Counseling Center Plans Student Advisory Board
Issue   |   Wed, 10/14/2015 - 02:55

This semester the counseling center plans to create an advisory board comprised of students that will serve as a liaison between the center and the student body.

Jacqueline Alvarez, director of the counseling center, said she decided to create the board because she wanted to work with a group of students who were representative of the student body as a whole. The students will in turn represent the counseling center to the rest of the student community and will be responsible for collecting and providing feedback on the counseling center’s services.

“As the counseling center thinks about how we would want to grow and develop our services, we would have a group of invested students who could give us their feedback about how they perceive our growth and development going,” Alvarez said.

By creating the board, Alvarez said she hopes to to find students who want to understand more about the counseling center’s work and to give them a meaningful way to be involved in the counseling center’s decision-making and operations.

“These are stakeholders who value mental health and who value the kind of work that we’re doing,” Alvarez said. “I had this experience with a student advisory board at another institution, and it was really a positive experience to have students who care about the work and who could be those ambassadors who represented us really well in conversations.”

The initiative is intended to mirror the successes of organizations with similar student advisory boards, including the office of student affairs. Those boards worked on issues such as budgeting and collaboration with student organizations.

Alvarez said she wants to publicize the advisory board at the counseling center open house in November.

Despite setbacks this semester, including adjusting to the new counseling center building and getting new staff adjusted to the center, Alvarez said that there is support for the creation of the advisory board, including among members of the administration.

“I checked with the Chief Student Affairs Officer Suzanne Coffey, and the Dean of Students Alex Vasquez,” Alvarez said. “They’re the ones who have the Office of Student Affairs Board. They’ve had a really positive experience themselves and they’re very supportive of this model and moving something like that forward.”

Alvarez said that the relationship between the counseling center and the student body has seen difficulty in the past, and that the the counseling center has been working to expand the services it provides. The board would serve as a more direct means of improving this relationship.

“We have been working very hard to do reputational repair,” Alvarez said. “We came under fire for a few years and we’ve really worked to professionalize our services to really increase the breadth of the work that we do.”

In addition, the Student Advisory Board is intended to encourage students to seek help from mental health services.

“I think that it can really help to decrease stigma around mental health issues or mental health illness, because when you hear your peers talking about it, it normalizes it and it puts it into language that everyone really understands and gets,”

Alvarez said. “We see thirty percent of students every year. People who come in generally have really positive experiences. Folks think that it’s really for if you’re really struggling, but most folks are like you who come in and have little things to work on.”

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