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Counseling Instructors, Student Win National Research Awards

It will be a bit of an Old Dominion University reunion at next month's American Counseling Association (ACA) annual convention in Charlotte, N.C., when two professors and a doctoral student from the Darden College of Education's Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling are honored with prestigious national awards.

Alan "Woody" Schwitzer, associate professor, will receive the Ralph M. Berdie Memorial Research Award for research and scholarship in the field of college student affairs.

Danica Hays, assistant professor, will be presented the CAC Counselor Educator Advocacy Award, which recognizes a counseling faculty member who fosters advocacy among counseling graduate students.

And at the same conference, doctoral student Mandy Healey, who is being advised by Hays, will be awarded the Glen E. Hubele National Graduate Student Award, which recognizes outstanding scholarship in the counseling field.

There are about 50,000 members of the ACA, who are counseling professionals and graduate students. The association gives out only 20 to 30 awards per year. "It is notable that two faculty members and a doctoral student from Old Dominion University will receive three ACA national awards in 2009," said Ted Remley, Batten Endowed Chair of the Counseling Graduate Program.

According to the ACA, the Ralph M. Berdie Memorial Research Award recognizes a research project that answers questions and investigates ideas concerned with problems of interest and significance to college student affairs work.

Schwitzer has participated in more than 30 national research studies in the counseling field - on eating disorders among female college students, the issues African American students face on largely white campuses and many other issues.

The issue Schwitzer studied and is being recognized for by ACA is on the effectiveness of the use of counseling services on university campuses.

Comparing students who access counseling services with those who don't, Schwitzer found that even students at the top of their classes performed better when they received assistance from campus counseling professionals.

"The findings are based on a growing body of evidence that shows that first-year students in a counseling program have better success than those not seeking assistance. It certainly improved the adjustment to college life," he said.

Schwitzer is currently editor of the Journal of College Counseling, the scholarly journal of the American College Counseling Association (ACCA), an association of the ACA.

The award he will receive next month is in addition to the ACCA's Award for Outstanding Contribution to Professional Knowledge, which Schwitzer also recently won.

The ACA Counselor Educator Advocacy Award was established five years ago, and annually recognizes a counseling faculty member who fosters advocacy expertise among counseling graduate students. The award is designed to support the well-being of the counseling profession, by encouraging counselors to become engaged in the policy making process.

The Glen E. Hubele National Graduate Student Award recognizes the importance of the research work of a graduate student to the counseling profession, as well as the scholarship, originality and applicability of the research.

Healey, who will graduate in May 2010, submitted a research paper on discouragement among mental health professionals, trying to figure out the personality types that are predisposed to succeed in the counseling field.

It was Hays who recommended that Healey apply for the award.

"I thought it was an exciting opportunity, but I didn't think I would get it," Healey said. "There are a lot of people doing good research work out there."

Healey is working on her doctoral dissertation under the direction of Hays, which is on female perspectives of professional identity and success in the counseling field.

She hopes to continue to do research work that helps clarify the role of counseling as a field of study that provides real benefit, particularly to student populations.

"Research is really what helps to define the field," she said. "A lot of people don't know counseling is different from psychology.

"I'd really like to get involved in research projects that help adolescents, especially adolescent girls. Their stories are so complex."

The ACA's 2009 Annual Conference and Exposition will be held March 19-23.

This article was posted on: February 9, 2009

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