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New student advisory board bridges gap between University Counseling Service and students

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In fall of 2012, University Counseling Service decided to find a way to get student input about their services. They have always placed high value on the student’s perspective, and because of this, they knew a student advisory board would help benefit them and the student body.

Kathleen Staley, a counselor and outreach program director, took the project under her wing by developing and conceptualizing a plan for the board. One year later, in November of 2013, the first UCS student advisory board was born.

The main goal of the SAB is to help reach and represent all UI students. Staley says there are students and student groups who might not know or feel comfortable seeking counseling services, and she thinks the SAB will help close that gap.

The board is made up of nine students from varying grade levels and areas of study. Recruiting efforts were focused on creating a board with members who have diverse backgrounds and interests. Applications were made available to students in a number of different locations.

“We have students who ask to do volunteer work at USC, but we can’t because a lot of what we do is confidential, but this is a way for students who want to learn more about the mental health system or the work of a psychologist. It’s a way for them to do that and to help us,” says Staley, “It’s a win-win situation. I am excited about it!”

Staley notes that excellence and perseverance are a common theme among all students on the board.

“I can’t say enough about them. They are a lovely group, very talented, bright, energetic, interested, competent student leaders,” says Staley.

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Chelsea Budd, a member of the SAB, is a third year student in the pre-nursing program. She studied psychology during her first two years at the UI, and still has an interest in counseling. Budd’s goal is to incorporate what she knows about mental health into her nursing. She had taken counseling courses in the past and thought she would be able to help the UCS with outreach.

After joining the SAB, Budd has been made more aware of issues that students are dealing with, and has developed problem-solving skills that will help her in the future.

“I’ve learned a lot about other people that I go to school with here at the UI, and I’ve also gained a lot of critical thinking skills from [being on the SAB],” says Budd. “Just being able to apply concepts from what we are talking about here to my everyday life, and trying to pull people into UCS and integrate everybody into this great program is what I am getting out of it.”

Jessica Alexiou is another member who has gained better perspective from being on the SAB.

“In my first year of being a resident assistant, UCS was a difficult topic to bring up. In training they would say to refer students to UCS if the students are dealing with things you can’t personally help them with,” says Alexiou. “Being on the board has helped me to approach the topic in a different and more helpful way to get students to come here.”

In the beginning, the group met weekly to learn more about University Counseling Service so they could accurately represent and know everything UCS offers.

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Now, the SAB works on specific projects. Their most recent was a presentation for the UCS staff.

The SAB was asked to create a presentation to help the staff psychologists understand what the college experience is like for students today. “We really tried to incorporate both the good and the bad parts of our experiences, as well as, include the experiences of others we associate with to give the staff a well-rounded view of the college experience,” says Budd.

“Through our eyes [the student experience] is different, even though the counselors deal with students directly on a day to day basis, bringing that awareness and different perspective to staff is really huge because it will help them deal with students more efficiently and in different ways,” says Alexiou.

Even though the board is still new, Staley has already seen accomplishments firsthand.

The SAB’s next project involves analyzing which groups of students are not being reached, which groups are not well represented, and how the SAB can work with UCS staff to reach out to those groups. Some of the areas included social work students, volunteers at the hospital in the palliative care unit, greek life, first and forth year students, international students, returning students, and students who are heavily involved.

The student advisory board hopes that next year the UI will see changes within UCS once the board starts implementing the things they are developing this year.

Both Alexiou and Budd agree that getting involved with the SAB and other student organizations has been key to their success at the UI.

“I love coming to the SAB meetings every week and chatting with everybody and sharing ideas on bettering this program and our community in general,” says Budd, “I think it’s all about helping you figure out who you are and what you want to do; it really can help direct you in life.”

“It has helped me meet people, and I feel like I am more a part of the Iowa City community and the UI community by getting involved with these organizations,” says Alexiou.

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