the world to me. It has been a true blessing and Nydia was a gift from God throughout the process of applying to the Gates Scholarship. I am thrilled about my upcoming future," said De La Garza, who stated that she will major in health promotion.

"I am so thankful for the love and support that was shown to me from not only my teachers and principal, but also from the one person that always pushed us to be our very best, my mentor, Nydia! This scholarship is truly an honor and a blessing that will positively change my life! That makes me extremely grateful for everything!" said Spikes, who indicated that she will major in engineering.

Sánchez, who is also a Gates Millennium Scholar, is a PhD candidate who is currently researching how border-town Latina/o college students who serve as scholarship ambassadors for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program help others learn about college and foster educational uplift within their communities.

You can learn more about the Gates Millennium Scholars Program at their website.

Information about scholarships available at the UNT College of Education can be found at

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