individual student. The established and accepted threat assessment model, along with a positive relationship between
student affairs and health center staff, continue to contribute
to the successful treatment of students with mental health
issues who raise potential and actual threats.
Kate Mueller is dean of student services at Orange Coast College in
Costa Mesa, Calif.
Leverage the Skills of
Your Counseling Center
BY DONNA MUELLER
The role of the counseling center in higher education
varies significantly from one institution to the next,
covering the spectrum from all-inclusive, comprehensive treatment services to intake and referral models.
Universally, the counseling center functions as a clearinghouse
for students’ concerns and plays a vital institutional role in
providing a sense of support, advocacy, and connection for
students. Senior student affairs officers (SSAOs) who develop
ongoing working relationships with counseling center directors can stay well-informed regarding student trends and
position themselves to effectively address student concerns.
The community college, much like four-year institutions,
serves large, diverse, and complex student populations that
require an array of well-coordinated services to support
student success. The task requires meaningful collaboration
across the institution to integrate academic and experiential
learning. Partnerships with key institutional leaders are a vital
component of effecting the change. The director of counseling, with requisite skills in student assessment, education,
and systems knowledge, is in a central position to contribute
to the process.
The director has a unique role within the community
college organization to identify trends and environmental variables that directly affect students and to assist the SSAO in
prioritizing issues. In partnership, the SSAO and the director
can establish a comprehensive approach to understand the
campus environment, increase students’ resiliency, and
promote student success.
Learning Reconsidered as a Guide
Learning Reconsidered (NASPA, 2004) redefines learning as
the integration of academic study and student development
and recommends collaboration and inclusivity as a means to
achieve that goal. The counseling center director plays a key
role in establishing departmental goals that support Learning
Reconsidered student outcomes. Learning Reconsidered
describes the dimensions of interpersonal and intrapersonal
competence, including “realistic self-appraisal and self-understanding; personal attributes such as identity, self-esteem, confidence, ethics and integrity, spiritual awareness,
personal goal setting, meaningful relationships, interdependence, collaboration, and the ability to work with people
different from self”—all of which fall within the scope of the
work of the counseling center. To achieve these outcomes, it
is critical that counseling center staff coordinate efforts with
corresponding academic coursework and educational programs to maximize student learning. Practice models, which
include outreach and preventive education, contribute to
student persistence and success. The transformative education process, defined as moving from information transfer to
identity development, should occur in various domains both
within and outside the classroom. The counseling center staff
contributes to this cross-divisional collaboration by offering
classroom workshops on time management, study skills, and
test anxiety. The director of counseling provides the leadership
and retains the ultimate responsibility to develop and implement departmental practice standards consistent with the
Structurally, the director of counseling is positioned within
the institution to integrate learning and student development
through collaborative partnerships with the academic division.
Effective working relationships with faculty provide additional
support for classroom management issues and increase student
access to services. These cooperative networks established
between faculty and student affairs expand the safety net for
students and limit the fragmentation of services.
Institutionally, the counseling center director has much to
offer in the development of policy supportive of Learning
Reconsidered principles. Many higher education institutions
are developing quorums of cross-institutional representatives
to identify new opportunities for transformational learning.
Together, interdisciplinary, interdivisional groups can assess
the college community as a whole, identifying and influencing
multiple environmental variables affecting the college culture.
The groups develop comprehensive learning communities
where students can achieve their potential and have a sense of
meaning, purpose, and direction in their lives. The groups’
work is closely linked with broader institutional learning
goals. The director of counseling is instrumental in developing
a culture of collaboration and building interdisciplinary
networks that supersede traditional barriers in higher education. For this reason, the director is a valued participant in
long-term planning and accreditation processes that influence
decisions and foster cohesion and consistency within the
higher education learning environment. LE
Donna Mueller is director of health services for the Brighton Campus of
Monroe Community College in Rochester, N. Y.