Counseling programs are in tech with your feelings
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
What initially seemed technologically dubious – counseling professors helping build a website – turned into what could become a model for other colleges within Grand Canyon University.
“They called us experts, and we kind of laughed. We said good luck to us,” said Dr. Kimberly Grigg, Program Chair of School Counseling.
Grigg, Dr. Jacqueline Webster, Dr. Jennifer Young and Marcie Burger were among several in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) and College of Doctoral Studies to create a multipurpose online forum for GCU counseling students and faculty, Counseling Community Connections.
“Our goal is to build community,” she said. “We want the counseling community to have resources, to make connections, and to foster the development of counselor identity, essentially — a place where everything is right at their fingertips. We’re hopeful this will serve as a catalyst for other programs to do similar things in the future.”
The site serves CHSS’ School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs and Doctoral’s Counselor Education and Supervision by connecting students and faculty and offering resources for professional development, links to professional organizations, portfolio development, blogs, state licensure requirements and event calendars.
“It is student-centered and will greatly improve our students’ experience in their programs. And it is an example of collaboration between online and ground faculty,” said Dr. Noé Vargas, CHSS Assistant Dean.
The idea was launched two years ago by Dr. Mustafa Moyenda, Program Chair for Counselor Education and Supervision. He had seen the value of the universal Doctoral College Network and wondered if a forum specific to counseling could work.
Moyenda and Dr. Tanisha Guy plugged away at it, “with a lot of trial and error, not having any computer science background,” Moyenda said.
Doctoral learners began to use the program in the past year and found success in finding mentors and content experts for their dissertation committees. Because the doctoral program builds off the master’s programs within CHSS, he sought to add that college’s programs to the network.
The connections between the three programs “should make them better counselors,” he said.
Dr. Anna Edgeston, Program Director for counseling programs in CHSS, enlisted the help of Grigg and Webster, the CHSS Program Manager.
They likened the tech work to putting puzzle pieces together.
“Jacqueline and I really started to teach ourselves how to add different pages and buttons, but Jennifer and Marcie added another layer of support,” Grigg said.
Now that the puzzle is complete, they hope it will grow and connect the approximately 3,000 students in the School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs.
It also should help student connect to faculty and resources and allow faculty to easily share ideas and resources in programs that often overlap.
“If I’ve been teaching a class for a long time, I tend to use the same materials,” said Burger, a member of the Online Full Time Faculty. “If I see (other faculty members) using something else, it enriches my classroom.”
Burger and Young, also an Online Full Time Faculty member, took the forum to another level by attending a training specific to the Igloo software program.
The forum is especially helpful to online education, which “does not have to occur in isolation but can be fostered through a collaborative and innovative online community,” Young said.
Edgeston agreed: “The online world can be very lonely because our faculty are in different locations in the U.S., so this is a place for our faculty to collaborate and for them to know more about the students they are teaching because they are engaging outside the classroom in the CCC network.”
Students also will be able to connect with opportunities in their fields, said Alicia Burns, Executive Director of the Office of Field Experience, whose team assists students with required practicum and internships.
“Students are always craving more resources to help guide them in their learning process,” she said. “This is a user-friendly, information-rich forum that our staff can point students to when questions arise.”
It also should help students solidify their counselor identity, distinguishing their place in a field with blurry lines into psychology and social work.
Webster said counselors work with people, psychology is based on theory, testing and assessments and social work on macro community-level work. All three have different requirements.
As such, the site will also include links to professional associations, which supply important updates in the field.
“Our best hope is to have it serve as a one-stop resource shop for the counseling community,” Grigg said.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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