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Counseling residency unites online learners

More than 200 Lamar University online counseling students were on campus this July for a week-long residency required for their degree programs. Students from all over the country, as far away as Oregon, met for the intensive week of networking, lectures and practical application of the principles learned from the online curriculum.

All students participating are pursuing one of three degrees offered. Degree plans include a Master of Education in counseling and development with two tracks - marriage, couple and family counseling or school counseling, and the second degree offered is a Master of Education in clinical mental health counseling.

“More and more I am enthused about what our counseling department is doing,” said Bob Spina, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, addressing the group during the final forum. “We are LU, and we have high standards. We’re one of the strongest programs you can find and so we expect you to do great things.”  

In years past, online students were not required to come on campus unless they wanted to participate in commencement. However, in the last few years, the requirement was changed to give students the opportunity to meet with professors, their peers and to apply skills they’d learned in course work through role play.

“You’ve had a chance to meet colleagues, develop relationships, make personal and professional connections, work with faculty and develop counseling skills,” said Spina. “Don’t underestimate the relationships and how important it is to maintain and facilitate relationships to help each other.”

Many of the students who had met online through their course work and discussion boards, we’re glad to meet face to face and relate on a more personal level.  

“It was an amazing week just to be able to connect with others we see on discussion boards on a more personal basis and get to know more about them helps to build the peer relationships for the future,” said
Counseling Clinical
Roxana Somote, Sheila Flynn
Sheila Flynn, a teacher from Kingwood who will graduate in May 2020 with her ME.D. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Students not only learned about their colleagues during the intensive but counseling course work required them to explore their own backgrounds, struggles and personal lives.

“It’s been emotional, just learning about yourself and learning about things that trigger you and things you bring to the table and learning about things that might come to your desk as a school counselor,” said Mallory Henry, a student from Mansfield, TX who started the program in January 2019. “That aspect of it has been a little emotional but important at the same time. I feel like I’ve really grown tremendously.”

Tynisha Joubert, who also started the degree program in school counseling in January wasn’t confident she
School Counseling Residents
 Mallory Henry, Tynisha Joubert, Haley Gilmore
had made the right decision to attend the residency. “When I walked in here, I thought this is not for me but to know that you have professors who truly care about you and want you to grow and want you to learn, and they are willing to sacrifice their time, stay late, email you and answer your questions; it’s worth it,” said Joubert. “We may be online, but I don’t feel that far apart.”

The online community of students are, for the most part, indistinguishable but face-to-face their differences were apparent. Roxana Somote, a student pursuing her ME.D. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, said the mixture of races and cultures enhanced her learning.

“I love the diversity,” said Somote, a native of Cuba who plans to graduate in May 2020. “It’s just like a big community. People from different cultures are in our group. Since we are being counselors, we need to respect the differences. This week has shown me to respect the differences. It opened up the perspective from all cultures.”

Students from varying backgrounds are also enrolled in LU’s online counseling programs for different reasons. Affordability, convenience and the reputation of the program were cited among students.

Lynette Thompson is a teacher from Oregon, who likely traveled the furthest to attend the residency and is one of 24 students currently in the ME.D. program concentrating in marriage and family counseling. She said
Marriage and Family Resident
Lynette Thompson
the programs’ flexibility was a factor in her decision to pursue the degree.

“I looked for about two years for different programs, but Oregon didn’t have a lot of options,” said Thompson. “I like the format where I can take one class at a time because I have to keep my day job as a special education teacher. It was worth it; I like that there was a chance to be here on campus. I didn’t want it completely online, so the summertime worked well for me. We wish there was a second residency.”

Some of the programs require two residencies, but all students are invited back for commencement. When Spina invited the soon-to-be counselors back on campus to receive their diplomas, there was resounding applause. 

“I get to see you one more time and shake each of your hands,” said Spina. “I love commencement because I get to meet you again. I hope you’ll be proud LU alums. We’ll be proud as you go out and change the world one step at time.”